Retailers, the Clock is Ticking: Optimize Your Supply Chains for the Holiday Shopping Onslaught Now
The retail landscape is swiftly gearing up for its busiest time of year, punctuated by Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM). New research paints a picture of an industry feeling the pressure, grappling with economic hurdles, data inconsistencies, and rising costs.
Amidst global supply chain disruptions, fluctuating consumer demands and spending, the urgency for brands to capitalize on hallmark events like BFCM has intensified. This year, the stakes for BFCM aren't just about navigating challenges, but seizing opportunities. In this digitally driven era marked by unpredictability, it's crucial for consumer brands to have agile, forward-thinking and resilient supply chains to harness the potential of the upcoming shopping surge. Failure to do so won’t just result in a lackluster holiday season, but could have significant and lasting effects on a brand's long-term success.
The Pitfalls of Delayed Inventory Planning
When it comes to BFCM, timing isn't just a consideration — it's the cornerstone of a brand’s strategy. Eighty-three percent of brands have found themselves in a position where they've had to reevaluate their ordering strategies, largely due to global economic uncertainties. The ripple effects of exchange rate fluctuations, escalating trade tensions, and unforeseen supply chain disruptions have driven brands into a state of heightened caution. Complicating matters further, brands are constantly having to adapt to ever-changing consumer habits. In this environment, the only way to succeed is to plan ahead and act quickly.
After all, there's a danger in being overly cautious: delays. Worryingly, findings indicate that 33 percent of brands kick off their inventory preparations as late as September. While the "perfect" preparation timeline might differ based on the brand’s unique challenges and scale, starting preparations in September puts brands at a disadvantage. This late start narrows the timeframe available to negotiate with suppliers and to handle purchase orders seamlessly. A streamlined process becomes essential to preempt potential disruptions.
By contrast, consumer brands that leap into action by July — or better yet, as early as April — position themselves on firmer ground. This proactive approach affords them the ability to respond to sudden shifts in demand, negotiate more favorable terms with suppliers, and sidestep the pitfalls of 11th hour logistical nightmares. In essence, the adage remains true: the early bird catches the worm, or in this context, secures a smooth BFCM season.
The Importance of Accurate Data in Inventory Lead Times
Being able to predict when inventory will land in your warehouse is crucial, especially with the tight time frames surrounding BFCM. A substantial 65 percent of consumer brands aim to have their inventory ready two weeks to four weeks in advance. In this e-commerce era marked by prompt deliveries, the importance of accurate stock availability cannot be understated.
The challenge, however, lies in the data. With 30 percent of consumer brands depending on supplier-provided insights, there's an inherent risk. This singular reliance can potentially expose brands to inaccuracies. Effective lead time projections are essential to stave off disruptions during key sales windows. Solely depending on supplier data such as lead time projections might usher in unexpected delays or misalignments between projections and actual inventory.
While effective inventory planning is a foundation, it’s complemented by streamlined purchase order management. Brands stand to benefit from tools that simplify order processes with suppliers. By streamlining purchase orders and facilitating seamless communication with suppliers, brands can create a collaborative environment that promotes clarity and mutual understanding. This transparent bridge between brands and their suppliers ensures that purchase orders are processed timely, accurately, and aligned with forecasted demands. Such meticulous attention to detail and collaboration is paramount not only to prevent stockouts, but also to forge a robust, trust-based system capable of withstanding the intense demands of peak shopping seasons like BFCM.
Financial Frontlines: Cost Battles and Forecasting Feuds
The financial aspects of supply chain management present a challenge: rising costs and forecasting complexities. With the cost of goods soaring for many brands and two-thirds locking in shipping capacities and rates by August, the pressure mounts. This situation is further complicated by demand forecasting issues. With 66 percent of brands overstocked ahead of the sales season and 85 percent apprehensive about potential inventory shortages, the call to refine forecasting strategies is loud and clear. As brands introduce new products during BFCM, aligning these launches with supply chain capabilities is crucial. Efficient management of purchase orders can play a significant role in this alignment.
Drawing inspiration from industry leaders that successfully navigate the intricate BFCM landscape, the significance of efficient purchase order (PO) management tools and open communication with suppliers becomes paramount. These leaders underscore the essence of having full visibility across the supply chain, from order placement to its arrival at the warehouse. Their dedication to clarity, timely supplier interactions, and seamless order tracking sets a benchmark. Adopting such streamlined processes not only offers a competitive advantage, but also charts a course for success during high-intensity shopping seasons.
Yet, in the face of these challenges, there's a silver lining: the increasing acknowledgment of technology's game-changing potential. Brands are progressively exploring a suite of tools — from advanced communication platforms and order fulfillment solutions to demand forecasting tools and automation. However, a pressing question looms: Are they deploying these tools swiftly and adeptly enough for the imminent BFCM deluge?
The retail landscape, especially during peak seasons like BFCM, is a dynamic, fast-paced arena where precision, foresight and adaptability can make or break a brand's success. Brands today have a plethora of data and tools at their disposal. The challenge lies not just in having these resources, but in optimizing each element, including purchase order management, for an efficient and agile supply chain. As the clock ticks down to the most anticipated shopping season, brands must reflect on their supply chain strategies, learn from the best in the business, and harness the right tools to their advantage. After all, it's not about surviving the BFCM rush — it's about thriving during it.
Rodney Manzo is the CEO of Anvyl, a supply chain visibility platform that helps consumer brands manage and automate their entire PO process.
Rodney Manzo is the founder and CEO at Anvyl Inc., an intelligent PO management platform that helps consumer brands improve their supply chain process from PO issuance through to warehouse delivery.
Rodney is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served as an Engineer Officer in the US Army. During tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, he conducted route clearance and global operations missions. Rodney is a graduate of the Army Ranger and Sapper schools and earned a Bronze Star during his deployments.
Following his time in the Army, Rodney worked as a consultant at Booz Allen on multiple engagements before joining Apple as a Global Supply Manager and then transitioning to Harry’s Inc, to lead their Global Supply Chain group.
Rodney graduated from the USMA with a BS in Business/System Engineering and he has an MBA from Columbia Business School.