PART TWO: How a prepared supply chain is key to business success at Christmas
Preparation only goes so far, and progress must be monitored closely on a weekly, daily or even hourly basis in, real time if possible. Good demand sensing capabilities through analytics and social monitoring assume a lot of significance in this regard.
If things are not going to plan the strategy must be reassessed immediately. This could mean lowering the price of stock that is failing to sell, or even increasing the price if a product is flying off the shelves and could hold a better margin.
Geography and sales channels must also be taken into account. A product may be selling like hot cakes in one region or store and underselling elsewhere, necessitating moving stock from one location to another. Likewise, omni-channel retail means stock may need to be pulled from stores to meet online demand, and vice versa.
Retailers allocate warehousing space and key shop floor areas to the winner products that are expected to drive the most customer throughput and sales for them. If these items fail to achieve their targets, it will damage relationships as retailers become frustrated at wasting space they could be using for other better selling stock.
A close level of communication is required if stock is going to be moved and with retailers already facing delivery trucks queuing up outside, they must be kept abreast of plans to move stock between locations.
Finally, a strong level of IT support is needed across both planning and reactionary activity, providing the glue that helps keep the different operations bound together. All products must find their way into the product lifecycle management (PLM) systems, Merchandizing and Assortment Planning, Supply Chain Planning and Execution systems and Customer facing systems so that they are properly tracked and managed throughout their lifespan.
This is especially important for the Christmas period when a large volume of returned items should be expected.
The best practice is to have a “code freeze” period across all IT systems (production environment) from October through to the end of December, with no changes made to the system at all. It must be stable and reliable, so there should be no unknown factors at all. Likewise, companies should test the IT load factor to ensure it can take the elevated strain during the crucial two weeks at the end of December.
Supply chain management is a challenge at the best of times, but the fate of many suppliers and retailers is decided by a successful Christmas period. Failure not only leads to lost sales, but additional cost as stock must be discounted or liquidated, and damaged relations where retailers and suppliers are relying on each other to succeed.
However, by ensuring they have the demands on their supply chain and logistics operations mapped out well in advance, and equipping themselves to respond quickly and efficiently during the period itself, suppliers and retailers can both ensure they join the festive celebrations by turning the stressful period into a triumph.
Pandora and IBM digitise jewellery supply chain
Pandora has overhauled its global supply chain in partnership with IBM amid an ecommerce sales boom for its hand-finished jewellery.
The company found international success offering customisable charm bracelets and other personalised jewellery though its chain of bricks and mortar retail destinations. But in 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak forced physical stores to close, Pandora strengthened its omnichannel operations and doubled online sales.
A focus on customer experience included deploying IBM’s Sterling Order Management, increasing supply chain resiliency and safeguarding against disruption across the global value chain.
Pandora leverages IBM Sterling Order Management as the backbone it its omnichannel fulfilment, with Salesforce Commerce Cloud powering its ecommerce. Greater automation across its channels has boosted the jeweller’s sustainability credentials, IBM said, streamlining processes for more efficient delivery. It has also given in-store staff and virtual customer service representatives superior end-to-end visibility to better meet consumer needs.
Jim Cruickshank, VP of Digital Development & Retail Technology, Pandora, said the digital transformation journey has brought “digital and store technology closer together and closer to the customer”, highlighting how important the customer journey remains, even during unprecedented disruption.
"Our mission is about creating a personal experience and we've instituted massive platform changes with IBM Sterling and Salesforce to enable new digital-first capabilities that are much more individualised, localised and connected across channels and markets,” he added.
Pandora’s pivot to digital
The pandemic forced the doors closed at most of Pandora’s 2,700 retail locations. To remain competitive, it pivoted to online retail. Virtual queuing for stores and virtual product trials via augmented reality (AR) technology went someway to emulating the in-store experience and retail theatre that is the brand’s hallmark. Meanwhile digital investments in supply chain efficiency was central to delivering on consumer demand.
“Consumer behaviour has significantly shifted and will continue to evolve with businesses needing to quickly adapt to new preferences and needs,” said Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications and Blockchain, IBM. “To address this shift, leading retailers like Pandora rely on innovation to increase their business agility by enabling and scaling sustainable supply chain operations using AI and cloud.”
Yusuf said Pandora’s success was indicative of how to remain competitive by “finding new ways to create differentiated customer experiences that protect their enterprises from disruptions to help mitigate risk and accelerate growth”.