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Editor's Comment: Tackle the weather with a responsive supply chain

Keely Stocker

As retailers continue to battle through a difficult season, tough decisions have to be made. As our story shows on page 2, suppliers are starting to feel the effect as multiple retailers reduce orders.

Unfortunately, it often falls to suppliers to support retailers through periods of difficult trading. The alternative – allowing these retailers to fail – is not an option. But to avoid the unfair practice of cancelling orders, retailers need to implement more reactive buying strategies and supply chain operations, so they are able to respond more quickly to changes in the weather or fluctuations in demand.

Retailers must become better at managing their stock levels. And when bad weather is on the horizon – and isn’t it always somewhere in the UK? – they should maintain an open line of communication with suppliers, so any required changes can be made as quickly as possible with minimal impact. Otherwise suppliers will be hung out to dry, which has a knock-on effect on the whole industry.

Better supply chain management is something we are looking at as we finalise the programme for our Drapers Operations Forum, which takes place on June 14 at The Bloomsbury Hotel in London. The long list of speakers includes Richard Gilmore, chief operating officer at Jigsaw, Ben Dreyer, operations and IT director at Boden, and Hash Ladha, chief operating officer at Oasis and Warehouse, who will be discussing how to streamline production to maximise any operations strategy.

As selling channels increase along with the growth of delivery options offered by retailers, it is paramount to have integrated back-end systems and work flows. Driving better performance relies on efficient productivity across all operations from logistics and fulfilment to technology and IT infrastructure.

This was emphasised by John Bason, finance director at Associated British Foods, when he spoke to Drapers in April. Bason highlighted how Primark’s responsive supply chain and a careful watch on buying volumes has allowed it to be much more reactive to unpredictable circumstances such as the weather.

Back-end systems become even more crucial when looking at overseas expansion, something that was a big topic of conversation at a Drapers roundtable last week. Retailers at the event said how important it is to have people on the ground in each expansion market to really dig into the details of local culture, highlighting that the intricacies of each market require thorough research. Everything from popular payment methods in a particular region to cross boarder taxes must be investigated and included in any global operations strategy.

I’d love you to join us at this year’s Drapers Operations Forum. To do so go to or email


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