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Drapers Comment: Is your supply chain set up to meet the business challenges of the future?

James Knowles

Are your supply chain processes set up to meet the challenges your business faces today or the ones that it will inevitably encounter in the future? With a radically accelerating pace of retail change, it is the question no doubt keeping many a supply chain director awake at night. But does the answer sit comfortably?

With a long list of business critical systems and operational investments that need to be made, supply chain considerations join a chorus of competing interests vying for one pot of money. However, investment in this area is essential, and can allow retailers to make a real difference to the transparency in their supply chains, improve efficiency, and crucially, boost profits.

Far from being a fuzzy topic with little real consumer engagement, ethical considerations have come right to the fore following high-profile events such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, so now achieving supply chain clarity and ensuring ethical standards are upheld is of utmost priority. This was a key topic of conversation at Drapers’ recent roundtable on the subject and – with the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 – it is an area that retailers are now being compelled to review.

Of course, such a review and the potential improved communications that will result as a part of it, could have significant benefits in improving quality through working more closely with suppliers.

Further downstream, the changes are even more advanced. The humble distribution centres, or “sheds” as they are commonly known, are now required to be high-tech affairs designed to service multiple orders, across numerous channels at any time of the day or night, at increased speeds and with an all the more convenient service offering.

Of course, this all sits within a context of post-Brexit vote supply chain and logistics. The exact impact will not be known until prime minister Theresa May triggers article 50 and exit negotiations formally begin. Currently, ecommerce is performing well as EU shoppers realise they can benefit from a weakened pound, but when it comes to supply chain, a report by Barclays found that 30% of retailers plan to shake up their supply chains, as they look away from near-shore EU producers in favour of locations including the UK, Africa and Asia.

Clearly, it is a complicated time for supply chain and logistics operations, but where there are challenges, there are opportunities. We hope you enjoy this report, and we ask you – is your supply chain fit for the future?

For features on all of these topics read Drapers exclusive report: Is your supply chain fit for the future? 

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