business news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting piece in the Washington Post suggesting that while there is an enormous amount of data out there available to retailers and suppliers, "it appears that the typical manager of a retail shop is pretty much guessing."

According to the story, "Blue Yonder, a retail tech company, surveyed 750 grocery managers and directors in the U.S., U.K., Germany and France. Forty-six percent of those directors said replenishment of their inventories is a manual process and a further 46 percent say that even when the process is automated it can be overridden by managers, suggesting a reluctance to rely on automation. The most disturbing metric: 48 percent said they use a 'gut feeling' when making inventory decisions."

The Post goes on to say that "the study also found a quarter of grocers feel they are not delivering at the speed that their customers require - not a great sign in an age where customers are becoming more and more demanding for speed and convenience and would have little patience for stores running out of stock."
KC's View:
It seems to me that there are a couple of things at work here, and that it might be a mistake to think that making instinctive decisions is the same thing as "guessing." It isn't a good thing if a store manager doesn't know what is in his or her store, but it can be as very good thing if a manager is able to look beyond product movement and see a larger picture. Sometimes a product may not move a lot of cases, but can be invaluable in terms of positioning and appeal to a store's core customer. That's something that a spread sheet cannot necessarily discern.

That said, automated fulfillment as a powerful tool that can provide speed and accuracy is hard to argue with ... that goes for suppliers and retailers, and for consumers, a growing percentage of whom are going to find things like Amazon's Subscribe & Save as a valuable shopping tool.