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How Collaborative Planning Can Revolutionize Your Retail Supply Chain

Submitted by admin_partnerlinQ on

In today’s rapidly changing retail landscape, the collaboration between retailers and their suppliers has become more critical than ever. This is particularly true for perishables, short product lifecycle merchandise, and a broader range of products. However, these same products also drive traffic, revenue, and margin for retailers, making it imperative for retailers to find a way to offer a wide choice to customers while managing the risks associated with these products.

The COVID crisis forced retailers and CPGs to limit the variety of products to manage supply chain disruptions. As the situation has improved, the race is now to provide customers with a broad selection of products.

This blog outlines everything you need to know about collaborative retail planning and why it’s important for your business growth.

But First, You Need to Know the Cost of Poor Collaboration

The cost of poor collaboration between retailers and their suppliers can be significantly high and manifest in various ways. One of the most significant risks associated with poor collaboration is markdowns or write-offs for perishable items; this can be costly. When retailers and suppliers fail to work together to manage inventory levels, they can end up with excess perishable items they cannot sell before their expiration date. This can result in markdowns, reduced margins, and a negative perception of the brand and product.

Out-of-stock situations can also result from poor collaboration, as retailers and suppliers need to communicate more effectively about inventory levels and demand forecasts. When a product is out of stock, customers may shop elsewhere, resulting in a loss of sales and reduced customer loyalty.

Another challenge associated with poor collaboration is a poor return on inventory investment, which can be especially challenging for retailers during the COVID crisis. Retailers need to track key supply chain metrics like Gross Margin Return on Inventory (GMROI) to understand how well their inventory investments perform. In response to supply chain disruptions, many retailers increased safety stock parameters to ensure that staples like rice and pasta were always available to customers. This has reduced inventory turnover, which can negatively impact the return on capital employed.

Finally, poor collaboration can result in failed promotions, where retailers and suppliers fail to coordinate effectively on promotional pricing, timing, and marketing. This can result in a lack of interest from customers and missed sales opportunities.

So, what is Collaborative Retail Planning?

By definition, “Collaborative retail planning” is a strategic approach that involves retailers and suppliers working together to optimize the entire supply chain. This approach requires significant communication, transparency, and trust between retailers and suppliers. This process allows retailers to make more informed decisions and plan for demand more accurately. It involves sharing critical data between retailers and suppliers, such as sales trends, inventory levels, and marketing strategies. By doing so, both parties can identify areas to improve the supply chain, reduce costs, and increase efficiency.

Collaborative retail planning has been a hot topic in the industry for years, with early conversations dating back to the early 2000s. However, until recently, planning systems have struggled to support meaningful collaboration between retailers and their partners. This has resulted in many legacy systems being unable to meet modern supply chain demands.

Fortunately, advances in supply chain solutions have made it possible for retailers and CPG companies to collaborate effectively and gain end-to-end supply chain visibility. The key to this collaboration is a data-sharing routine that provides real-time visibility into supply and demand signals, allowing both parties to mitigate the bullwhip effect and prevent unexpected changes.

L’Oréal is an excellent example of a company that uses collaborative innovation to its advantage. The annual “Cherry Pack” exhibition offers suppliers a preview of the consumer trends L’Oréal would be working on and asks them to develop packaging solutions in harmony with these trends. The trust-based forum created during the exhibition enabled suppliers to present ideas and products still in development, ultimately accelerating packaging innovation.

Why Should You Care About It?

Effective collaboration between retailers and supply chain partners offers numerous benefits, including the ability to align business objectives, anticipate and prevent potential problems, improve planning accuracy, increase operational efficiency, and reduce inventory throughout the supply chain. According to a McKinsey study, companies that collaborate effectively with their supply chain partners regularly outperform their industry peers, with 2x higher growth and 4.9% more in EBIT.

One of the primary benefits of collaborative retail planning is improved accuracy in demand forecasting. By involving all stakeholders in the planning process, companies can access a wider range of data and insights, leading to more accurate demand forecasting. This can help to reduce overstocking, minimize waste, and increase customer satisfaction. In addition, companies can identify trends and patterns that may not be visible when working in silos, leading to more informed decision-making. 

Another critical advantage of collaborative retail planning is a reduced risk of stockouts. Companies can ensure that products are delivered on time and in the right quantities by working closely with suppliers and logistics providers. This reduces the risk of stockouts, which can negatively impact customer satisfaction and the bottom line. By leveraging collaborative retail planning, companies can have better visibility and control of the entire supply chain ecosystem, from production to delivery, and proactively address any issues. 

Collaborative retail planning helps to increase efficiency by reducing the need for multiple, separate plans. This can increase efficiency, cost savings and improve supplier and retailer relations. When all stakeholders work together towards a common goal, they can identify areas to streamline operations and eliminate redundancies. This can lead to better communication, faster decision-making, and a more efficient supply chain.

Overall, collaborative retail planning is essential for any retailer looking to improve their supply chain. By working closely with their suppliers and partners, retailers can reduce costs, improve forecasting accuracy, and build stronger relationships. This approach can help retailers stay competitive, increase profits, and provide better customer value.

What’s Next?

Collaborating between retailers and their suppliers is essential for managing the risks associated with perishables, short product lifecycle merchandise, and a broad range of products. Retailers must work closely with their suppliers to manage inventory levels, communicate effectively about demand forecasts, and ordinate promotions to meet their customers’ needs and drive revenue and margin growth. By doing so, retailers can stay ahead of the competition and succeed in today’s dynamic retail environment.

PartnerLinQ is a robust supply chain transformation cloud-native platform that helps bring multi-enterprise collaboration with network visualization, intelligent planning and forecasting, and actionable insights. Join PartnerLinQ with Forrester on this upcoming webinar to explore more about collaborative retail planning and how it can help bring supply chain resilience. 

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