Monday, February 2, 2009

Cost Reduction in Supply Chain for Retailers

Contributed by Charu Gupta

Today, retailers having chain stores and numerous distributors face a big challenge of giving best services to their customers and making timely delivery of products. This problem can only be solved once a retailer’s supply chain is responsive enough to meet the consumer’s growing demand.  

A retailer needs to strike a balance between maintaining a high level of service along with low costs. As the retailers have spread their wings globally using multi-channels and have also ventured into new categories, the supply chains have become much more complex and hard to handle. This calls for understanding the complete supply chain process and identifying the loopholes and cost occurring points in the whole cycle. 

DMAIC process by DHL which stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control is an ideal way to understand the supply chain. As you can’t control, what you can’t measure, retailers need to know the rationality behind each supply chain activity. 

Integrated Planning is another approach which could be helpful for the retailers in a big way. Unlike in traditional approach, where each supply chain partner whether it is at retail level, distributor level or manufacturer level creates a forecast of its own needs independent of its partners, in integrated planning forecasts are being shared between the trading partners with the goal of effective collaboration throughout the supply chain. One of its distinct advantages is that it provides scope for re-calibration. If the plan doesn’t work, the entire supply chain can be planned accordingly at one go. 

Such integrated supply chains drive out uncertainties giving enough time to the suppliers to deliver the required material and also help in proactive replenishment planning. Such futuristic projections also provide planning information to other areas of organization too.

The demand forecasts done for each unit, projected inventory balances and supply schedules can be converted to cubic feet for each store to make a rough capacity scheduling plan too. Similarly, using pricing and cost data for each item, each supply chain partner can project its cash flow and profits for future. Thus, some numbers could drive the whole supply chain and reduce your costs dramatically.

There are majorly 4 types of activities which drive supply chain costs i.e. Inventory, Transportation, Facilities and Information. Accurate forecasting and reduced lead times could decrease the investment in Inventory. Given the increased cost of fuel, scarcity of qualified drivers and congested transport networks, attention needs to be given to the transportation cost. Some retailers have installed transport management systems to improve and streamline the routing plans to reduce the costs of transporting goods. Location of factories and warehouses had to be planned in order to minimize the costs related to facilities. Using the right technology and softwares to get the right information and process it could actually make the life easier for the retailers and help in making the supply chain more efficient. 

All supply chain activities are directed towards fulfilling the expectations of customers and be responsive to their demands but at the same time retailers need to watch the costs involved and work on reducing the same.
Milagrow in its endeavour to serve the needs of modern retailers has come up with a Unique mPartnering model under its Milagrow Retail Practice in which devising a sound Supply Chain Strategy forms an essential pillar. At Milagrow, we believe coordination and collaboration among channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, and customers, is quite essential, in the absence of which it is the retailer who suffers the most while the customer can easily make a switch. We help the retailers in planning and managing all the activities involved in sourcing, procurement, conversion, and logistics management. In essence, we help the companies in integrating supply and demand management effectively so that their back end operations (supply chain and logistics) are able to support their front-end operations (timely service to the customers).

Improving Supply Chain Efficiency in Retail Sector, All

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Frugal Marketing Strategy in Recessionary times

Contributed by Ankush Garg

When recession hits hard, consultants are the first ones to be shown the door. The next are the marketing teams. 

Organizations worldwide slash marketing budgets in difficult times. While the some purists contend that recession is the best time to strengthen the brand and get a competitive edge, the question is how? The funds are scarce and they need to be channeled into the essentials of the business to keep it running. 

While increase in the marketing budgets in difficult times may continue to a distant dream for most marketers, the circumstances offer opportunity to become more effective. The adage necessity is the mother of all invention never works better that it does in current macro-economic environment.. 

So how can marketers become more effective and get more bang for the buck? The first step is to segment your customers by the product categories and allocate the marketing budgets to different segments depending upon its profitability. Then develop a marketing strategy for each segment depending upon the customer profile or its behavioral traits. Seek synergies by identifying segments with similar customer profile. Reduce corporate campaigns and launch product category focused marketing programs as it would help improve profitability and enable the company to endure difficult times. 

It is always cheaper to retain existing customers that to procure new customers. Hence, a very strong customer relationship program is the need of the hour. It is important for marketers to integrate with the overall business and not operate in isolation. This will help them create new customer offers at low cost to the company. For example, if the company is carrying huge inventory for certain product categories, CRM program can create attractive offers for the existing customers using these product categories. This can help liquidate inventory without having to drop the prices in the market which can have deleterious consequences on the brand equity. The communication costs for CRM program should be closely monitored and reduced as far as possible. Email marketing, mobile marketing or social media networks (e.g. facebook) provide communication channels at no cost. 

No sector or industry has been left unscathed by the recession. There are many businesses that are looking for avenues to utilize their existing capacity. Marketers should collaborate with them and offer them benefits that cost nothing. In return, they should get higher visibility for their brand. For example, retailers can distribute discount coupons at its billing counters for a famous restaurants or clubs in the city. In return, they can get high visibility through placement of tent cards at the tables of the restaurants or through setting up kiosks at the clubs. 

The art of negotiation can always add the much needed strength to the marketers. Whether it is the airtime or column area in print media, there is tremendous room for cost reduction. One must not forget that marketing budgets are down and media companies are probably running helter-skelter to fill airtime or column space. And they would go lengths to retain you as a customer.

If airtime is extremely essential for your brand, an effective PR strategy can help gather lot if airtime literally free of cost. For example, a company in education business can voice its opinion on education policy of India or release papers on related subjects. This followed by effective networking with media personnel would lead to opportunities to participate in debates or forums where such issues are discussed. 

With every problem comes an opportunity. It is clearly a very opportune time for the marketer’s to break the shells and think creative, and frugal. It is a different matter that this is not longer a choice , but the need of the hour. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Retail Chains all geared to fight Slowdown

Country's leading retail outlets are coming up with startegies to fight from the overall slowdown in sales. Though the promotions at the year-end have given a little cheer to otherwise slowdown-hit retailers but there has been a fall in the overall sales in the Oct-Dec. period. Here too, the advantage has gone to the value-formats while high-end stores were the worst-hit. 

Retailers Association of India(RAI) feels that the growth of the organised retail which stands at Rs.27000 crore as against the total retail market of Rs.20 lakh crore will fall down from 35% to 10-12% in 2008-09.

Suspecting this, most of the big retailers are implementing various strategies like inventory optimization, supply chain efficiency, better product assortment, reducing number of SKUs, lowering the operating costs, etc. For example, Future Group is taking initiative towards customizing the product assortment according to a particular locality to suit the requirements of the people residing there. Shopper's Stop is focusing on making it supply chain more efficient by scaling down their back-end infrastructure. Tata's Landmark, the books-music-gifts retailer is looking into optimising its inventory to prevent losses and ensure better cash utilization. 

Reference: Economic Times