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Economic recovery: Is the retail rebound starting?

Pandemic-fuelled supply chain challenges taught us to expect the unexpected in a big way.

Economic slump? A retail store with few customers. Image by Tim Sandle.
Economic slump? A retail store with few customers. Image by Tim Sandle.

For the retail industry, the pandemic upended what might be referred to as “business as usual”. Some areas of retail managed to adapt, others went under.

Even as part of the pandemic wanes and some sectors return to something closer to normal, retail merchants are still facing considerable hurdles. These issues range from increased demand, to rapid shifts in consumer behaviours, to factory shutdowns and labour shortages, to port congestion.

Steve Denton, CEO of Ware2Go, a UPS Company, has provided advice to Digital Journal  readers who are involved in retail of all sizes. This is to help them to navigate these choppy waters.

Much of this advice is based on lessons learned as a result of COVID-19 and the resultant economic slowdown.  Denton’s main takeaway is that pandemic-fuelled supply chain challenges taught us to expect the unexpected in a big way.

His advice is that merchants must deploy a more resilient and agile approach that better positions them to address future hurdles and pivots. In addition, Denton says:

Merchants adapted their business from B2B or B2C to B2E

Denton explains: “Business to everyone. The pandemic drove 88 percent of Americans surveyed to shift their purchasing patterns — and exacerbated consumers’ already lofty expectations of convenience in online shopping. This left merchants scrambling to up their game across sales, order fulfilment and delivery. Many turned to technology-supported warehouse networks to help them meet the moment and efficiently pivot their selling strategies.”

As an example, Denton cites: “Before COVID, sports recovery drink producer and Ware2Go client O2 Recovery sold about half of its orders directly to gyms (B2B). Once the pandemic hit, the company needed to act fast to replace the sales channels lost due to gym closures. The flexibility offered through its partnership with Ware2Go enabled O2 to rapidly pivot its gym sales to individual orders going directly to customer doorsteps (D2C).”

Merchants have shifted their inventory from warehouses in the centre of the country to the coasts, near ports

In relation to this relocation aspect, Denton sys: “Making this shift helped businesses ease shipping delays and counter the high costs of transportation, but also posed new logistical challenges for businesses, who had to grapple with a sudden, large-scale redistribution of inventory. On top of that, new sudden demand made the cost of storage on the coasts go up.”

As an example, Denton mentions: “Ware2Go’s flexible fulfilment system, managed by a cloud-based technology that tracks and streamlines flow of inventory, helped merchants quickly adapt to this dramatic shift in their inventory distribution.”

A further success says Denton arises because the “data-driven insights help merchants prioritize which SKUs should be stored in more expensive warehouses on the coast (with a focus on faster delivery) and which SKUs can be put into deep storage in the centre of the country (with a focus on lowering storage costs).”

Merchants learned to plan further in advance

Denton also notes how: “The 2020 holiday season saw unprecedented shipping volume , leading to shipping delays and ultimately, late holiday gifts across the nation.”

Learning from this, Denton says “Fortunately, merchants learned their lesson — in 2021, 63.2 percent of merchants surveyed by Ware2Go reported they ordered holiday inventory by August, and 44.4 percent of merchants reported ordering more inventory than usual.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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