May 07, 2024

Retail Technology Show 2024: Stock management, optimised pricing, and supply chain collaboration

Retail Technology Show 2024 thumbnail

Fashion retailers’ requirements for better stock management, supply chain collaboration, and selling at the right price were key themes from the sessions at the Retail Technology Show, which took place at Olympia London on 24-25 April 2024.

Representatives from retailers ranging from AllSaints and Asda George to Harrods, Primark, and River Island were part of a packed two-day agenda crammed full of retail knowledge sharing, inspiring industry stories, and brand benchmarking opportunity.

We were in the audience, and have picked out the key talking points:

  • Stock management – and particularly optimising visibility of that inventory – is essential for an omnichannel world and to drive business efficiency
  • Supply chain collaboration is needed to reduce costs, soften environmental impact, and be a better retailer
  • Setting the right price is crucial – retailers shouldn’t go too discount-heavy but they need to show empathy in a challenging economy.

Stock visibility

Retail Technology Show speakers from Primark, River Island, and George at Asda all broached the subject of the importance of optimising stock management. It’s clear fashion retailers operating in an omnichannel environment need to be hotter than hot in this area, especially around making inventory visible to the wider organisation, to drive sales and customer satisfaction.

George at Asda and River Island have both embarked on in-depth RFID projects over recent years that – according to these businesses – have improved availability for customers but also elevated their general operations.

Simon Pakenham-Walsh, chief information officer (CIO) at fashion chain River Island, which operates 240 stores across the UK, said the technology can “better integrate the in-store and digital experience for example, in the future”.

Already, a willingness to embrace and invest in tech of this kind is bearing fruit for River Island. Pakenham-Walsh, who has arrived as CIO this year from Sweaty Betty, explained how stock availability has risen from 70% to 98% after the introduction of RFID, while a 3% uplift in sales was apparently achieved because stock was always in.

Nathan Jennings, senior director for transformation at George at Asda, the largest of the UK supermarket fashion businesses, explained how customer feedback always showed availability being the number one factor people would like George to improve. Investing in an item-level RFID roll-out has helped improve that and ensure the retailer always knows where products are in its supply chain, and, according to Jennings, other departments are looking at how they can leverage the tech to make improvements, for example in supply chain management and identifying shrinkage patterns.

Kirsty Buxton, senior transformation manager, RFID, at George, also explained about where getting accurate inventory data can take the business forward. The company wants to “unlock buy online, pick up in store”, she said, as well as embedding George products on the wider Asda grocery website. Meanwhile, inventory-by-store data is already shown on the Asda at George website which is driving sales and giving customers certainty about their purchases.

“If a customer can’t find the item they are looking for they can search [online] in another store,” she explained.

Speaking about technology more generally and the power of artificial intelligence (AI), Paul Sims, chief architect at Primark, spoke about how AI could be useful in the product design process and in forecasting demand, enabling stock to be suitably inventoried.

Fashion retailers looking to boost inventory visibility and optimise product allocation should also take a look at the BlueCherry ERP which is built specifically for their industry and talks their language.

Supply chain collaboration

It was really interesting to hear Simon Finch, supply chain director of Harrods, talk about how better collaboration throughout the supply chain can drive both business operational and sustainability benefits for retailers.

One example Finch shared with the Retail Technology Show audience was Harrods’ partnership with Burberry.

“How do we resolve the trade-off between cost and sustainability?” he asked delegates.

“Enabling us to offer our brand’s inventory at our brand’s locations has enabled us to provide a better service to our customers as well as reducing costs and improving sustainability.”

With Burberry, a Harrods online shopper in the US can buy one of the brand’s famous trench coats, for example, and that product will be shipped directly from the Burberry distribution centre in New Jersey thanks to clever thinking and tech implementation.

“Actually that coat originally would have come from SW1 [in London] and shipped to the US with all the delays and costs that go to the customer,” Finch noted.

“Now it comes from the Burberry warehouse which is actually in New Jersey.”

Indeed, fashion retailers using BlueCherry’s ERP can also improve their strategic decision-making and increase enterprise visibility in real time, so they gain more control over their supply chains.

Setting the right price

Meanwhile, in another theatre early on in day one of the Retail Technology Show, AllSaints chief innovation officer James Reid drew in the crowds to explain about the fashion retailer’s mobile app strategy.

Rather than supply chain per se, he focused his session very much on tech transformation, and how the business went from a position in the pandemic where it “didn’t have the capabilities I wanted” to one today, where a single basket is now accessible everywhere from online, mobile, to the new app.

Customers can switch seamlessly regardless of their entry point, he explained. A new app is central to AllSaints’ modernisation, and it provides early access to product and marketing experiences that can’t be found elsewhere – helping boost e-commerce sales at the retailer since its launch.

On pricing strategy, Reid acknowledged discounts had been a part of AllSaints’ strategy during Covid times, but the aim is to move customers away from chasing deals. Heavy markdowns across the retail industry do not help when it comes to growing the top-line.

“It’s not easy,” admitted Reid, alluding to the challenging economic conditions retailers are operating in – and will continue to operate in throughout 2024. But with tech transformation, AllSaints is refreshing its proposition and moving in a positive direction.

We at BlueCherry know that apparel companies face increasing supply chain complexities, and they are tasked with reducing cycle times and controlling product costs. BlueCherry Enterprise Resource Planning helps the top fashion brands overcome these operations and market challenges.

We were encouraged by all the good work we heard about at Retail Technology Show in London, in terms of the efforts fashion retailers are putting into improving stock visibility, shaking up supply chains, and tackling major issues such as optimal pricing strategy. But there is always more that can be done.

Connect with one of the BlueCherry team today online to book a demonstration or obtain additional information about how our ERP perfectly matches what apparel retailers and brands are aiming to achieve.