As we edge closer to Black Friday, retailers will be hoping the digital investments made over the last six months will help them get through the Golden Quarter free of any hiccups. While interruptions to in-store shopping mean overall spending will be less this year, recent reports have suggested online spending will surge by almost £2bn. This level of strain on logistics and supply chain networks will be unprecedented, even in the context of recent developments and there are already anecdotal instances of availability issues online when inventory may well be available in stores.
That’s why the reopening of non-essential stores from 2nd December will be a blessing for retailers, who are already stretched to capacity. But the reality is, nobody knows how long this next relaxation of the rules will last, and retailers would do well to prepare for all eventualities to limit any future disruption. With digital businesses showing themselves to be more resilient, this means ensuring online stores can handle the record-breaking levels of web traffic anticipated this year, but also digitalising back-end logistics and supply chains to help them stand up to the challenge while facilitating access to store inventories for online channels. To this end, having an accurate and real-time single view of inventory across stores, warehouses and distribution centres is a foundation for harmonised retail.
There’s no escaping the fact that this year’s peak period will cause some retailers significant logistical and visibility headaches. That said, those with a keen focus on digital will be well-positioned to capitalise on the influx of online shoppers and drive growth as we head into the new year.