What Happens When A Merged-Channel Supply Chain Undermines Itself

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Retailers have discovered that, although the benefits of a truly merged-channel supply chain are vast, the pain-points are potentially even more vast—at least in the beginning. Michelle Tinsley, the director of transactional retail at Intel, said chains can find it difficult to strike the right balance. "The customer views that brick-and-mortar location as today's face of that retailer, so they need to uphold that brand image and take the (online) returns," Tinsley said. "But in this merged world, (the chain needs to) allow any location in that nationwide retailer to see those shoes now back into inventory and to then sell them very quickly and ship it from that location. So even though it was returned to a brick-and-mortar store, let it be seen in those warehousing systems so that the next order that comes in over the Internet or from a store in Cincinnati gets placed from that store in, say, California."

In Part Two of this week's StorefrontBacktalk Radio segment, Tinsley argues that this problem is one manifestation of the old way retailers look at problems. "I think you need to flip it. Instead of saying, 'I've got the inventory in the wrong place,' say, 'Well, I've just got to open up the inventory to where the next demand signal is coming from."