Going above and beyond in distribution

Westcoast Retail MD Carl Oxley talks about the changing roles of the distributor in the supply chain and how to remain relevant in an always evolving market.

As the needs and requirements of retailers continue to change over time, the understanding of the supply chain and those that work with it has similarly been revisied. We are now in an age where simply moving products from A to B is no longer enough, and we have to provide services that go beyond the typical perception of distribution.

Where previously the job of a distributor would end in the retailer’s centres, we now must engage deeper into the chain in both the stockroom and shop floor. 

Simply put, the aim of implementing an efficient supply chain is to improve on-shelf availability. If a product is in stock in the distribution centre or stock room, then we must guarantee it is available to purchase in-store. Offering in-store aid to ensure that products are available to purchase and appear presentable is a key service on top of typical distribution. Although it may seem simple, such personable management and activity is integral to capitalise on our relationships with retailers.

Effective merchandising is also invaluable to a retailer. This can involve everything from rack merchandising jobs and ensuring shelf edge labels (SELs) are up to date, thorough to stock audits.

“We now must engage deeper into the chain in both the stockroom and on the shop floor.”
Carl Oxley, Westcoast Retail

The ability to be flexible and cater to a range of demands is also increasingly proving key. It is often the case that, not only are we in direct contact with the retailers themselves, but also a range of vendors, all of which may require a specific layout and differing requirements in-store. This in turn needs attention to detail and additional services, such as being able to satisfy regular stock checks and planogram compliance, again extending the arm of distribution. At times, there may be an even larger eco-system involved, whether that be shopfitters or design agencies, and it is down to distributors to to liaise and work with them.

Monitoring progress and updating retailers and vendors on the results is another necessity in modern distribution. At Westcoast Retail every job is logged via an app – and using our own analytics – retailers are able to check progress in real time. As an industry, we need to continue to look to offer live updates, including the likes of entry and exit photography, to ensure both retailers and vendors receive precise, real time understanding of fixtures and shopper behaviour.

What all of this means in essence is that what is expected from the ‘supply chain’ has undergone something of a reformation, catering to a much wider range of needs. It’s important we keep abreast of how to maximise our relationships with our retailers most effectively, and adapt and extend our services accordingly.

Carl Oxley is the managing director of Westcoast Retail.

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