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Three solutions for a disrupted supply chain

Retailers are not responsible for the ongoing issues with the global supply chain, but they must act to mitigate them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the efficiency and effectiveness of the supply chain. In addition, global shipping is still feeling the after-effects of the March Suez Canal blockage

Inevitably, customers will blame retailers for products that are out of stock, delivered late, or sharply go up in price. This means retailers need to push aside any notions that the supply chain isn’t their problem to fix. Here are three technology solutions retailers can utilize to mitigate logistical challenges.

Track what you have – with what you have
In an era where it is hard to predict when or if shipments will reach the warehouse, retailers need to have real-time access to all products within their internal supply chain. Fortunately, virtually every item comes equipped with its own trackable identifier – a UPC barcode.

Capturing barcode data enables retailers to accurately locate and authenticate individual items at any point in the supply chain, in real time. And barcode data can be easily read with affordable software loaded onto virtually any mobile device.

In addition, retailers in certain verticals (such as apparel) may find that 50% or more of their inventory comes equipped with RFID tags. This greatly increases the potential ROI of implementing RFID readers to assist with real-time product tracking and tracing within an internal supply chain.

Back, Jack – do it again
Another way retailers can boost their inventory availability without relying on external suppliers is to obtain tighter control of their reverse logistics operation. By ensuring returned items are processed, sorted and restocked as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible, retailers can bolster their product availability without having to stock “new” merchandise.

Third-party platforms exist to help retailers streamline reverse logistics management. For example, Happy Returns (recently purchased by PayPal) provides customers a QR code for online purchases they want to return. They then bring the items — no box or receipt required — with the code to one of Happy Return’s drop-off locations for near-instant approval. In addition, companies including FedEx and Narvar enable retailers to quickly and easily process returns at their stores. 

Do a little extra with surplus inventory
Retailers who face challenges keeping their shelves stocked may want to investigate online liquidation marketplaces. Dozens of these platforms exist to help companies dispose of liquidations, returns and overstock. While retailers cannot be as selective with surplus product purchases as they would otherwise, the overstock marketplace can still provide short-term aid is filling inventory gaps.

In a recent interview with Chain Store Age, Marcus Shen, COO of B-Stock, a platform directly connecting retailers with online surplus inventory auctions, explained how his company serves both sellers and buyers of liquidated merchandise.

“With an expansive network of buyers, you can move inventory as needed—regardless of volume, time of year, or product category,” said Shen. “For buyers, we are continually leveraging data to improve our efforts in personalization and fulfillment, so that we are matching buyers with the right merchandise for their business needs.”

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