It’s Time To Move Forward

Christmas is just 14 weeks away and for many retailers, the festive period is a crucial time for sales. 

Research from Rakuten Advertising is positive, finding that 70% of people intend to spend the same amount of money on their celebrations, albeit with an increased focus on online shopping.

So, is now the time to invest in an SAP Retail expert? Someone who can help drive intelligent decision making, stabilise your supply chain and help to maximise sales or is your budget better spent elsewhere?

I spoke to Graham Simpkin, an SAP supply chain expert and Richard Emmott a specialist in digital and business transformation. Since the Coronavirus outbreak, they’ve been at the centre of a retail industry hit by two completely different reactions. Firstly, the online boom at the start of the pandemic and secondly the eventual impact on workforces and retail outlets.

So, what do they suggest can be done as we head towards the Christmas sales period?

GS “Start by getting the basics in place.  Make sure the Christmas range is clear and all master data is known & set up correctly.  This will help focus the energy in the peak period into dealing with true business exceptions rather than data problems.

Spend time on getting a good forecast upfront, using SAP F&R Demand Influencing Factors where it’s part of your infrastructure, or simpler profiles if not.  This is even more important this year where Coronavirus is significantly affecting local demand.

If you need to smooth peak distribution flows, agree these plans – and possible contingencies – upfront; this could involve SAP allocations or stock build through F&R functionality. Plans change, but its best to start with a plan and adapt it.

Collaborating with upstream supply is really important – share your plans with suppliers (this can be done easily with F&R) to avoid surprises.  It is likely that Christmas will mean closures or extended lead times for some vendors or warehouses. If you know what these are you can automate the impacts. And don’t forget downstream – make sure your stores or customers are bought into your plans. The plans need to consider, and react to, all sales channels.”

RE “We’re going to be trading in a Covid environment and Christmas will exacerbate the trends. Rethink your merchandise, select the right products at the right time and make sure they are visible”.

And what about e-commerce?

RE “The rise of e-commerce is here to stay particularly whilst the virus lasts. However, some people trade successfully without e-commerce but it’s a risky strategy. I’d advise having a plan b in place in case of another lockdown – you don’t need to build an entirely new platform to do this”

Where would you recommend smaller businesses focus their budgets?

GS “The key to a successful Christmas for any SAP business large or small is to collaboratively review the plans regularly with all value chain partners. Look at the macro and micro level – not just total sales and intakes, but also promotional and value-driver line level detail.  Work with Commercial teams where sales are exceptional – can more stock be sourced, do price points need changing, where are the predicted residuals? “

RE “A small business is not dissimilar to a large business. You have to conserve cash. If we are not in another lockdown, I’d suggest only opening stores that have high footfall and invest in improving e-commerce.  If you are a grocery store, I’d advise to reduce lines and make sure I had enough stock by focusing on localised supply chains.  If we knew that a Covid vaccine was on the way then my answers would be quite different!”

A New Year resolution for businesses when it comes to SAP?

GS “Get your analytics right up front so you know what you’re looking at, whether it’s out the box or bespoke.”

Re: “Innovation is critical even more so now than ever. You don’t have to rip up things just tweak them around the edges – make your website faster, make your offer more pronounced, increase your marketing messages about the good that your brand does.”

Final thoughts, no one can know what Coronavirus will bring next but I feel it’s time to start building back stronger and better than ever before.


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