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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

supply chain
  • 11 Dec

Identifying Weaknesses In Your Supply Chain

For any retailer, having a supply chain that operates tightly and without error is the key to success. Failings in the chain can lead to time inefficiency, profit damage and ultimately the loss of customer satisfaction. The ramifications of not placing attention on the management of a strong supply chain can be severe. As a result of this, retailers are increasingly looking for ways in which to identify and eliminate any weaknesses. Look at the entire supply chain Where many retailers fall down is in the ability to look at the chain as a whole, end-to-end: from what occurs just before the point at which the product enters the supply chain, and when it leaves. A good way of examining this is via process flow mapping. This can be achieved by looking at all aspects of the product, and the various inputs and outputs encountered throughout its creation and distribution. This exercise provides valuable insight and awareness into where third party communication may be required through the need to develop dependable interfaces, as well as where supply chain efficiency may be at risk through poor stock management. Optimise efficiency: Auto Replenishment System When looking for a way to ensure that stock levels are optimised, having a robust, flexible replenishment system is the first module to consider. Forming part of an omnichannel retailing approach, an auto replenishment system, such as Merret, assists with the movement of stock between locations via user defined algorithms, which allows retailers to have dynamic control and maintain correct inventory levels. Sales performance can be tracked, whilst promotions or seasonal increments can be forecasted and stock level changes made accordingly. Removing issues around products ‘out of stock’, an auto replenishment system uses rationing, ensuring stock reaches the destination it is most needed, and intelligent substitution of continuity items.  Optimise cost control: Purchase Order Management Forming part of the omnichannel supply chain, a further benefit of Merret is its Purchase Order Management system, which allows buyers to build product ranges with financial accuracy in changing environments. Landed costs are accurately calculated automatically, with variables such as freight & duty included. As purchase orders can be set as flexible, re-raising them if a delivery is incomplete is unnecessary; the system allows for receipt of additional deliveries, should they be required. Other advantages of using Purchase Order Management include purchase order creation defaults, and multi-drop purchases orders, which allow agreements with suppliers for large amounts of product, which can then be phased into the supply chain when required. Optimise stock levels: Central Stock Pool The cornerstone of any omnichannel supply chain is a central stock pool, sitting at the heart of the chain. From a central pool, orders can be fulfilled no matter which channel due to a single, centralised view, meaning that inventory is used in the most cost efficient manner. This encompasses what is held in the warehouse, as well as in stores. As a result of this, terminal stock is reduced with less excess ordering, supply chain…
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WMS
  • 20 Nov

Warehouse Management System: Efficiency Made Easy

As omnichannel customer demand continues to put unrelenting pressure on retailers, the need to look for ever-smarter modes and methods of working practices also increases. Retailers looking to remain competitive search for ways to operate faster, more efficiently and at lower costs. For those dealing with multiple warehouses and large amounts of stock, a Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a vital tool. Watch the video here. What is a Warehouse Management System? In any business which deals with a warehouse or distribution centre, accuracy and efficiency are pivotal to maintaining good customer service. To assist with this a Warehouse Management System (WMS) takes the form of an individual software application, or can come as part of an Enterprise Planning System or ERP, designed to support the many aspects of management that are needed. Stock levels, staffing, planning and stock movements all form part of the everyday operations that can be controlled. Different levels of complexity are involved, and services can be tailor-made to cater for exactly what level of management is needed, with everything from voice recognition to tracking technologies possible. What can a Warehouse Management System do? Usually of the most interest to a business in regards to a WMS are the Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) which store all aspects of data specific to the product. Elements such as the weight, size, barcodes, labels, dates and materials involved are all stored and can hence be easily monitored and data accessed. The locations of products within the warehouse can also be controlled, alongside the form of storage, the picking orders for items, as well as options such as secure locations for high-value items, and whether specific conditions are needed such as flame-proofing. Picking schedules can be created and shared between multiple site locations. A major aspect of a WMS is also its use in monitoring and assessing employee productivity rates such as the amount of items picked within a specific timeframe. Tasks can be assigned and their progress observed, and modifications to plans that may be rendered necessary by fluctuating product or order sizes can easily be managed and adapted to. How can a Warehouse Management System help a business be more cost efficient? Due to the way in which a WMS manages data, the most obvious way in which a business will see a financial benefit from its implementation is via inventory accuracy. Eliminating the huge variable that human error brings to monitoring of stock and replacing it with a WMS will bring accuracy levels up, resulting in less unwanted stock being ordered, greater throughput, and less wastage caused. As a business will always be looking for near perfect stock accuracy in order to minimise unnecessary expenditure, a WMS is a massive advantage. Order cycles can be improved in a similar manner. The ability to see warehouse stock in real-time is another big benefit, as dynamic business decisions can be made with the most up to date information. A Supplier Management System (SMS) can also be integrated and will…
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  • 14 Aug

Video: Price Management

We’re excited to share with you our latest video in the Merret series, featuring our price management solution. Advanced pricing functionality has already enabled one of our customers to increase their weekly global sales by £400,000. Find out how in the video below: As ASOS’ Nick  Robertson notably said, “get your prices right and the rest follows” – this statement came after rolling out zonal pricing to improve the brand’s international performance. Zonal Pricing Global retailing often results in the requirement to introduce different pricing in different territories. Our solution manages advanced pricing across the globe in the following ways: Timed promotions When operating a promotion across different time zones, such as Black Friday, it can throw up operational challenges. How can Black Friday “begin” at the same time in all countries? Merret’s global infrastructure can set up time zones to trigger promotional offers in the correct timeslot. As shown in the video, a Black Friday 16:00pm start in the UK will be offset to ensure the US also experiences a 16:00pm start. Exchange and Price Point tables Retailers might not always want to use exchange rates to calculate international prices, due to their volatility. Merret has therefore been developed to operate with static international prices in a ‘Price Point’ table, which could mean that £50 always equates to €60 or $70, regardless of any fluctuations in exchange rate. The retailer can manually set price points. Over 20 leading global retail brands are benefiting from our award-winning solution, which is responsible for managing advanced pricing strategies across the globe, in order to maximise profitability, and ensure a consistent customer experience no matter which country you’re shopping in. If you want to see how Merret’s pricing functionality supports omnichannel retailing, check out our dedicated video here.   For more retail technology insights, download our new whitepaper – What is Omnichannel Retailing? – available as a free PDF.  …
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  • 7 Aug

Latest Omnichannel Whitepaper

If you’re looking for the latest insights into omnichannel retailing, including trends, stats, innovative approaches, and best practice, download our latest whitepaper here: “what is omnichannel retailing?” In a free PDF, we’re providing information to retail decision-makers on all things omnichannel. As retail industry experts, our intimate knowledge of omnichannel is benefiting 20 retail brands using our supply chain solution, Merret. Read how Harvey Nichols and Morrisons are benefiting after recent upgrade projects. Real time stock availability and stock accuracy are some of the biggest benefits cited by our users. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PDF NOW In a feature-length download, we expand on the need for a single stock pool, why retailers should be using their stores to fulfil orders, and the benefits of omnichannel approaches to the product journey. Watch our omnichannel video below to find out more, or download the whitepaper here.  …
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  • 17 Jul

Video: Auto Replenishment System

A retailer’s replenishment system is one of the most powerful engines for ensuring the correct levels of stock are in the right place, at the right time, for optimum sales performance. With the right replenishment software, not only are you improving margin and cost-to-serve the customer, but customer satisfaction is further increased with better omnichannel stock availability. We’ve just launched our latest Merret video, highlighting the key benefits of our auto replenishment system. Over 20 leading global retail brands are benefiting from our award-winning solution, which is responsible for the dynamic movement of stock between their warehouses and stores. Replenishment algorithms within Merret are user defined, allowing businesses to have dynamic control over their operations, using 100% stock visibility and critical data analysis to make better decisions on inventory management and forecasting. This means that retailers are achieving more full price orders and maximising their stock turns: margin is made every time the stock in the warehouse is sold or “turned around”. Our auto replenishment system maintains optimum inventory levels on all products using 3 types of store replenishment, which can be manually selected/de-selected: Ideal replenishment (setting min/max levels to prevent under/over stocking). Sales performance is tracked and ideal stock levels replenished. Changes to ideal stock can also be forecast and prior to specific activity e.g. promotional events, to avoid selling out. Replenishment to planned cover Improved stock and sales insight allows inventory forecasting and planning stock cover/safety. ‘n for 1’ For continuity or seasonal items, this rule keeps stock levels at their optimum, whether this be fixed, increasing, or decreasing.  Merret also helps retailers avoid out-of-stock scenarios by using a combination of stock rationing in the instance of low/zero stock, replenishing based on rules that ensure it is assigned to the store where it can be best sold.  Stock substitution can also be activated to provide relevant substitutes to continuity products. Read more about the benefits of our auto replenishment system on its dedicated webpage, here. If you want to see how Merret’s replenishment system supports omnichannel retailing check out our dedicated video here.…
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Karen Millen Merret
  • 20 Jun

What does omnichannel mean to you?

Retail Assist is continually approached to support retail brands’ omnichannel aspirations and operations, but what is omnichannel? Omnichannel is a real-time, channel-agnostic visibility of inventory across the supply chain using a central stock pool, complemented by a single view of the consumer as they simultaneously shop across various channels, with the ability to fulfil demand anytime, anywhere. As supply chain software specialists, we understand that the term “omnichannel” means many different things to retailers, and so tailor our solution, Merret, accordingly. We have 21 “omniscenarios” that we can currently offer as standard. Whilst one brand may see omnichannel trading as the ability to perform operations such as ship-from-store to maximise the financial potential of stock inventory, another may view omni-ability differently in terms of what they can offer the customer: online orders returned in-store, for example. This is why we scope out our customers’ exact business requirements when they need support to implement omni. Retail Assist’s end-to-end supply chain solution, Merret, has been developed to deliver the following omnijourneys, to fit our customers’ business needs: As you can see, there are two main ordering options (online – encompassing mobile, tablet, desktop ordering; and in-store), two fulfilment options (from the warehouse; or from stores), and two delivery options (direct to the customer – home delivery; or to a collection point – for example a store). Having the ability to fulfil orders regardless of channel, due to a single view of stock, is one of the biggest benefits of Merret cited by our customers. Latest statistics from our Merret customer, Oasis, reveal that since fulfilling orders through Ship-from-Store, 20-30% incremental web sales have been achieved. Making in-store inventory available to online customers is critical to support increased demand with more opportunities to sell stock at full price – Merret’s central stock pool facilitates this, as in quadrant 1 and 2. Click and Collect also presents great opportunities to drive sales, as New Look reports: a quarter of its Click and Collect customers make additional purchases when collecting in-store. During seasonal periods, these average an extra £27 per transaction. Merret drives all of the processes you can see in the infographic, which when written out take the product through the following “omnijourneys” from point of order/sale to point of delivery: Order on Web, Fulfilled from DC, Delivered to Home Address Order on Web, Fulfilled from Single Store, Delivered to Home Address (Ship from Store) Order on Web, Fulfilled from Multi Stores, Delivered to Home Address (Ship from Store)   Order on Web, Fulfilled from DC for Customer Collection (Click and Collect) Order on Web, Fulfilled from Collection Store for Customer Collection (Click and Collect) Order on Web, Fulfilled from other Stores for Customer Collection (Ship from Store & Click and Collect)   Ordered in Store, Fulfilled from DC, Delivered to Home Address Ordered in Store, Fulfilled from Store, Delivered to Home Address Ordered in Store, Fulfilled from other Stores, Delivered to Home Address (Ship from Store)   Ordered in Store, Fulfilled in Store…
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Maximise stock availability
  • 25 Apr

Maximise stock availability with Merret

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been outlining the key benefits of using Merret to drive efficiencies in your omnichannel retail processes. As well as facilitating a single view of stock, explained here, our omnichannel supply chain solution is helping retailers to maximise stock availability. At a time when the customer demand requires fulfilling across all channels with the same availability, 24 x 7 x 365, having an agile inventory and flexible stock pool to fulfil orders is essential, to avoid customer dissatisfaction. For example, one way in which Merret maximises stock availability is its central stock pool’s ability to use in-store stock to fulfil orders from different channels, as well as stock in the DC. This prevents frustrating out-of-stock situations online, when the item may in fact be hanging unsold on a rail in a store. This process is also known as ship-from-store, explained here in an infographic. Merret has been developed to offer practical benefits when deployed on tablets in-store, enabling store staff to carry out omnichannel processes when on the shop floor with responsive, modern technology. For a more detailed look at Merret Tablet Inventory and its benefits in action, watch the solution used in-store with our customer, Karen Millen; Karen Millen went live with Merret early last year. You can watch the full video on YouTube here. The flexibility the solution gives to store staff is invaluable. Without being constrained by fixed terminals or clunky hand held devices, still able to walk the shop floor and interact with customers, store staff can do the following through Merret Tablet Inventory, as mentioned in the video: Process Inter branch transfers, create, send and receive Receive stock from the warehouse Progress write on / off transactions Undertake a stock-take Carrying out these processes as soon as they require actioning, in response to real-time sales data, Merret allows a freer movement of stock that is 100% visible and accurate, helping maximise stock availability by placing it where it is needed most. In this way, more profitable business decisions are made and actioned. Retailers can then fulfil more orders, and sell more stock at full price. Interested in how our retail IT solutions could facilitate more efficient omnichannel retailing across your brand? Simply fill out this quick contact form and a member of our Sales team will be in touch, or call our Head Office on +44 115 904 2777.  …
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Single view of Stock
  • 4 Apr

Single View of Stock: In Pictures

You may have seen our retail focus blog last week on single view of stock, and how critical it is to retailers pursuing omnichannel. Benefits to the retailer positively influence every aspect of retail operations. With regards to the Merchandising process, a single view of stock can enable retailers to display more accurate stock messaging, whether by only showing items in stock, removing customer frustration; or by creating urgency through low stock messaging such as ‘last chance to buy’. A single view of stock can also aid in-store staff, empowering them to answer enquiries about stock levels with a view across all channels, meaning they can direct a customer to alternative stores, or order the product online. Fulfilment is also impacted positively by a single view of stock. Retailers can accurately track the presence of stock in both stores and warehouses in real time, turning stores into virtual distribution hubs. It can be more cost effective to ship from store, rather than rely on inflexible centralised warehousing. For a single view of stock to be worthwhile, it must reflect changes in physical stock status in real-time, enabling retailers to access reliable information about all stock from a single viewpoint. Check out our infographic below, giving a round up of 3 main benefits of a single view of stock in terms of omnichannel retailing and the customer experience: Want to know more about how you can achieve a single view of stock, and improve business performance? Contact us to talk more about Merret, by emailing info@retail-assist.co.uk, or fill out our quick contact form here.…
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single view of stock
  • 29 Mar

The importance of a Single view of Stock

If a retailer is to offer a truly omnichannel retail experience, a single view of stock is critical. That’s why the central stock pool function in our omnichannel supply chain solution, Merret, is at the heart of retail operations. Having a single view of stock has several benefits: Facilitates omnichannel processes such as ship-from-store. Using individual stores as virtual distribution hubs is key to ensuring orders are fulfilled in the most cost-efficient way, preventing overstocking and stockholding by making stock readily available where it’s needed most. This can only be achieved when stock is viewed across all channels in one single view. Being unable to view real-time stock levels across all channels can lead to unprofitable stockholding, resulting in mass discounting, which impacts severely on profit margins. Better experience for the customer, by fulfilling a greater number of orders. Lack of stock visibility is detrimental to the omnichannel customer experience – how can a retailer fulfil the customer promise online and in-store if they can’t see where stock is held? Business performance improved by responding to real time trends. A single view of stock across all channels, and end-to-end systems integration means data is reliable, allowing retailers to react to trading trends in real-time for more profitable decisions. Our Analytics module, Merret Analytics, provides a clear and simple view of all sales information, for greater business profitability. With 100% stock visibility, what underpins it in terms of retail process and functionality? The central stock pool in Merret uses one pool of stock to fulfil orders from any channel. It is not necessarily a sole physical location, as inventory can be physically held at different points; in the warehouse or in stores. It has a global ability to allocate stock based on central demand; this single view of stock ensures that inventory is always directed towards the channel in which it is selling best. Maximising profitability through full price trade, and reducing discounting due to unbeneficial stockholding, are the benefits being experienced by leading retail brands, including Karen Millen, Jacques Vert, Oasis and Paperchase. You can read about our latest Merret project with Karen Millen here. For more information about how you can achieve a single view of stock with Merret, please email info@retail-assist.co.uk, where one of our team will follow up your query.…
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omnichannel supply chain solution
  • 8 Feb

Ship-from-store: in pictures

Latest Retail Week research reveals that 38% of retailers were transitioning to omnichannel last year, a business change process we’re carrying out with many retail brands, implementing our omnichannel supply chain solution: Merret. Our end-to-end solution enables 100% visibility of stock across all retail channels, and uses smart, real-time inventory management, to facilitate important retail processes that increase profitability. One of these is ship-from-store. Here’s how ship-from-store works, in pictures: Using individual stores as virtual distribution hubs is key to ensuring orders are fulfilled in the most cost-efficient way, preventing overstocking and stockholding. This is by making stock readily available where it’s needed most. Maximising profitability through full price trade, and reducing discounting, are the benefits being experienced by leading retail brands, including Karen Millen, Whistles, Mint Velvet and Paperchase. You can read about our latest Merret project with Karen Millen here. Want to know more? Simply email info@retail-assist.co.uk with your enquiry, or call our Head Office on +44 (0)115 8533910 to speak with one of our team.…
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