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How to protect your retail supply chain, Barry Broughton – Operations Director

Barry Broughton operations Director TPS Global LogisticsAt a time when we are still trying to grapple with Brexit border crossing issues, last weeks talk of a French national strike and this weeks snow reminds us of the other influences that can add strain to beleaguered supply chains already struggling to cope with Brexit and Covid-19.

We look at the ways UK import and exporters can protect their supply chain from French Channel port chaos.

Even without the current Brexit disruption, the last 12 months have revealed deficiencies in many retailer supply chains. At TPS Global we believe that with some planning and preparation there are solutions to help retailers mitigate delays.

Here are some of our thoughts on how to create a more robust supply chain for the future.

1. Avoid the French border crossing, alternative routes could be an option. There are other ports to enter Europe – a few popular alternative freight routes listed below.


Source suppliers outside the EU – it could be an opportunity to research alternatives. In this recent example, local company Nim’s Fruit Crisps, had been sourcing raw materials for its air-dried fruit and vegetable crisps from European providers. But delays with Spain road deliveries meant they looked elsewhere, and are now importing lemons from Egypt via sea freight instead. Factoring in new costs and delivery schedules has protected their supply chain.

2. Manage your costs – With margins under pressure from the shift from in-store to online sales, the current rising and unstable shipping costs need to be factored into your planning. We recommend reviewing your distribution channels and  storage and transport options, look at the all the alternatives and adjust your costs and retail prices accordingly. You can change the way you retail – by August 2020, the number of retailers offering free shipping had fallen by 12.5%, bucking the trend to offer free shipping.

3. Look at the way you are managing your stock – many of the retailers managing inventory through the final quarter 2020 peak season experienced huge challenges, with delays in stock deliveries and problems with availability.

It is time to update out of date reporting tools – and many retailers are still using manual processes such as Excel spreadsheets. There are plenty of online tools available now – from warehouse management systems to custom built tools, as well as comprehensive transport management systems.

A  Gartner study of 500 leading retailers revealed that the pandemic had forced 82% of respondents to change their stock management practices, and 40% invested in improvements to their inventory management accuracy.

We recommend using software that integrates with other systems to give users full visibility of their inventory. By using a centralised platform, you can manage stock, deliveries, orders, storage, fulfilment and returns all in one place.

4. Everything comes back to planning – the swings in demand and product availability, made planning difficult for everybody last year. But reviewing the issues you faced and identifying the supply chain weaknesses means you can now plan alternative solutions.

Look at your third party partners, suppliers, transport, storage and distribution activities at every part of your supply chain from the product manufacturer to the customer. Don’t allow limited supply chain planning capability to handicap your business.

It’s time to close the gap between planning and execution, according to a Reuters report, worryingly 17% of the retailers in their survey found that, in execution, their plan was not feasible.

5. Finally, understand and manage your customer’s expectations – the rise of online retail is likely to remain as shoppers become more comfortable with digital technology. So you must ensure that your e-commerce platform is performing, to build brand and reputation, your consumer policies must be transparent, and we recommend capturing and acting on customer feedback – the influence of the consumer review is very important for online retailers.

Once the high street opens again bricks-and-mortar stores will have to adopt more elements of the online experience in order to encourage consumers to visit. Concepts such as the 15-minute city are becoming a global focus – where everything a consumer wants or needs is within a short walk.

There is also a rising popularity for pop-up spaces and pop-up retail, this suits smaller, independent businesses. There is no doubt that physical retail offers a completely unique and more immersive experience than online shopping. So it’s a good time to look at the options.

Get ready now – it is important to have the tools in place that can grow with your business — and they need to have the automation’s, integrations, and scalability that you can rely on.

Please contact us on +44 (0) 1622 237979 or email at if you would like to discuss any aspect of your supply chain operation.

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