The supermarkets’ physical distribution job has been made more difficult over the last few months by bitter weather and heavy snowfalls, but to their credit the logistics and distribution specialists servicing the retail sectors have done a great job keeping the products moving. And now that’s over at least, we have a few months’ grace to prepare for next winter.

The regional retailers are among those major grocers who are beefing up their supply chains ready for next winter. Booths Supermarkets has awarded a contract to Pullman Fleet Services, a Wincanton subsidiary, to provide maintenance and repair services to Booths’ HGV fleet, which transports stock between the retailer’s distribution centre and 28 stores in the north of England.

The recent KFC debacle highlighted limitations in service capability. Now things have calmed down, if you’re looking for supply chain partners with external quality verification, in its first audit supply chain and distribution specialist Oakland International has secured an A rating in the BRC quality audit for storage and distribution at its new facility in Corby.

At the moment the biggest challenge for the major retailers is digital, rather than physical, thanks to the looming GDPR legislation. As Thibaut Ceyrolle at Snowflake Computing reminds us, data underpins all omnichannel approaches:

“Through detailed gathering and analysis of data, retailers can better connect their online and offline channels, enabling customers to move seamlessly between channels, while also providing the opportunity to uncover valuable insights on customer behaviour and trends. Yet, despite the opportunities data holds for omnichannel retailers, the looming GDPR legislation will pose many challenges on managing data. Companies will not only need to change their procedure around data, but also their attitude towards it. GDPR encourages stronger control and safeguard of data but since data sets are often spread across different channels, tracking where it is stored and who has access to it becomes incredibly difficult.”

Meanwhile Amazon continues to be best in class when it comes to re-thinking customer experiences and its Prime service is second to none. According to observers this is prompting a shift in what matters to consumers, with shoppers becoming loyal to the service they receive rather than to the brands they buy. Amazon has set the standard that others must follow or risk being locked out. If the major grocery retailers are to continue to compete against Amazon, they must evolve their instore experience to give as efficient an offer as they provide online, says Tom Downes, CEO at Quail Digital: “It starts with managers being able to communicate quickly and effectively with store associates through wireless headsets.

Supermarket click & collect is a growth phenomenon, with 24% of shoppers using it routinely. The concept is well developed in Europe and finding its way here. With UK grocery sales continuing to grow 2.5% annually, the introduction of these technologies is now vital to grocery retailers, empowering store associates to connect and work together to realise the retail vision of the future.”

So there’s the challenge to be going on with.

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