Thus far, we have posted deep-dives on the first nine of our 2017 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains.  The one prediction remaining is our final Prediction Ten, which for each year, dives into what we foresee as unique industry-specific supply chain challenges or environments for the coming year.

This year’s industry-specific challenges were especially challenging in that we contemplated adding a lot of industries, more so than prior years. In the end, we will hone in on those industries that merit additional monitoring and updates in the coming months.

As Editor, I have also decided for the purposes of brevity and reader interest, to present each industry in a separate Supply Chain Matters blog posting. We will be also posting these industry-specific predictions in a faster cadence.

Our prior Prediction Ten posting, we dived into Automotive Supply Chain Residing Across North America .

We then dived into Commercial Aerospace Manufacturing Supply Chains.


B2C, B2B-to-C and Traditional Retail Focused Supply Chains  hands-typing-4

In August of 2016, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group, published a research advisory titled: The Beginning of a New Phase of Online and Omni-Channel Fulfillment for B2C and Retail Supply Chains. (Available for complimentary downloading in our Research Center) The prime takeaways from that advisory was that 2016 marked the beginning of the newest phase of B2C online retail fulfillment, namely the consequences of permanent changes in consumer shopping habits beginning to impact the long-term presence of brick and mortar retail and their supporting supply chain strategy frameworks.  Consumer preferences and desires have permanently changed in retail, and online platforms and consumer loyalty programs such as that of Amazon are rapidly garnering consumer loyalty and dependence. Amazon itself continues to pose a serious threat to traditional retailers as well other consumer-facing businesses, but the increasing cost challenges of online fulfillment and transportation also present an ongoing challenge for the industry as-well.

In early 2017, with the bulk of results of the industry all-important 2016 holiday fulfillment quarter now reported, the implications of permanent reductions in physical foot traffic among traditional retailers have become ever more profound. While retail sales grew an overall 4 percent during the holiday period, online sales will likely have increased in a range of 16-20 percent. Traditional retailers such as Kohls, Macys, Sears and Target reported declining sales involving physical stores.  Additional store closings are planned for 2017 as our efforts to invest more in online capabilities. Wal-Mart announced two rounds of headcount reductions in 2016, one involving retail store support positions and one involving a trimming of corporate staff including some initial online commerce executives an IT support staffers.

Amazon’s juggernaut as a dominant online retail platform notched more consumer market-share with one estimate indicating the online retailer captured nearly 40 percent of total online holiday focused sales.  The online retailer further demonstrated the first clear signs of integrated logistics, transportation and last-mile fulfillment that has been deployed since late 2015. Traditional retailers have now learned that competing head-to-head with Amazon is a daunting and rather expensive effort, with a likely better strategy being that of a differentiated strategy that emphasizes customer fulfillment capabilities that Amazon cannot. Retailer Best Buy has been the best example among specialty retailers while Dollar Shave Club served as a great example in the online services segment. There are opportunities and they will more than likely be focused segments that emphasize the brand and the experience.

As predicted in 2016, and now again in 2017, the retail industry will continue to come to grips with the notions that the physical store is now the virtual online store, and that the physical store may be one advantage over Amazon.  In this new online dominant environment, merchandising is now about analytics-driven knowledge of customer needs and inventory management is anchored in more sophisticated item level planning that involves the end-to-end supply chain supporting all retail fulfillment channels, both online and physical.

The physical store now serves as an extension of online, and supply chain strategy and business process must accommodate or influence this changed thinking. The supply chain is not a cost center to essentially support inventory warehousing and store replenishment, but rather a collection of collective capabilities directed as supporting an Omni-channel customer fulfillment capability.  In 2017 and beyond, the alternatives are in-house, outsourced, or hybrid capabilities.

The same principles apply to outsourced logistics, transportation and customer fulfillment partners. In addition to customer-facing capabilities, it is now clear that what Amazon has been building is a well thought out, customized online retail logistics, transportation and last-mile fulfillment capability to support multiple merchants in addition to Amazon. Third-party logistics and transportation providers seeking continued partnerships with retailers need to think more innovatively as well.

We predict that retail industry supply chains will begin to improve capabilities at supporting analytics-driven, demand-driven planning, multi-channel and more intelligence based customer fulfillment capabilities, supported by advanced inventory management with flexible and adaptable logistics. The concepts of supply chain segmentation strategy will continue to take hold among traditional retailers supporting both online and physical stores.

The industry is already experiencing higher turnover and shorter tenures of CEO’s and C-Suite executives. Supply chain leaders will either get on board with integrated capabilities or suffer the same consequences.

The industry implications and trends are compelling as well as inescapable in 2017 and the retail industry and its associated supply chains must adapt or suffer the consequences.  It’s tough messages, but then again, this an industry dealing with unprecedented forces of change.


This concludes our 2017 prediction related specifically to retail industry supply chains. We are still in the process of finalizing data and inputs for other industry specific supply chain sectors and expect additional postings next week.

Readers are reminded to review all our prior 2017 predictions postings.  And a final reminder, all ten of our 2017 predictions will be available in a full research report which we expect to be available for downloading in our Research Center by February 10th.

Bob Ferrari

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