New Metro Supply Chain research shows managing excess stock, returns and staff engagement are among the major pain points facing retailers today

By Stuart Ager, Vice President and Managing Director, UK

Amidst softening consumer spending, new research indicates retailers are facing a real issue: How to efficiently manage their operations to deal with a change in demand and buying patterns.

Metro Supply Chain’s new survey of 100 decision-makers from UK retailers sought to understand the biggest issues disrupting businesses today. It showed almost two-thirds (61%) of retailers are experiencing too much stock, citing a reduction in consumer spending as a direct contributor to the issue, which is adding up to significant additional costs required to manage and store their products. Those in the apparel (76%) and food and beverage (53%) sectors identified this issue as particularly problematic.

Managing the complexities of multi-channel fulfilment

The sharp uptick in e-commerce during the pandemic, and the understandable slowing as consumers returned to bricks-and-mortar shopping, was also a conversation point in the research. Almost half of respondents cited an increased demand for products in-store. As a strategic contract logistics provider offering everything from e-commerce and drop-ship to store and wholesale fulfilment to global brands across the UK, Canada and US, we see first-hand the complexities businesses face managing multi-channel fulfilment. There is a clear case for how outsourcing supply chain management advances business.

Addressing labour challenges

The research also showed a whopping 68% of retailers are challenged by rising costs for staff, resources and materials. Access to, and engagement of, employees was also important, with 41% of participants concerned about staff availability, satisfaction and happiness. These retailers are right to worry about team engagement. Experts say that feeling fulfilled and energized at work and committed to a company’s purpose, is linked to better performance, less burnout and longevity, which is why we continually invest in our people so they can thrive and grow and also perform their best for our clients.

Optimizing operations through advanced automation and systems

In their quest to streamline their operations and drive value, more than half of retailers indicated integrating more intelligent storage solutions (55%) and having greater clarity of how technology and AI can support their operations (48%) would benefit their businesses greatly. They believe advanced inventory management systems would be helpful in tracking their stock more closely – and they are right. Based on business needs, our experts can tailor a data-driven solution that reduces inventory costs while maximizing availability. Advanced technologies and automation also help maximize the use of expensive and limited warehouse space and quicken the response to large shifts in demand. These systems reduce dependence on labour in a tight market and create safer and more ergonomic workspaces, allowing businesses to open up roles to more diverse talent pools.

Handling returns and repairs

On the cusp of the busiest times of year for consumers and sellers alike, 69% of our audience stated they are concerned about the challenges of managing returned stock. Returns are an integral part of modern e-commerce, and businesses need support to manage this aspect efficiently, by handling the return process, inspecting returned items and managing restocking or disposal.

Mass returned goods create additional pressures on supply chains and warehouse facilities, leaving some retailers forced to send unsellable goods to landfills (70%). Respondents cited a need for greater technological support to avoid wasted goods and costly adds to operations. To help, Metro Supply Chain’s technology platform logs all faulty or damaged products and identifies solutions required on a case-by-case basis. Committed to reducing the number of products sent to landfills, we offer robust warranty claims and repair service staffed by a dedicated support team who work directly with retailers and their customers to assess faulty products, conduct repairs and initiate recalls when necessary. We also support businesses reselling returned and end-of-line products on global e-commerce platforms.

How we help

For almost 50 years, Metro Supply Chain has been a partner to many leading businesses, providing our clients with end-to-end supply chain solutions driven by real-time analytics and reporting to help them make more informed decisions at peak times and during unexpected changing demands. Our strategic network of facilities and team of experts are set up to help businesses succeed in any economic environment without sacrificing quality. As one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, we’re proud of our culture of innovation and commitment to our people and local communities.

About the Metro Supply Chain research

Purpose: To better understand and help resolve the challenges facing retailers, Metro Supply Chain partnered with UK-based research consultancy Vitreous World to survey business leaders and key decision-makers in the UK retail sector.

Demographics: The survey was distributed for one week in October 2023 to 100 leaders and those who had a key role in decision-making about their logistics from retail companies in:

  • Food & beverage
  • Clothing
  • Sport
  • Mobility
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • General merchandise

Outcome: While this research identified key issues retailers are facing in the UK, we are committed to continuing to tailor and provide innovative and contract logistics solutions to our clients across the geographies we serve (Canada, the US and the UK) that will fast-forward their business.