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 Retail Only Conference Wrap-Up Report

Intimate settings lead to deep conversations and lasting relationships - and that is exactly what took place last week as we hosted our Retail Only Conference in Newark. As we announced in January, our focus expanded beyond the traditional programs to include topics surrounding forecasting, allocation and inventory management.

SESSION RECAPS

Monday, June 3rd

Moving Lean Supply Chain Thinking Forward
In our first session Howard Coleman, Principle of MCA Associates, spoke about the importance of using "demand management" as the better method for aligning resources (inventory) to customer needs, the result being both improved product and cash flow. He shared new thinking around why a "pull" versus traditional "push" inventory management model should be considered by retailers today.

Generation Text and the Path to Purchase
In our next session Inez Blackburn, Director of Research for Marketing Techniques, spoke about the importance of working to better understand today's younger shopper and what drives their behavior, how they are using technology as they shop and share their thoughts with others, and what they want and expect from retailers and brands - all of which made for a very interesting and informative session.

Beyond RFID
After a short morning break Paul Arguin, Senior Director of RFID Development at r-pac International along with Andrea Smith, Merchandise Information Services Manager with Lord & Taylor, co-presented their recent mutual RFID success story. Paul started the session by providing some general information about the state of current RFID technology and general marketplace adoption. Andrea then explained how the inventory and selling challenges faced in their Lord & Taylor store shoe departments made for a logical RFID pilot that delivered fast improvements in sales, reduced customer transaction times, store labor savings and improved inventory management. Andrea emphasized the value of starting out small and piloting RFID first in a viable 'pain point" area (merchandise category and/or store grouping) in order to learn and validate before tackling larger deployment.

Product Image & Attributes
Next, Anita Spence, Director of Vendor Relations for Dillards, updated the group by sharing the work currently underway at GS1/VICS to determine the right standards for product imaging and product attributes. She is part of the working group focused on helping both retailers and suppliers develop industry standards to better handle and flow all the necessary imaging and data required to support needs in areas such as e-commerce and space planning.

Best Practice Business Processes as a Foundation for Effective Product Flow and Inventory Management
Following the lunch break Terry Donofrio, President, Retail Systems & Services, took attendees through a detailed look at the entire 'product flow" process, from high level strategic business planning to merchandise and assortment planning, down to store clustering decisions. Terry identified the "crawl, walk, and run" activities used to manage each business process to support product flow and inventory productivity. His partner, Frank Zarrello, Merchandise Planning Industry Specialist with Retail Systems & Services, discussed the importance of accurate and effective inventory management tools and techniques and advanced activities designed to optimize inventory performance. A short workshop lead by Terry and Frank, where attendees working in groups discussed a specific inventory process and shared with the room their "best practice" ideas, concluded the afternoon session.

Tuesday, June 4th

Predictive Analysis: A Case Study with Home Depot Canada
In this co-presented session Christine Fotteler, SAP Vice President and CTO of Trading Sector, started this session by explaining what predictive analytics is and what it can do for retailers today that want to discover meaningful correlations, patterns, and trends from historical data. She also provided numerous examples for how data needs to be managed to best optimize predictive analytics software tools. Charles D'Souza, Director, Supply Chain Development at The Home Depot Canada, then explained how Home Depot Canada has utilized SAP capabilities to centralize their ordering and inventory forecasting functions and how this transformation has delivered significant data driven success for the chain in the areas of order management, sales and order forecasting, and inventory accuracy.

An Inventory Journey
Next up, Jason Scheffer, Vice President Inventory and Transportation for the Vitamin Shoppe, explained how his company was challenged with a fast growing business, but also poor in-stock, large backorders, and declining turns performance. Jason shared how an outsourced replenishment model from 4R was a game changer for the company by providing numerous "before" and "after" performance metrics. Co-presenter, Jiri Nechleba, President & CEO of 4R Systems, explained the approach and perspective 4R uses to replace turn and in-stock with profitability emphasis as the method to model inventory decision making. For the Vitamin Shoppe this approach and methodology drove dramatic increases in sales, margin, and in-stock.

A View inside the Mind of the Buyer
Later in the morning, Dan Barzel, Retired VP Merchandising for AutoZone & Circuit City, shared insights around how and why many retail buyers think and act the way they do. His perspectives included how buyer personalities, the performance management metrics they are given, and the way training (or lack thereof) that they have received to fully understand the entire product lifecycle process impacts their thinking and their "deal making" behavior. Dan suggested steps and gave examples for how to better approach, partner, teach, and support the merchandise buyers.

Inventory Visibility & Lead Time
Ronald M. Marotta, Vice President of Yusen Logistics (Americas), discussed the importance of good supply chain visibility and how today's newer data systems have advanced to make electronic visibility along every step and activity in the supply chain faster, easier, and less expensive to manage. Retailers today have access to online automated status reporting, alerts, and exception and discrepancy management reporting, allowing logistics departments to better manage and react. Ron also shared numerous examples of freight tracking and reporting screens and system capabilities.

To Audit or Not to Audit: That is the Question
After lunch Kevin Harris, Marketing Director for Compliance Networks, started his session with a series of interactive survey questions to capture real time retailer input around how and what they audit, how often and at what level they audit, and how they use and act on their audit data. Retailers then shared insights and reasoning behind many of their answers and the discussion shifted to identifying possible "best practice" audit activities.

The Power of Enterprise Social Networking and its Impact on the Supply Chain
Kevin Permenter, Senior Research Associate, Supply Chain Management at Aberdeen, talked about how his research indicates the customer is evolving, becoming more mobile, more demanding, and more influential than ever before and, as such, are placing increasing demands on retailers. Kevin shared some of the new and innovative ways for how social media is now being used by retailers to increase collaboration, innovation, demand sensing, and risk mitigation.

A Retailer's View of Reverse Logistics
In the final session of the conference, Ric Spicer, founder of RAMSEG Group, defined some of the key terms and activities around how retailers and suppliers handle returns. He discussed the common areas of difficulty for most retailers regarding understanding customer real return reasons and for effectively lowering return rates. Ric then shared numerous ideas on how returns could be reduced, on how they could be better handled at store and DC level, and for how risk mitigation solutions discussed earlier in the deal making process can enhance retailer profitability and reduce return rates for both the retailer and supplier.

Watch for a webinar to be presented by Ric Spicer on August 15, 2013. Details forthcoming.

Retail members of RVCF can now sign in and access the presentations from this informative conference on the RVCF website under "Past Events."

Feedback from the conference was positive and we look forward to continuing to provide you with informative programs as well as collaborative networking and business opportunities at our upcoming 2013 RVCF Annual Fall Conference, November 3-6 in Scottsdale, AZ.

See you soon!

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