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Twenty Years of RVCF: A Celebration of Collaboration

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Updated: Saturday, November 23, 2019

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Twenty Years of RVCF: A Celebration of Collaboration

By Kim Zablocky & the RVCF Team


The Retail Value Chain Federation (RVCF) celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2020. Much has changed in the retail industry over the past two decades in terms of technology, shopping channels, order fulfillment, and customer behavior and expectations. One constant has been the need for collaboration among trading partners and peers to navigate the most pressing challenges, share ideas, and develop innovative yet practical solutions to lift the industry as a whole.

For 20 years, RVCF’s core mission has been to bring industry stakeholders to the table to solve problems. We exist to be the driving force in collaboration. As we celebrate this important milestone, we want to look back at how and why RVCF came to be, how the organization has evolved over the years, and where we stand today.

The Early Years

Heading into Y2K, the economy was surging. The economy and consumer spending were growing at a rate of about 6 percent and unemployment hovered around 4 percent. The retail industry was coming off a strong holiday season and retail sales were up across the board. E-commerce was still in its infancy, accounting for 0.5 percent of total retail sales in 1999.

Retail sales numbers painted a rosy picture on the surface, but angst and aggravation were percolating behind the scenes. Merchandise suppliers were overwhelmed by chargebacks and sales deductions from their retail customers. This was costing suppliers real money, as much as 5 percent of gross invoice in some cases.

In early 2000, about 100 major merchandise suppliers, mostly general merchandise and fashion companies, gathered in New York to discuss this costly problem. The universal feeling was that they were being taken advantage of by retailers. A survey of the attending suppliers revealed two key findings. First, retailers wanted inventory to flow though the system without delay, which was not unreasonable. They wanted the Perfect Order, which was an unrealistic expectation. Second, suppliers admitted that they weren’t doing a very good job at filling orders, which was causing a major disruption to retailer operations.

The decision was made to create the National Vendor Compliance Organization (NVCO) to enable suppliers to come together and figure out the deduction problem. At the second meeting, A representative from Saks Fifth Avenue addressed members of the group, discussing their compliance requirements and the real-world impact of noncompliance. This meeting provided merchandise suppliers with something they desperately craved – direct access to the retailer. The meeting was extremely productive and set the tone for future collaboration.

During the early years of the NVCO, retailers were skeptical about the intentions of the group, which was very much supplier-focused. When retailers realized the main objective was to provide suppliers with the information and guidance they needed to ship orders according to retailer specifications, retailers started to warm up to the organization. A number of retailers, such as J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, and Dillard’s, have been involved since those early years and remain supportive to this day.

A Pivot from Symptom to Cause

NVCO was originally created to give merchandise suppliers a collective voice in dealing with mounting deductions from retailers. The organization was essentially a board of advisors from the supplier sector. But we soon realized having one side represented would not allow us to fully understand the relationship between trading partners and address the needs of both sides. Also, deductions were the symptom, not the cause. To fix the problem, we would have to identify and focus our efforts on the cause.

Once we redefined our purpose, NVCO became the Vendor Compliance Federation (VCF), an independent organization that would represent the interests of all trading partners and the industry as a whole. Rather than simply reducing deductions, VCF focused on the processes, best practices, and solutions that would prevent those deductions from happening. How can vendor compliance be better managed? What technology can be implemented to reduce the risk of errors? How can changes to retailer requirements be communicated to merchandise suppliers more quickly and with more transparency and clarity?

To answer these questions, VCF planned events and developed resources that retailer and merchandise supplier members could use strategically and in their day-to-day operations.

For example, one of the biggest challenges for suppliers has been keeping up with changes to retailer order fulfillment requirements with their vendor compliance program. 20 years ago, retailers used to distribute books that were hundreds of pages long. Suppliers would then have to reconcile changes when a new book was released. Even when these requirements moved online to retailer portals about 15 years ago, tracking changes was still tedious. The schedule and process for updating requirements and alerting suppliers to changes were different from retailer to retailer. Suppliers would have someone constantly combing retailer websites to see if anything had changed. This was a major drain on resources.

Suppliers asked VCF to develop some type of solution in which the organization would track and alert suppliers to changes to compliance requirements. This led to the creation of the Vendor Compliance Clearinghouse in the mid-2000s, which evolved into today’s Compliance Clearinghouse. Currently, RVCF monitors the order fulfillment requirements and compliance programs of more than 100 retailers.

We also saw a need to provide guidance to suppliers in the area of supplier relationship management. At that point, each retailer had their own way of dealing with suppliers – different forms of communication, different nomenclature, different technology, different requirements, different terms and conditions, etc.

Similar to customer relationship management, supplier relationship management involves measuring supplier performance, communicating effectively with suppliers, assessing the value of the supplier to the retailer organization, and other activities that would support a more amicable, profitable relationship and better serve the customer. Our goal was to get retailers on the same wavelength so they could manage and communicate with suppliers in a similar fashion by developing better compliance programs, better compliance scorecards, and better supplier portals. To this day, our organization is still one of a select few that proactively addresses supplier relationship management.

Representing the Entire Retail Value Chain

In 2009, we reassessed what VCF represented. Because the organization was comprised of both retailers and merchandise suppliers, it became clear that VCF was representing the entire retail value chain. This is a much broad concept than vendor compliance. The retail value chain includes all activities involved with selling products to consumers and fulfilling orders, such as forecasting, allocation, order management, order fulfillment, payment, reconciliation, and returns. Deductions for failing to meet retailer requirements could be the result of errors or miscalculations in any area of the retail value chain.

The name of the organization was changed from the Vendor Compliance Federation (VCF) to the Retail Value Chain Federation (RVCF). It’s no coincidence that this change occurred at the same time as the Great Recession. The retail industry changed dramatically in 2008 and 2009. The uncertainty surrounding the recession caused the industry to increasingly focus on cost reduction. E-commerce started to explode.

The key to success in this new retail reality continued to be moving goods from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. The original mission of RVCF to reduce deductions and increase profits through trading partner collaboration was never more relevant.

A Changing Retail Dynamic

20 years ago, retailers had all the power. Merchandise suppliers shipped goods to retailers, and it was the retailer who sold the goods. It was the retailer who had the relationship with the customer. That’s no longer the case.

Today, as much as 50 percent of sales for several major sporting goods apparel and footwear brands come through their own brick-and-mortar stores and various e-commerce channels. In many cases, the retailer and the supplier are in competition for the customer, so both sides are focused on delivering the best possible customer experience.

While suppliers have expanded their online presence and now have the ability to sell directly to the consumer, retailers have developed their own lines of private label products to offer customers a unique assortment. Retailers are also using drop shipping to sell to consumers without keeping inventory in stock. While e-commerce and new technology have given suppliers leverage they didn’t have 20 years ago, both sides realize how much they still need each other to be successful.

In 2020, RVCF represents retailers and merchandise suppliers. Everyone checks their egos and self-interest at the door as we seek to build alignment in improving business processes, developing best practices, and uniting behind solutions that benefit both sides of the trading partner relationship.

The Road Ahead

Neither retailers nor merchandise suppliers have the advantage in today’s retail landscape. The end consumer calls the shots. The end consumer dictates how goods are purchased and how orders are fulfilled. Terms and conditions are essentially written by the consumer. This is the reality that all stakeholders need to accept. The customer experience is king.

More and more dollars continue to shift online as e-commerce sales increased from $390 billion in 2016 to $517 billion in 2018. If you want to buy a shirt, you don’t have to go to a store and try it on. You can go to an app and snap a photo of yourself, which will tell the merchant your exact measurements so they can make you a custom shirt and have it at your doorstep in a day. With the data collected through website browsing, shopping behavior, mobile apps, and beacons, retailers and suppliers know more about their customers than ever.

Technology is obviously central to retail’s evolution, but those companies that invest in order to get the most out of their people, process, and technology will achieve the most success. That’s the role of RVCF – to provide knowledge and insights that support identified "best practices" throughout the entire value chain and to then facilitate collaboration between retailers and merchandise suppliers so they can adopt solutions that lead to more sales and higher profits.

As a merchandise supplier, if you can meet with a retailer at an RVCF Conference, negotiate a deduction down thousands of dollars and agree on a fix that will prevent that deduction from happening again, wouldn’t you call that conference a worthy investment? Imagine if you could do the same with multiple retailers at the same event. Similarly, if you could receive alerts about changes to retailer compliance requirements as they happen, which the Compliance Clearinghouse provides, doesn’t that make more sense than hiring someone to do the same thing?

These are examples of solutions that were developed based on input from our members. Even though we live in an age of text, chat, and other forms of digital communication, RVCF will continue to be an organization that believes in sitting down and having a conversation. Real progress is made through face-to-face communication. If you can’t sit down together, use video conferencing. Pick up the phone. Attend events and webinars. Ask questions and offer solutions.

When we started this organization, retailers knew two people from the supplier organization – the salesperson and the finance person who collected money. We believe people between the salesperson and finance person should be communicating with their counterparts. This is how you build alignment with technology, operations, supply chain, marketing, and other areas.

The past 20 years have been a rollercoaster ride. Given the current pace of change, we can’t possibly predict what the next 20 years will bring. But we can promise that our commitment to collaboration and overcoming retail industry challenges will never waiver. We’d like to thank our members, supporters, and staff – past and present – for your contributions to RVCF. Of course, we don’t necessarily consider our 20th anniversary a celebration of RVCF. It’s a celebration of collaboration.

 

 

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Fit Technology: The Future of Retail is Matching People to Product

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Updated: Saturday, November 23, 2019

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Fit Technology: The Future of Retail is Matching People to Product

By Jessica Couch, Fit Technology Integration Expert and Founder of Luxor and Finch Consulting


What Is Fit

 

Fit is the most important issue consumers have with clothing right now. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Bodylabs, 58 percent of shoppers would buy more frequently if they could ensure a proper fit. Additionally,  85% of shoppers would purchase more if they could ensure a proper fit. A lack of understanding of fit is the main cause for returns, dead inventory, cart abandonment and the reason most people do not try new brands.

 In 2015 while obtaining my master’s at Cornell University, under the guise of Professor Susaan P. Ashdown, I conducted an in-person and online survey to determine the impact of fit on the purchase decision. Fit is so significant to the purchase decisions, shoppers can be categorized into personas based on their hierarchy of fit perception. These personas can then be used to develop UX/UI, in-person experiences and directive shopping techniques.

So why do companies still neglect to view fit technology integration as a competitive advantage? 

The issue lies in an understanding of what fit technology really is. To assume that fit technology is just body scanners and gimmicks is incorrect. Fit technology as we see it is the implementation of technology and best practices that reduce pain points caused by fit.  To better appreciate fit technology, we have to break it apart and understand the individual definitions. Fit, as we see it at Luxor and Finch, is the combination of both consumer measurements and preferences.

Technology, as defined by Webster's dictionary, is

A. the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area

B. a capability given by the practical application of knowledge

C. a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge

D: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor 

With this understanding we can then move forward with understanding what fit technology really is and how diverse solutions are. 

RENT the Runway’s chief technology officer and head of product Josh Builder mentioned in a recent article why they do not use fit technology ‘gimmicks” to rent clothing. But according to our definition of technology, they actually do. The user generated content feature on the website, consisting of women sharing their sizes, measurements and opinions of previously worn clothing, is a type of fit technology. It requires no hardware or complicated software but it is a process that helps to match people to product effectively. Fit technology can exist across the supply chain and in various forms. Implementation depends on the needs of the customers and the data (or lack thereof) being collected. The goal of all fit tech is the same, reduce pain points caused by fit and match people to products.

Why It Matters

Matching people to product should be the most important goal of every apparel business. Fit is a major factor in the matching process. Comprised of both measurements and preference, an understanding or misunderstanding of fit is often the leading cause for the $62B returns in the us annually.  67% of shoppers have reported that fit is the sole cause for returns. While returns are a big focus, and they should be, what is less known but equally problematic is the dead inventory issue. Every year dead inventory causes retailer $50B. Whether a result of poor placement, merchandising, planning or fit, it greatly hinders the ability of brands to successfully match people to product.

Current Issues in the Supply Chain 

Fit based practices help to create loyal shoppers. Sizing is a difficult issue because of traditional sizing practices. Generally, brands work with one fit model with a certain body type and market their products to the masses. Without directive shopping techniques, people are matched incorrectly to the wrong product. There are ways to avoid this. Techniques in the design room and during the fitting process can be implemented to help better match people to product.  Grading is also often problematic. Many designers and tech designers are not creating the right grading systems. Depending on the body tpe grading has to be adjusted parametrically. There are tools and techniques that can also assist with this issue. Catching fit issue in the design and development phase can help to reduce a lot of the pain points. However, once the garmen hits the sales floor, resolving the fit issue looks slightly different.

In-store Issues

In brick and mortar stores, the layout, merchandising and associates are key to creating an enhanced fit experience. Additionally, collecting consumer behavior data is also important when matching people to products. Technology such as RFID scanning, responsive mirrors and geo tagging can help to collect the right customer data and match people to product better. This is even more important for multi brand retailers. The information collected can then be used to assess shopper behavior in-depth and begin to bring to light the cause for returns and dead inventory, thus creating a better shopping experience. Brands such as Rebecca Minkoff have already begun to create in store experiences that are tech enabled, driven off consumer data and responsive to the needs of customers. Making it easier for customers to shop and discover products in store is extremely important but making it personal is most important. Personalization helps to drive sales. In a study conducted by Segment, researchers found that 44% of consumers said they would likely become repeat customers if their experience was personalized, 49% of surveyed shoppers purchased a product they didn’t originally intend to buy after receiving a personalized recommendation and 40% of u.s. consumers purchased more because their experience was personalized. Personalization and matching people to product go hand in hand.

Online Issues

Online, matching people to product is equally imperative. Whether through online mobile tools, imagery reflecting actual customers, user generated content, innovative merchandising or fit based copy and content, fit techniques and practices can help create higher conversions and lower returns, keeping customers loyal. Brands take a massive risks by not matching people to product successfully.  With all of the competing stores and brands popping up, losing a customer can have adverse consequences.  One bad experience not only loses that one customer, but everyone else in that customer available network. Multiplied across hundreds and even thousands of people spells out doomsday for brands and retailers.

What’s the Solution

There is no one all-encompassing fit solution, however there are solutions that work best depending on the problems that have been identified. In order to resolve the fit issues you have to understand current gaps in your business, what's hurting your bottom line,  what data is being collected, what data is needed, what part of your experience can be improved upon, customer behavior, and customer feedback. Deciding which fit based solution is best for your business depends on your current product offering and customer personas. While there are many solutions available, choosing the right one can make an impactful difference on your performance and the longevity of your brand.

Luxor and Finch helps brands and retailers implement the right technology to reduce the pain points caused by fit by analyzing their current practices, identifying fit related issues then remediating the issues through strategy and implementation.

 

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Re-imagining Retail Challenges Using Design Thinking

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, November 26, 2019

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Re-imagining Retail Challenges Using Design Thinking

By Jeff Warren, President of Barkley Consulting Group


Like many others, my career has taken me down many paths. Early on, working for the Estee Lauder Companies, I had played a prominent role in developing their EDI program. This included everything from getting bar codes on products to establishing EDI partnerships with retailers. I even had the honor of serving on the VICS Standards Maintenance Committee to represent the interests of the Cosmetics industry.

EDI was growing in leaps and bounds at the time, giving retailers and manufacturers new, faster, and easier ways to conduct business, eliminating many old, slow, paper-based processes. Goods moved faster from the manufacturer’s dock to retailer’s shelves; inventories were more precise; financial transactions moved through the system more efficiently. More and more, EDI was becoming the way of the commercial world.

There were indeed challenges. Retailers had differing information and process needs, manufacturers had to introduce system changes, and partners now had to agree on the frequency and rules for electronic communications. All parties struggled with the nuances of relating their particular needs to a standardized system. But everyone worked together to achieve a common goal.

While the initial stages of the EDI revolution showed significant progress, subsequent progress stagnated. The conversation seemed to be less about process improvement and more about particular standards or data elements. Companies pushed agendas that favored their particular position. Ultimately, the focus became more on the mechanics than on trying to solve the real problem: how to remove time and costs from the process and provide the customer with the goods they want, when and where they want them, in the most efficient way.

I had been out of the EDI area for over 15 years when I met up with Kim Zablocky two years ago. Kim and I had been friends and colleagues in the EDI space long ago and had collaborated on several things around RVCF in its initial years. I asked Kim what was new with RVCF, and with the industry as a whole. He proceeded to give me the lay of the land, and described some of the issues that retailers and manufacturers were trying to solve.

It was as if I was in a time warp – like when you used to watch a soap opera and then turned it on years later only to find that things are just like they were then. While there have been many changes and advancements in the retail industry, it was amazing how the many of the same problems existed and that they were being dealt with in the same way. That is not to suggest that these problems are easy to solve. Quite the contrary – they are complex, and many very talented people were trying to solve them. So why hadn’t they?

I mentioned to Kim how it sounded like the same approaches were being used today as were used years ago. More importantly, to someone who had been away from the industry for a while, it seemed like they were after the wrong problems. After all, the world has changed given the effects of on-line retailers, omnichannel initiatives, and direct-to-consumer, returns, etc. on the process. Was the industry really focused on the right challenges?

It seemed to me that the industry was ripe for a new approach. That is not to suggest that all of the great work that has been implemented should be thrown away. Not at all. But things need to be looked at in new ways. Data elements and standards are important, but they are only parts of a larger puzzle.

To regain the momentum found in the early years of EDI, a new approach is needed. Traditional thinking is no longer a viable option. Today’s challenges require new thinking, new tools, and new approaches. Enter Design Thinking.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a new way of thinking that integrates empathy, creativity, and experimentation to design meaningful solutions for end-users. It provides a methodology that fuels innovative thinking. Design Thinking is a way of using insights to generate new, innovative ideas, not another process to build or organization to staff.

Design Thinking teaches companies to see things from the perspective of their customers. Too often, organizations believe they are so expert in their field that they look at things through a single lens — their own. They employ best practices, gather mounds of data, and hire people  with vast experience. The danger is that they don’t take the time to see things through the eyes of their customers (whether consumers, employees, or partners) and end up force-fitting standard solutions to customers’ unique needs. As an American professor and physician, Dr. Prabhjot Singh (http://www.prabhjotsingh.org/), put it: “We spend a lot of time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it.”

Design Thinking awakens the creativity in all of us. As children, we were all creative. We played. We explored. We were fearless. Over time, we were taught to think in a more linear fashion, to seek the single right answer, and never fail. Design Thinking encourages insightful experimentation. It accepts failure as part of the path to success. It reignites the creativity we all once had to create meaningful solutions for organizations’ most pressing needs.

Companies can use Design Thinking to:

-- Create new products or services

-- Solve existing problems or challenges

-- Unleash creativity to discover new opportunities

-- Uncover insights regarding the unmet needs of customers

-- Develop internal talent and increase their confidence, sense of empowerment, and contribution within the organization

Design Thinking is composed of five basic steps, as illustrated in the diagram below.

Design Thinking Image

Design Thinking is not an elaborate process that requires years of education, piles of manuals to read, and expensive consultants to create fancy PowerPoint decks that, in the end, don’t say anything. Design Thinking is experiential — you learn by observing, interacting, immersing. It is innovative, utilizing your right brain to develop creative solutions for your customers. It is experimental, interacting with customers to get input and reaction before designing the final solution.

Ultimately Design Thinking unlocks the creativity in all of us to design meaningful solutions for customers.

So how does this relate to the challenges being faced by the retail industry?

Design Thinking allows us to take a step back and see the challenges as they exist, not as we wish to see them. It helps us use insights gathered from end-users and employees to guide our actions. We use those insights to truly understand what the real problems are to solve, and develop innovative and creative ways to solve them. We eliminate our experiences, personal desires, or biases in developing potential solutions. And we build crude prototypes to test our solutions to ensure they meet needs before investing in implementing them.

Whether returns, drop-ship, or direct-to-consumer, or any other issue facing the industry, Design Thinking helps us find new ways of solving old problems.

We recently held a full-day Design Thinking workshop at the Fall RVCF conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Over 28 retailers and manufacturers gathered to address a challenge around returns: “How might we use technology to reduce consumer returns?” Participants worked together in small teams through each phase of Design Thinking, with each team developing unique solutions to the challenge. The solutions were innovative, realistic, and impactful (as you might expect, none had anything to do with standards or data elements). They dealt with solving the problem from a completely different angle.

More importantly, participants were given the tools, knowledge, and experience to use Design Thinking in their jobs, with their partners, and with customers. Future workshops have been scheduled for upcoming conferences, and discussions have begun on potential opportunities for more expansive uses of Design Thinking in solving industry challenges.

So, as you can see, Design Thinking helps us move away from traditional, left-brain-oriented, immediate thinking — to a more creative, empathetic, and insightful way that results in solutions that customers want. It is genuinely human-centered design. The potential for the retail industry – to apply new thinking to solve old problems – is limitless.

As Henry Ford said: “If you always do what you did, you will always get what you got.” In a world that is constantly changing, we need to do better than that.

About the Author: Jeff Warren is the President of Barkley Consulting Group, a Management Consulting Firm that combines real-world experience with thought leadership to bring transformative solutions to organizations. Jeff has a successful track record of using creativity and innovation to unlock the potential found within people to help them think differently and design solutions that meet the unmet needs of their customers.

Jeff has over 30 years of leadership and innovation experience in the Consumer-Packaged Goods industry, with a focus on business and technology. He is a coach, guest lecturer, and speaker and works in an advisory capacity for start-ups in the technology sector.

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Three Easy-to-Miss Errors Lurking in Your Supply Chain​

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2019

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Three Easy-to-Miss Errors Lurking in Your Supply Chain

By Jasmine Glasheen

 

Whether you are refining, designing, packaging, manufacturing, or delivering, your business relies on a supply chain that you want to be able to trust. Your company can be thrown for a loop when the unexpected happens, and you may need to reassess your steps to increase accuracy. Even the smallest adjustments can significantly enhance your odds of a steady workflow. Here are three easy-to-miss errors that might be lurking in your supply chain right now.

 

Not Creating Effective Vendor Relationships 

 

Although price is an important factorit cannot be the main decision when choosing a supplier. Customer service, quality of work, and employee relations also need to factor into your business decision. Developing a strong, lasting, and secure connection will be more beneficial for your team in the long-term than trying to cut corners in order to save a couple of dollars. Cheap prices can often lead to cheap products, or simply a lack of quality control. If you’re looking for where to start finding the right vendors, be sure to check out industry events, (for face to face interactions) trade publications, industry organizations, and even online directories. Sourcing quality product through long-term vendor relationships is key to any brand’s lasting success. 

 

A major fashion retailer recently suffered flagging product quality, going down-market in a big way to keep making sales during the race-to-the-bottom. It wasn’t until 2018 that they began to repair their image with higher quality products. Years of over-expansion and mass production with low-quality materials took its toll on the brand’s image, and the retailer’s brand name no longer carries the weight it once didYour products’ final destination is important, as well, and selling products in off-price and discount outlets can lower your brand’s value proposition. When a retailer is hanging on by a thread, they aren’t a good allegiance for a mid-to-luxury brand struggling to retain their value proposition. Off-price retailer’s shelves are often mismatched or overstocked, and they don’t have the Wow factor necessary to capture luxury market share.   

 

Choosing a Supply Chain with a Creative Limit  

 

If your supply chain is limited to one type of business, it makes it difficult to pivot to meet industry trends and demandsOperating in a single vertical also makes it more challenging to change, update, or add products to your inventory. For example, you may have a supplier that can provide printed mugs, but if your company wants to expand from muginto screen-printed water bottles and coasters you need a vendor that can provide this service on a broader range of inventory, and that can also offer the same quality of product and cost of production. To ensure your business is ready for what comes next, check to see what a potential supplier can provide in terms of complementary inventory as your business scalesVend suggests focusing on the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) instead of just the initial price of an item so that you can build supplier relationships with long-term value instead of basing decisions on short-term cost.  

 

One company that can be used as a prime example of creative limit is Blockbuster. The video rental company was at its financial peak in 2004. Even after consumers switched from between VHS to DVD, Blockbuster persevered by providing both options in-storeThen Netflix showed up and disrupted the game. Netflix began sending DVDs directly to customer’s homes and even created an online video streaming serviceSuddenly consumers could stream video from their laptop or television and share what they were watching with others. Then Netflix went even further by creating their own content streaming big hits like “Stranger Things” and Okja.” Netflix created their own products rather than staying stagnant with work from other creators, and soon Blockbuster fell by the wayside. The ultimate error for Blockbuster relying on what already had been done in their industry––i.e. hard-copy content from other sources––and refusing to expand upon physical delivery, this bypassing their potential long-term growth. 

 

Not Being Prepared to Lose a Supplier 

 

It is important to have a plan in place in case of unexpected failures or risks (like a supplier that you depend on going under.) You do not want to have to wait until the worst happens, so having back-up vendors in your pocket will keep you on top of production. You will want to know what their turn-around time is for production, and trust that what they produce is going to be similar in quality to your last supplier. Considering that delivery and fulfillment costs have the biggest impact on a retailer’s online order fulfillment strategy (they account for over 46% of overall logistics spending), you are going to want to weigh cost versus speed in order to select the right vendor. 

 

Supply chain relevance is a timely topic, as the Trump administration is continues to place bans and US tariffs on foreign imports. Even something as simple as paraffin wax is being targeted. Candle companies that use paraffin wax are suddenly facing unanticipated budget constraints and are being forced to evaluate new production materialsUnanticipated tariffs mean business owners need the ability to immediately re-budget and look for less expensive suppliers, which may mean choosing a vendor from a country that isn’t being targeted by tariffs. The ability to pivot and readjust has never been more important, since you may need to increase manufacturing costs altogether, let employees go, switch production materials, or scramble to find a new supplier altogether just to stay in the game. 

 

Regular Chain Maintenance 

 

Identifying and addressing weak links in your supply chain can protect your business during this volatile era. Continue to protect your brand’s integrity, plan for long-term growth, and always be prepared for a loss ahead of time to keep your business expanding in the right direction. Supply chains have never been more volatile, so be sure to continue connecting with others in your field through online discussion forums, organizations, and conventions to stay one step ahead of any impending changesThrough consistent maintenance, research, and a willingness to adapt quickly, you can ensure that your business comes out ahead of any changes (or tariffs) that are enacted in the coming year. 

 

 

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RVCF 2019 Fall Conference Overview

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2019

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RVCF 2019 Fall Conference Overview

By the RVCF Team


Wow, we saw a lot of energy at this year’s RVCF Fall Conference! Always good to be back at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn.  The group and the facilities fit perfectly.

David Rice DDS, our keynote speaker, gave a passionate talk on managing a business, yet being connected to his team and to be both empathetic to their careers and personal lives.

Then, following David’s presentation, was Dave Schneider of DKS, Co. Inc.  Dave has presented a number of times for us over the last 10 years, his session titled: Leveraging More Value out of your E-Commerce Packaging Spend, a hot topic for those companies filling E-Com orders.

Next, Shane Yount’s session titled:  Process Based Leadership - Tactical Processes for Sustainable Strategy Execution, session high lights included:

  • An effective Execution Process is predicated on a robust Business Acumen Process – The capacity of people to know if they are winning or losing drives both affirmation and execution
  •  An effective Execution Process frames the narrative of: “What are you doing to move the business forward?”
  • An effective Execution Process must remove“ignorance as an excuse and bring visibility to Accountability


To close for Tuesday morning's general session was Ron Marotta, VP of Yusen’s International Division.  Ron, a long time RVCF supporter, spoke about Global Risk to supply chains and where there is disruption, the latest trends of where goods are sourced especially with the current trade challenges taking place.

We would also like to thank all session presenters, as well as our Retailers who took the time to present to their merchandise suppliers as well as to dedicate their time to meet one on one with those suppliers. Collaboration between trading partners is so important and the true reason why RVCF exists and will be entering its 20th Anniversary in 2020!

Collaboration by the numbers

During this year's Fall Conference 1:1 Meeting program 26 retailers hosted 686 scheduled meetings with their Merchandise Supplier partners.  This speaks volumes about the commitment of both groups to working together to address issues and improve business processes.

The conference had tremendous energy, the general consensus was that everyone was happy to be back at the Camelback and look forward to our 20th Anniversary conference there next year.   We are honored to share some of the post conference feedback we received:

"The Fall RVCF had the right combination of education, relationship building and fun."

Sales and Marketing Director, eZCom Software

“The one on one sessions bring the retailer and supplier to a common ground, which leads to better working

relationships and collaboration. The one on one sessions are priceless!”

Manager of Partnership Development, PVH Corporation.

"My first RVCF conference was terrific. Productive venue to meet dozens of vendors face to face enhancing relationships."

Supplier Relationship Management, Hudson's Bay & Saks

From the retailer perspective

Retailers on Monday morning at the conference heard from peers sharing best practices in two different panel sessions. The first on working with your merchant partners focused on internal collaboration involving teaching, partnering, and guiding efforts to effectively influence the merchants understanding and support for collaborative compliance performance management. The second panel discussion, on best practices around compliance management, looked at various methods to better empower the right people in the organization with tools and processes to quickly validate and communicate compliance issues. 

Also worth noting, a Wednesday morning session with retailers, suppliers, and service providers explored the challenges each encounters as they work with one another towards higher OTIF performance. The group discussed various processes that work and many that don't. This is helping us to understand the need for a more in-depth analysis of forecasting, PO management, and lead time business practices between trading partners. Look for a RVCF survey around this important topic early in 2020.

 

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The Autonomous Supply Chain, Powered By AI, IoT, and Blockchain​

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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The Autonomous Supply Chain, Powered By AI, IoT, and Blockchain

By Jeff Eckel, Product Marketing-Retail & Supply Chain Solutions of OpenText


Few trends receive the level of hype lavished upon AI, IoT and blockchain. To a casual observer, it may seem as though every company wants to position themselves as a leader in these technologies, but real-world use cases are proving more difficult to find.

It’s clear there is potential in these technologies independently, but the real power will come as new ways for them to work together are developed. The applications for these technologies will evolve as we continue to invest in innovation, but as businesses look for ways to use it today, a compelling scenario is developing in the world’s supply chains.

In 2020, the usefulness of AI, IoT and blockchain technologies in the supply chain will move beyond hype and we should witness a surge in use cases across small and large-scale applications and a wide range of industries within both the public and private sector.

Companies are already exploring blockchain-related use cases or implementing AI- and IoT-based environments across their business operations. For example, a combined approach featuring AI, IoT and blockchain could help in logistics and foodservice. A shipment of frozen food could be shipped and the consignment details, including purchase order number, carriers used and last mile distributors could all be written to a blockchain, providing end-to-end traceability. IoT sensors for temperature, humidity and GPS could all be included to help track the shipment’s progress and if a product arrives at its destination spoiled, it would be easier to determine what went wrong and at what point in the journey. AI systems can be layered in, learning from this information to provide added intelligence and recommendations to minimize disruptions in supply.

The word autonomous has been associated with the automotive industry for a few years now however it is starting to find its way into the supply chain as well. The supply chain has been impacted by numerous disruptive technologies in recent years, AI, IoT, wearable devices, drones and now blockchain.

Many companies will be leveraging all three of these technologies and not realizing that they are in effect enabling their own autonomous supply chain. These technologies can bring immense value to a business, however to maximize the return on the investment of these technologies it is important to have a digital foundation or digital supply chain in place. You have to walk before you can run and no matter how appealing some of these technologies are, if you cannot exchange information electronically with an external digital ecosystem then it is going to be difficult to obtain maximum ROI from these technologies.

Digital Business Ecosystems – It is critical to ensure that information being exchanged across a trading partner community is in electronic format.  Companies struggle to ensure that 100% of trading partners are exchanging information electronically, however this can be achieved by connecting all trading partners, irrespective of size or technical capability, to the same business network. This helps to ensure that B2B transactions are being exchanged seamlessly and more importantly this information can be leveraged in downstream analytics or AI platforms. Establishing the digital backbone or digital foundation should be job number one for any digital transformation project.


Internet of Things – IoT sensor information can be leveraged to not only identify where a shipment is, anywhere across a global supply chain, but also monitor its condition, for example measuring temperature and humidity. IoT stands to transform many supply chain processes, from improving replenishment processes through to improving the uptime and availability of serviceable assets such as commercial vehicle fleets and production line equipment such as robots.

Artificial Intelligence – Deriving insights relating to supply chain performance is a key goal for many companies.  Leveraging analytics to determine the best performing trading partner or understand how many purchase orders have been processed within a specific time frame will help companies to optimize and improve their supply chain operations.  But what if you could feed IoT sensor information in to an AI platform to help take decision making to the next level?  Taking sensor data from a digital twin of a physical product and feeding into an AI platform will help to determine the ‘likely’ future operational performance of the product.


Blockchain – Blockchain offers some unique capabilities, the main one being a tamper-proof record of information, which could include a mix of B2B transaction information and IoT sensor data. Companies are starting to explore this technology across their supply chain operations, albeit on relatively small proof of concepts. Most use cases for blockchain relate to supply chain track and trace or knowing the provenance of where for example raw minerals were sourced from and which final products they ended up in.

The greater convergence of these technologies will allow organizations to leverage new performance insights to refine business processes. For supply chains, this means improved traceability of goods and the ability to record and secure an archive of all digital interactions between companies and trading partners.

Internet of Things sensors can be used to improve supply chain visibility and improve equipment uptime with predictive maintenance applications. They can also be integrated with other technologies to assist with automatic replenishment processes. In supply chains, blockchain can be used independently to track high-value goods, manage end-to-end recalls, and provide traceability to industries such as food and beverage, or pharmaceuticals and life sciences. Combining much of the data from these technologies, AI can be used to refine inventory management and improve forecasting. On a deeper level, AI can also use the data it receives from supply chain trading partners to monitor their performance and responsiveness to customer demands.

The level of excitement coming from both industry and academia for these technologies has been palpable, and 2020 should continue that trend. However, 2020 should set itself apart as the year more real-world cases began to demonstrate the true power of a converged solution in supply chains.

 

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Pre-Ticketing: Why Retailers are making the switch and measurable criteria for selecting a Ticketing Provider

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Updated: Saturday, September 21, 2019

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Pre-Ticketing: Why Retailers are making the switch and measurable criteria for selecting a Ticketing Provider

By Trisa Thompson, Marketing Manager, FineLine Technologies


Today’s retailers rely on efficient, yet complex supply chains, to keep the brick and mortar shelves and shipping centers well stocked with in-fashion, on trend merchandise. Incorrectly ticketed items can be a major stumbling block to achieve these goals, negatively affecting the bottom line. To address these challenges many retailers are source-tagging their merchandise - to enhance tracking and inventory management within the supply chain, reduce re-ticketing costs, and ultimately streamline the flow of goods from manufacturer to store shelves.

Retailers sourcing products from Asia, Africa and the sub-continent can only win in the retail race, if their supply chain is established, consistent, and efficient. Not to mention, providing an accurate count and description of merchandise as it moves through the supply chain. Tagging merchandise with RFID or barcoded tickets at its production location facilities improves tracking, and inventory control as merchandise moves its way through the pipeline, to the end consumer.

Before the products get to the consumer, the retailer must be sure that they are moving the right products from DC to the right store – as quickly as possible.  There are lots of checks and balances needing to happen at the DC. Human readable, scannable, retail tickets that include the correct price are basic requirements. Delays in any of these areas can cause slowdown in the delivery of products to shelves. Which is problematic in this fast fashion retail, where a season has become too long a period. Many retailers are seeing fashion trends as short as 2 weeks – this requires a rapid replenishment pipeline – that cannot be slowed by inaccurate or poorly printed price tickets.

Merchandising ImageSource-ticketing can save time and labor costs, versus ticketing at the store. Accurately ticketed items can flow through the supply chain by simply being read, by overhead or handheld barcode scanners. Many retailers have found that tagging (including using RFID tickets) allows a larger number of items to be scanned in a shorter timeframe, with less human intervention. Reducing the potential for human errors and miscounting.

Enhancing the global ticketing supply chain is possible with source-tagging. Retailers have seen the benefits of pre-ticketing including increased visibility of location, quantity and forecast planning for merchandise that is still in the supply chain. However, selecting the right ticketing provider also plays a major role in the success of a pre-ticketing program.

Ticketing providers need to be flexible, fast, have the capacity to handle large volumes of data in a short timeframe and provide customization to ticketing rules - as necessary.

Many retailers are separating their trim items such as care labels, zippers etc. from ticketing, and tagging merchandise at the source, to achieve the flexibility necessary to keep merchandise flowing to shelves. Rather than being  bogged down with issues related to trim, retailers are streamlining ticketing production to companies that specialize. If a product does not have a price ticket or has an incorrect price, this could mean loss of sales for the retailer and discourage the consumer from taking the extra steps to identify the costs of the merchandise.

Asking service bureau providers to present analytics driven from REAL order processing data is often met with “let us look into that”. In today’s fast-paced, fast-fashion supply chain – retailers and their suppliers must be empowered with the visibility to make decisions based on real time analytics. Ticketing providers have the burden of proof when it comes to their ability to meet ex-factory dates. 

Price tickets contain lots of data: size, price, color, season, COO, and that volume increases if the ticket is RFID enabled.  Retailers should be asking “Can the service bureau handle and make quick changes to the large volume of data that is required for price tickets?” Chose a provider that has business rules built in to handle large volume of merchandise data, and can quickly convert that data into ticketing information, delivering tickets in less than 3 days.

Pre-ticketing to enhance the flow of goods through the supply chain is has been helping to position retailers as market and fashion leaders. Simply because they have a flexible, fast and streamlined supply chain, including retail price tickets.

 

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The Next-Gen Store – What’s it Feel Like?

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Updated: Saturday, September 21, 2019

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The Next-Gen Store – What’s it Feel Like?

By Kristy Bernzott, Account Manager, Performance Team LLC


The days when consumers walk into a retail store ready to learn about a potential purchase are fading. More than ever, today’s consumers have done extensive research online — prior to having their car drive them to the store.

Many consumers spend countless hours watching and reading product reviews while browsing through online forums as others share tales about the objects of their desire. To keep consumers coming back, in-store visits must be engaging, fun, exciting and memorable.

A few ways that retail stores can transform their physical locations into a memorable “next-gen” experience include:

1)    Using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to let consumers immerse themselves in a virtual experience with the product they seek. Appliance and furniture stores have used this tech to position a potential refrigerator or loveseat, for example, in a consumer’s home using VR. Macy’s is using “smart mirrors” in stores to inspire customers on their shopping journeys. Revenue related to VR initiatives is expected to jump by 3,000% in the next four years and could generate as much as $1.8 billion for retail and marketing companies in 2022.

2)    Helzberg Diamonds is the first jeweler to use augmented reality to let in-store customers view more than 100 different ring settings on their finger at multiple angles through interactive screens set into the showcase counter, as the customer’s hand rests on a platform underneath. Since today’s ring shoppers have already spent countless hours researching and viewing diamond rings online, the AR concept bridges the gap between the digital space they’re accustomed to and the in-person encounter that can help close the sale, and allows stores to showcase far more rings than they can keep in stock otherwise. The stores also use 24” 4K screens to view their diamond selections up close and with high detail.

3)    Gamifying the shopping experience with vignettes, inspiration and treasure hunting. Home Goods and Bed Bath & Beyond have seen great success applying this strategy. A BB&B "treasure hunt" encourages consumers to make cash and carry purchases as they discover different products “hidden” throughout the store. Unique gamification experiences will become more popular and help differentiate next-generation stores.

4)    Reimagining the retail landscape and tailoring each store to its local demographics. Target was one of the first retailers to embrace this concept as they created dual entrances (one for online pickups & returns and another where the customer is greeted with grocery and wine options). Since no two neighborhoods are alike, Target focuses on making sure each store is stocked with products and experiences that fit the local customers’ needs. Peloton, the popular brand of spinning bicycles lets you interact with a live class of people from around the world. Inside their store you can try out the experience before committing to the in-home setup.

5)    The Container Store, in an effort to combat consumers feeling overwhelmed with their organizational goals, built “The Organizational Studio,” a completely free digital experience that lets customers upload photos or videos of a space they want to organize, explain the organizational problem and set up an appointment to meet a design specialist in a cozy studio in the store.


A
lmost no one thought an online startup bookseller would threaten the livelihoods of decades old stalwarts like Sears and Macys, but the retail world has changed dramatically, as have consumer expectations. Companies looking to stay relevant in retail — outside of the online world — must push the bounds of creativity to keep people coming back to their stores.

 

 

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Retailer Shortage Deductions Don’t Have To Cut Into Your Holiday Profits

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2019

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Retailer Shortage Deductions Don’t Have To Cut Into Your Holiday Profits

By iNymbus

As sales volume in the retail world naturally increases in the coming holiday season, a spike in revenue for manufacturers and distributors can also be expected.  While this should be great news for those providing goods to retailers, except there’s one catch: the higher the revenue, the higher the deduction volume.

Let’s look at one example: Whirlpool Corporation, an enormous appliance manufacturer has a Credit Department that includes 16 individual Credit Representatives, each responsible for the accounts of multiple retail partners. Their process of disputing shortage deductions was laborious: 

  • Credit Reps would first review deduction “reason codes” from the retailers to identify deductions associated with shortages. 

  • Each shortage deduction was then looked up manually in each retailer’s account through SAP. Research followed to determine if the deduction was valid, and if deemed disputable, a POD (proof of delivery) would be requested from the shipping carrier. 

  • Anywhere from a few days to a few weeks later, the POD would show up in SAP. The unpredictable turnaround time meant Credit Reps were tasked with checking back often.

  • Once the POD was finally received, the Credit Reps would follow the process specific to each retailer. More often than not, that required disputing each shortage deduction one by one in their portal and attaching each POD individually. 

  • On average, each of the 16 Credit Reps was spending 10-15 hours a week disputing shortage deductions. However, a Credit Rep assigned the account of a trade partner with a large backlog could easily spend 50% of their time on deduction processing. 

The 160 - 240 manpower hours a week that were spent processing and resolving shortage deductions was repetitive, overwhelming, and a large timesuck. Throwing more workforce at the problem was not an option. 

With multiple retail partners, each with their unique dispute requirements and portals, it was essential Whirlpool find a solution customizable for each and start recovering deductions automatically and quickly. A Deductions As A Service automation using cloud robotic technology is a unique option resulting in more company profit, increased employee satisfaction, and time savings.

Whirlpool Corporation is now saving hundreds of manpower hours by automatically disputing each deduction for an estimated time savings of 75%. Download this free case study to learn more about how they did it.

www.inymbus.com

 


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"All Things Returns"

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2019

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"All Things Returns"

By Susan Haupt, RVCF


At the beginning of 2019 we began to think about “what happens next” to all of the unwanted, ill-fitting or otherwise “not quite right” purchases made as gifts or otherwise during the Holiday Season. The issue is complicated, reaching far beyond the consumers’ sending the item on it’s way back to the retailer, and so RVCF started the year with a look at the impact of RETURNS for both the retailer and manufacturer.

Education and Research

Our initial work included partnering with Newmine who hosted a webinar (“Building a Strong Defense Against Rising Customer Returns”) and sponsored a survey intended to shed light on why returns are such an costly challenge for the retail industry and what steps can be taken to reduce returns and boost bottom lines.   A whitepaper followed summarizing the results of this study.


The conversation continued at the RVCF Spring 2019 Conference in Teaneck, NJ with a presentation by Newmine on “Leveraging AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) to reduce consumer Returns.” and a workshop facilitated by Barkley Consulting through which participants used the interactive problem solving approach of “Design Thinking” to rethink the returns process.  The session concluded with teams presenting their prototyped solutions.

Next Steps

We are wrapping up 2019 by taking a deeper dive into the reasons behind the return and once again invite you to share your expertise in this new piece of research.

The “Design Thinking” workshop that was so well received last Spring will be offered again at the RVCF Fall Conference.   For anyone interested in attending, this session will take place on Tuesday, November 5th beginning at 8:30 am.  In order to achieve the maximum value of participation we ask that you plan to attend this full day session in it’s entirety. 

Another session on the Fall Conference agenda will be an insightful presentation by Jessica Couch, a Fit technology Expert who will address “The Value of Matching Products to People Through Fit Based Practices”.  Current estimates indicate the 65% of e-com fashion purchases are returned for incorrect fit.   This session will take a deeper look at creating value across the supply chain through the use of fit based technologies to help reduce the high cost of returns, dead inventory and volume of textile waste in the US.

It will be interesting to see what the future holds as we approach the 2019 Holiday shopping and return season.   We hope that our focus this year will bring some new ideas to the table that will result in greater customer satisfaction with their purchases resulting in reduced numbers of returns.

In case you missed it…

 

 

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