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Retailers, whether selling clothes or car parts, deal with many obstacles when running small businesses. You have to promote and market yourself to bring customers through your doors, offer the right products to meet demand, and stay competitive with pricing while paying business expenses. Yet one of the areas of your operations that can control all these factors is the supply chain.

The overlooked supply chain

When the supply chain works, you rarely notice any issues, or you believe the issues are so minor that they are just a hiccup in running a business. Yet these small issues are the warning signs that you could experience serious delays and problems with product quality during the times when sales are strong and you are struggling to keep up with orders.

Appropriate supply chain management is essential to retailers as it allows you to have real-time data needed about your products and suppliers. By coordinating the supply chain process, you can implement the right solutions when problems do arise so that customers are not inconvenienced over any delays. Here are three tips to help you with your supply chain management.

  1. Know your suppliers and their supply chain processes. Keeping tabs on your suppliers allows you to understand their processes and the products you purchase. This arrangement is ideal because it allows you to tweak your inventory and costs when you can find similar products at the same quality and at cheaper prices. You also learn about their shipping management and when their suppliers meet established deadlines as you can better manage your shipping times.
  2. Keep all your retail departments in sync with your supply chain. There is nothing worse than having a promotion and then finding out you are getting more sales orders than you predicted, putting a strain on your present inventory and supply chain. Coordinate your marketing teams, sales team and warehouse staff so everyone is kept up to date for certain promotions and sales so your business doesn’t get swamped with orders that you can’t fulfill.
  3. Have technology work with your supply chain processes. Your sales team needs to have real-time data in their computer systems to know what products are available to fulfill orders. Your warehouse team has to have inventory control management software to track stock and update order status information. And your accounting department needs to have the sales information to process customer payments and pay suppliers using their online accounting software. Invest in the right supply chain management technologies that will sync all real-time data with every department to streamline the order fulfillment process.

You have to take proactive measures with your supply chain management to immediately identify problems and resolve them before the issues begin to affect customers. Have the products you need redirected to stores and handle your inventory so you never run out of the products you need by finding out more about your suppliers and the quality of goods they offer, getting the best prices, coordinating your retail teams and having the right technology available to track inventory.

On the flip side we have many businesses that have one store so their view may be that supply chain management is not as important. Well it is even more important because as a one store business when you’re out of stock you’ve no other location to fall back on and borrow from. Supplier relationships are equally as important as they will be your ‘best ‘friend’ when stocks are low and you need an urgent delivery.

Let’s finish with one question?

What would you do if one of your suppliers can’t make a delivery because of bad weather?

Take a few minutes to download and read our handy guide on managing your supply chain. It will answer that question for you.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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