It is perhaps a curious matter that the amount of online penetration for home and DIY retailers remains so low when compared with other sectors.

It is perhaps a curious matter that the amount of online penetration for home and DIY retailers remains so low when compared with other sectors. Given the range of products sold, some items clearly lend themselves to an online purchase, whereas items such as kitchens, bathrooms and furniture are far more likely to involve some physical interaction with the product, regardless of where they are ultimately purchased.

While there is much focus on providing a seamless omnichannel experience to consumers, it is very difficult to make this reality without considering the supply chain, which is increasingly becoming a part of the retail offer, regardless of channel.

Given the nature and range of products in the home and DIY sector, supply chains are often long and complex and existing conventions are becoming strained. For instance, sourcing in bulk, large warehouses with bulk locations full of safety stock (often separate stock files for different channels), extended ranges, infrequent large deliveries to stores and long lead times. Much of this practice has driven efficiency in the past, however, it doesn’t serve a modern multichannel world particularly well.

So the conundrum is: how do you deliver a great omnichannel experience and remain cost effective? There are lots of solutions out there – products can be sourced in smaller quantities and consolidated close to source; near sourcing reduces stock holding and lead time; and warehouses can be configured more flexibly to hold shallower stock levels across extended ranges. Middleware IT solutions can breathe new life into legacy systems and smaller, more frequent deliveries can be made into high street stores cost effectively, if retailers are open to work collaboratively.

No one size fits all, however, the opportunity is there for home and DIY retailers if supply chains keep pace with the omnichannel revolution.

  • Jon Wood is vice-president home and leisure at DHL