As a business benefiting from the housing boom, Next Homeware demands a seamless supply chain.

As a business benefiting from the housing boom, Next Homeware demands a seamless supply chain.

After years in the doldrums the housing market has come to life. Driven by a combination of sustained low interest rates, the Government Help to Buy scheme and falling unemployment, house prices are up 5.4% over 12 months to November 2013, according to the ONS, transactions are up almost 30% and the outlook for 2014 is a bright one.

In such a vibrant space there is significant opportunity for home and leisure retailers. A new house drives sales in items such as kitchens, bathrooms, white goods, furniture and soft furnishings as owners seek to improve their homes. The supply chain is integral for retailers to meet this rapid increase in demand and deliver the seamless cross-channel experience that consumers expect.

There were definite winners in non-food over the Christmas trading period: John Lewis reported a 7% increase in sales, Dixons 5% and Topps Tiles was up 9.3% in the 13 weeks to the December 28. The Next Homeware business is another flourishing example in the home furnishings market. With modern light and airy store formats, flexible delivery options and an online directory of more than three million active customers buying through the Next Directory home catalogue, Next Homeware has a winning formula.

As logistics provider for Next in two-man home delivery, getting the supply chain right is crucial. This means seamlessly managing uplifts in volume, lead times, order tracking, communication and punctuality. The delivery driver may be the first and last person a customer interacts with and the moment is likely to strongly influence how they feel about the whole buying experience. They are also far more likely to share their experiences – good or bad – in this age of social media, so swift resolution of any issue is vital.

It is perhaps the case for many retailers that supply chain has never been such a hot topic in the boardroom.

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