Every retailer is feeling the pressure at the moment and supply chain teams are no exception.

The economic situation is having a major impact on these professionals’ day-to-day responsibilities – not only pushing up costs such as fuel, but also affecting stock holding. As credit insurers tighten their belts, many retailers have responded by trading in smaller quantities, making inventory management even more of a challenge.

At the same time, there is an increasing realisation throughout retail businesses that the supply chain is one area in which cost savings can be achieved. Not only does the supply chain incur sizeable operating costs, it can also tie up huge amounts of capital in stock, warehouses, vehicles, trailers and so on.

So while it’s always been a vital, busy and complex area of retail, supply chain professionals are under even more scrutiny than before.

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for these teams to reduce costs.The relatively new field of port-centric distribution (page 6) is proving to be a useful money-saving device for many retailers. And, of course, collaboration on green issues is a sure-fire way to save significant amounts of cash and enhance supplier relationships (page 19).

Without doubt, the responsibilities of the supply chain professional have evolved dramatically in recent years (page 4). Numerous developments in the retail sector, such as international sourcing, multichannel retail and the green agenda, have meant that the skills required are now far more wide-ranging than ever before.

There are pros and cons with this development. The good news is that supply chain teams are receiving far more recognition for the work they do. The downside, however, is that there is an acute shortage of staff equipped to do the job. More than ever, retail businesses need to consider ways in which to retain their talented supply chain employees because without them they could find themselves floundering.

So despite the very tangible  extra pressures on the industry at the moment, supply chain professionals should make the most of the increased power and professional opportunities that are coming their way.