Retail has become an increasingly complicated business. Consumers are shopping across channels and expect a range of fulfilment options, increased product value and more relevant goods whatever the weather.

Retail has become an increasingly complicated business. Consumers are shopping across channels and expect a range of fulfilment options, increased product value and more relevant goods whatever the weather.

Complicating matters further are retailers’ efforts to expand overseas. In this supplement we explore how retailers are investing in their supply chains to keep up with customer expectations and exploit new domestic or international opportunities.

For instance, The Co-operative Group completed an eight-year initiative this year to modernise its distribution network. In an exclusive interview with Retail Week Supply Chain, supply chain director Mark Hale reveals how the investment has tackled efficiency and product availability and now means the retailer can better compete in the vital fresh food battleground of grocery.

The new DP World London Gateway port has also been completed this year, making portcentric distribution an increasingly significant supply chain opportunity. The strategy involves retailers locating distribution operations close to a port to avoid moving product needlessly to and from an inland warehouse. Businesses such as Asda and Marks & Spencer are already investing in the strategy, and we explore the pros and cons of this maturing model on.

In recent months retailers have been investing in the supply chain to respond to the unpredictable UK weather. In the past year unseasonable weather has hit the bottom lines of businesses including Debenhams. Analysis reveals how retailers such as Tesco and B&Q are using advanced weather and demand forecasts to compensate for the falls and spikes in demand created by unexpected weather.

How retailers manage their supply chain plays a key role in how businesses take advantage of new opportunities overseas. Retailers are increasing their revenues by entering new markets, though some are doing it at the expense of profitability. We explore the different models retailers are using to fulfil international markets, from leveraging the existing network to establishing regional hubs.

Placing further strain on the supply chain are the demands of multichannel fulfilment. As consumers increasingly shop online, demand for later cut-off times for next-day and same-day delivery continues to rise. Find out on how retailers are turning around orders faster than ever.

The supply chain remains critical to meeting consumer demand and delivering today’s retail model. This supplement highlights how associated investment is vital to delivering retail success now and in the future.

  • David Brooks, deputy projects editor