This year’s Retail Week Supply Chain Summit focused on why putting the customer at the heart of your strategy and embracing change are essential.

“The era of ‘multichannel’ is over. The question is: Do you speak channel or customer?”

Those were the wise words of John Lewis chairman Charlie Mayfield as he cautioned retailers to stop obsessing about channels and instead start thinking and acting with the mind of their customer.

How to transition from a channel-centric to a customer-centric model was the subject of yesterday’s sixth annual Retail Week Supply Chain Summit.

Delegates came to discover new knowledge and innovations so they could return to the office and share what they had learnt to drive change across their supply chain strategy.

At the Summit, only one question mattered: How can you put your customer at the heart of your end-to-end supply chain?

Every speaker slot, panel debate and speed round table discussion was designed to answer that. It’s a question that a top-level advisory board of nine leading retailers told us is the one that matters.

Need for change

As we head into the second half of 2016, the need for change couldn’t be bigger.

Pressure to constantly adapt the supply chain and react to new trends is coming from all directions. Connected devices, the Internet of Things, fulfilment innovations, the blurring of physical and digital retailing, and consumers’ increasingly tough demands around delivery are all altering the game for supply chain bosses. These new realities are creating fresh challenges and the sector is coming under increased pressure.

Smarter serving of customers’ needs is key to navigating through this change. It is our industry’s reaction to the changes affecting us in the UK that will define its fortunes over the next 10 to 15 years.

Delegates heard from the likes of John Lewis, Dreams, River Island, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and – and each and every retailer claimed long-term growth will result from putting the customer at the centre of their supply chain.

“Making sure the customer is in the driving seat of their supply chain strategy is what sets these retailers and others like them apart from their competitors”

Making sure the customer is in the driving seat of their supply chain strategy is what sets these retailers and others like them apart from their competitors.

Re-engineering operations around the shopper is the ultimate aim and catering to their demands should be at the crux of any investment, innovation or collaboration being witnessed in the supply chain world.

My personal thanks goes to all our Summit speakers for their inspirational words and motivating messages, and to all our sponsors for making the event possible.

Delegates’ willingness to ask questions, engage with the speakers and share their own strategies in such an interactive and collaborative way is what made the summit the best yet.

You can catch up with what was said at the Supply Chain Summit by following the hashtag #rwscs16 on Twitter.


  • Laura Heywood is commercial editor of Retail Week