Life is not going to be easy for many retail professionals this year, but supply chain teams are among those going into overdrive.

Life is not going to be easy for many retail professionals this year, but supply chain teams are among those going into overdrive. First, there is the issue of rising costs within the supply chain, which is attacking them from all sides; be it labour costs, cotton, fuel, wheat or steel. And then they have the much-feared UK Bribery Act to contend with - the implementation of which has been put back from April (page XIV).

Under the new legislation, businesses could face unlimited fines if they do not take “adequate” steps to prevent bribery, which can encompass a whole host of business transactions within retailers’ supply chains.

The Act highlights the challenges of working with such vast, international supply chains. Retailers need to ensure they know exactly what goes on in their supply chains because if something goes wrong they will be implicated. New Look is one retailer that was bitten badly last year after a TV documentary highlighted poor working conditions in one of its UK factories. The retailer knew nothing about the issue - it was a subcontracted factory - but the case showed just how exposed retailers can be and why they need to enhance their due diligence (page V).

Despite the challenges that supply chain teams continue to face, there are many examples of innovation that should be lauded. For instance, Aurora will be significantly enhancing its delivery service by sending out products to online customers within 90 minutes of ordering (page IX).

Retailers are also realising that improving supplier collaboration is helping them to become more agile and responsive to customers’ needs (page XI). So while 2011 promises to be a tough year, many supply chain teams are proving that by constantly re-evaluating the way they operate they can save money as well as improve the service they offer to customers.

Charlotte Hardie, Supplements Editor