Retail Week’s Supply Chain 2025 report, the fifth annual instalment since 2019, is out now. Offering a blueprint for operational success, the report explores how retailers from across the globe are building resilience.

AI forecasting, automated packaging, warehouse robots – these are just some of the solutions in which major retailers are investing to sustain growth, and which are explored in Retail Week’s new report. 

Supply Chain 2025 analyses exactly what is going on across first to final mile in the sector and unpicks the key priorities for retailers over the coming 18 months.

Produced in association with Acopia, Alcumus SafeContractors and nShift, Supply Chain 2025 features case studies of retailers and brands worldwide that are successfully transforming their operations, as well as wider expert opinion. 

Four of the retailers profiled are highlighted below.  

1. JD Sports – automated packaging  

Having upgraded to a cloud-based warehouse management system in 2022, as part of plans to open new international distribution centres and refresh an ageing tech stack, JD Sports is embracing automation. 

The retailer has based its new ecommerce warehouse in Derby, which became fully operational in 2023 after a 20-year lease agreement was signed with developer Panattoni. 

Automated packaging technology at this site has enabled the sportswear retailer to box 1,100 single or multiple-item orders per hour.

Paul Stokes, head of automation and engineering at JD Sports, says: “Right-size boxing technology is a key capability for the future, offering major benefits in fulfilling ecommerce orders in a cost-efficient and sustainable way.”

2. Boots – warehouse robots 

Boots continues to use warehouse robots at its Burton distribution centre. From robotic arms for picking out small items to cube-shaped automated storage and retrieval systems, which managing director Sebastian James says “can handle four orders a second”, there is an array of tech filling the health and beauty business’ warehouse. 

Back in November 2019, Boots introduced ‘cobots’ – robots that carry items between warehouse picking stations, cutting down the distance staff must travel. As of 2024, this machinery has become a permanent part of the retailer’s armoury, particularly at peak times.

And the tech is driving results. Boots reported its online business experienced the “biggest-ever month of sales” in November 2023, as well as its “biggest-ever day of sales” on Black Friday. Sales in the three months to November 30, 2023, rose by 9.8% year on year. 

3. BP – AI investments 

It was announced in November 2023 that BP was upgrading its forecasting and replenishment capabilities using a platform that leverages AI to anticipate and meet fluctuations in customer demand.

The supply chain planning upgrade was deemed necessary after BP found more than half of customers to its UK retail stores now visit on a food-only mission, rather than for fuel only or food and fuel. 

By 2030, BP wants to double its convenience gross margin from a 2022 base of around $1.5bn (£1.12bn) and double the number of shops, where it believes it provides a differentiated offer from its competitors, to more than 3,400. 

This target is a key reason for the AI investment, as higher stock availability and customer service levels are required. The new planning tools are also viewed as a way of helping BP reduce food waste. 

4. Next – warehouse automation  

In January this year, Next increased its full-year profit before tax guidance by £20m to £905m, up 4% versus last year, with better management of stock stated as a key contributor.  

The retailer has increased its use of automation in warehouses, particularly at its 500,000 sq ft Rotherham site, which the company says is driving efficiency for the online business. 

Supply Chain 2025 report cover

Ensure your supply chain strategy is keeping up with the pack. Download your free copy of Supply Chain 2025 for the latest intel on: 

  • How more retailers are getting the dynamics right to ensure future performance 
  • What is required for retailers to balance sustainability and profits in the changing commercial landscape 
  • How to maximise partnerships to support supply chain evolution  
  • Need-to-know innovations in first to final mile – from manure-powered tractors and high-speed drones to AI-driven warehouses