Supply Chain Management in the Retail Industry / Edition 1

Supply Chain Management in the Retail Industry / Edition 1

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Supply Chain Management in the Retail Industry / Edition 1

This book defines supply chains, focusing on the impact that they can have o the retail industry. Featuring step-by-step how supply chains are set up, the factors that can impact them and what that means to the customer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780471723196
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 10/19/2005
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 700,576
Product dimensions: 7.52(w) x 9.27(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

MICHAEL HUGOS is the chief information officer of Network Services Company, a $6.8 billion distribution organization serving customers throughout North America. He has extensive experience in distribution, logistics, and applying technology to meet the challenges of supply chain management. He holds an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

CHRIS THOMAS is a professional writer in Boise, Idaho.

Read an Excerpt

Supply Chain Management in the Retail Industry

By Michael H. Hugos

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-72319-3

Chapter One


Early in 2005, IBM Business Consulting Services released a survey that compiled in-depth interviews with more than 100 sales, marketing, and merchandising executives at over 20 consumer products and retail companies. Only 9 percent of the retailers felt their suppliers had "a good understanding" of their business objectives. The gist of the survey was that retailers felt the product manufacturers have focused their efforts on the end users of the products (the consumers), without giving as much priority to the needs of the other members of their distribution channels-namely, the retailers to whom they sell.

In addition to a supply chain, manufacturers and retailers participate in another give-and-take relationship known as a distribution channel or marketing channel. A distribution channel is similar to, but different than, a supply chain. The distribution channel is where the "deals" are made to buy and sell products. Sales, negotiations, and ordering are done by these companies, or departments within companies. Then the supply chain kicks in, to do the "physical" work of manufacturing, transporting, and storing the goods; and facilitating the sales with services like consumer research, extending credit, and providing other services related to making the products attractive to customers and encouraging their ultimate sale.

In this chapter, you will learn about

* The members of a distribution channel and their functions

* How retailers fit into distribution channels

* How channel relationships are managed

* Strategic alliances

One of the catchphrases of the last decade or so is "B2B," short for "business-to-business." This is a type of distribution channel in which the end consumer is a business, not an individual.

The lines do blur between modern-day distribution channels and supply chains. But we will attempt to keep them separate as we describe the functions of each in relation to the other.


There are several types of participants that make up a distribution channel, so let's begin by listing them, as in Chapter 1 with supply chain participants. You will notice some overlap because, as also previously mentioned, retailers belong to several (or many) different supply chains, each group focused on making and marketing different products.


The characteristic that sets a retailer apart from other members of its distribution channel is that the retailer is the party who ultimately sells the product to its end user or consumer. As you know if you've ever shopped for anything, retailers come in many shapes and sizes, so to speak. Retailers may be grouped according to any of the following four categories:

* Ownership. Every brick-and-mortar retailer can be classified as a large, national chain store; a smaller, regional chain store; an independent retailer; or a franchisee.

* Pricing philosophy. Stores are generally either discounters or full-price retailers. Within the "discounter" category, there are several subcategories such as factory outlets, consignment stores, dollar stores, specialty discount stores, warehouse membership clubs, and so on.

* Product assortment. The breadth and depth of product lines carried by the store depends a lot on its ownership. An Ann Taylor store, for example, sells Ann Taylor branded clothing-not much breadth of product line there, but extensive depth in that line. A Kmart, on the other hand, carries thousands of brands, but perhaps does not have much depth (not many brands) in any given category of product.

* Service level. The more exclusive or specialized the store, the more types of services it will generally offer-from a name-branded credit card, to on-site alterations, to liberal return policies for its loyal customers. With the "big box" discounters, on the other hand, customers pay for convenience and bypass traditional service, by bagging their own groceries and the like.

These distinctions between various types of stores will be important as we discuss their participation in certain distribution channels.


Wholesalers are intermediaries or middlemen who buy products from manufacturers and resell them to the retailers. They take the same types of financial risks as retailers, since they purchase the products (thereby taking legal responsibility for them), keep them in inventory until they are resold to retailers, and may arrange for shipment to those retailers. Wholesalers can gather product from around a country or region, or can buy foreign product lines by becoming importers.

The term "wholesale" is often used to describe discount retailers (as in "wholesale clubs"), but discounters are retailers, not technically wholesalers. And in B2B channels, wholesalers may be called distributors.

Agents and Brokers

Agents (sometimes called brokers) are also intermediaries who work between suppliers and retailers (or in B2B channels), but their agreements are different, in that they do not take ownership of the products they sell. They are independent sales representatives who typically work on commission based on sales volume, and they can sell to wholesalers as well as retailers. In B2B arrangements, this means they sell to distributors and end users.

Resident sales agents are good examples in retail. They reside in the country to which they sell products, but the products come from a variety of foreign manufacturers. The resident sales agent represents those manufacturers, who pay the agent on commission. A resident sales agent does not always have merchandise warehoused and ready to sell, but he or she does have product samples for which orders can be placed and is responsible for bringing the items through the importation process.

Retailers that don't have the money, time, or manpower to send someone overseas for manufacturers' site visits to check out the new product lines can depend on a resident sales agent to do the job.

Buying offices can also be considered a type of agent or broker, since they earn their money pairing up retailers with product lines from various manufacturers.

The Need for Distribution Channels

Why are all these layers needed in distribution? Why can't a producer simply sell to a retailer, who sells to a consumer? It's a fair question, and in some cases, that is exactly how it happens. But the fact is that many producers are either too small or too large to handle all the necessary functions themselves to get their products to market.

Consider the small, specialty manufacturer who is terrific at making fine leather handbags but may not have the expertise to market its products as well as it makes them, or they may not have the money to hire a team of full-time salespeople to court the customers and secure the orders. An intermediary who works for several small, noncompeting firms can easily handle those functions cost-effectively. An intermediary who specializes in importing and exporting can handle the intricacies of customs paperwork, overseas shipping, and foreign markets, too.

Conversely, large companies need intermediaries because they are also in the business of manufacturing, not marketing. Turning out tens of thousands of cases of soft drinks, for instance, do you think Pepsi has time to take and fill individual orders from households? Channel members like wholesalers and retailers are useful because they are best at specific aspects of sales in their markets, leaving the manufacturers to do what they do best-which is turn out the best possible product.

Having a distribution channel breaks the whole buying and selling process and all its related negotiations into manageable tasks, each performed by companies that specialize in certain skills. Using an import wholesaler, for example, can be handy because they know the laws and customs of the suppliers' nations; and they generally offer their own lines of credit so the retailer won't have to deal with currency exchange or negotiate payment terms with a bank in another country.

Another advantage of the distribution channel is its ability to even out the natural ebbs and flows of a supply chain. This comes from the ability of some channel members to store excess goods until they are needed, and to stockpile goods in anticipation of seasonal sales peaks. Depending on how close their relationships, channel members may also work together to purchase goods or services in greater quantity at discounts, passing the savings on to customers.

Even for consumers, the distribution chain is handy-beyond handy, in fact! It has become a necessity in our society. What if there were no supermarkets, for instance? Can you imagine how much more time and money you would spend having to buy every item at its source? How practical would it be to run out to the nearest farm to pick up a quart of milk and some salad ingredients on your way home from work?


We'll set aside business-to-business channels for now and look at the four simple types of retail distribution channels for consumer products:

* Direct channel. This is when the same company that manufactures a product sells it directly to the consumer or end user. Dell, as mentioned in Chapter 1, is a direct channel marketer. Mail-order catalog sales companies, like Lands' End, are also direct channel sellers.

* Retailer channel. This is when the producer sells to the retailer, and the retailer sells to the consumer.

* Wholesaler channel. Intermediaries play a role here, as the manufacturer sells to a wholesaler ... who sells to a retailer ... who sells to the consumer.

* Agent or broker channel. The most complex arrangement involves several transactions, often because the merchandise is being imported. The producer sells to an agent ... who sells to a wholesaler ... who sells to a retailer ... who finally sells to the consumer or end user.

* Dual channel or multiple channel. This term refers to the use of two or more channels to sell products to different types of customers. A lawnmower manufacturer, for example, might sell some product lines at retail and others to commercial lawn care companies, each requiring different intermediary services.

How Channels Are Chosen

Although retailers drive distribution channels, it is not usually the retailer who makes the decision to utilize one channel over the others. The producer of the product makes this decision. There are several characteristics of product lines that make them more or less appropriate for a particular type of channel. Briefly, these characteristics can be summarized as follows:

* The products themselves. If a product is perishable, like many grocery items, it requires the shortest, most direct distribution channel-which means the fewest possible intermediaries along the way. If a product is customized, like an expensive assembled-to-order computer system, it also benefits from a short distribution channel. There is no need for intermediaries when a customer orders a custom product directly from the company that makes it.

Long distribution channels correspond to small purchases, either because the retailer doesn't carry much inventory or the consumer buys the item in small quantities.

* The type of customer. Who are the customers, what do they need and expect from their shopping experience, and where are they willing to go to buy this type of product? How much quantity do they buy at a time? A channel may be chosen because it best reflects the end users' buying habits. Business-to-business customers have completely different needs and buying habits than individual consumers.

* Market size. This factor encompasses two things: the population of an area and whether it is urban or rural. It is easier to sell direct to customers in a large city with lots of potential outlets for a product line. The more widely dispersed the stores, the more logical the dependence on agents and wholesalers-or on multiple retailers in different cities-to keep product sales strong and steady.

* The producer's level of control. Most top-dollar clothing designers and fragrance manufacturers do not want their products showing up anywhere and everywhere. They've worked hard to build an exclusive reputation, and they expect their distribution channel to work just as hard to protect and enhance their upscale image. These producers will choose a distribution channel that ensures no discount merchants have access to their lines, and they will count on the members of their channel to honor their wishes and not make bargain "deals."

* The size of the producing company. A producer is likely to sell direct when the company is large enough to handle the additional responsibilities that intermediaries would otherwise provide-credit to customers, warehouses for their own goods, the ability to hire and train their own sales representatives. Smaller producers require a larger distribution chain in order to fill these roles.

* The size of the retailers. A segment of the industry that is fragmented, with most of the stores operating as single units, requires the distribution channel to be longer. This was the case in the 1980s with video rental stores, for example, until Blockbuster Video opened and began its climb to dominate the market.

Types of Distribution within Channels

The channel members may handle different portions of the transaction, but they must all agree on the end result-that the product(s) will be placed in the market in the manner desired by the producer or manufacturer, and that placement of the product(s) meets the contractual agreements of producer, retailer, and everyone in-between.

Once a channel is selected, the distribution strategy can take three different forms. They are listed as follows, from most restrictive to least restrictive-and remember, in retail, the term "restrictive" does not automatically have a negative connotation.

* Exclusive distribution is thought of most frequently for high-dollar products such as luxury cars or Rolex watches, but the fact is that even small-ticket items like toys are considered exclusive when they are in high demand.

In an exclusive distribution agreement, one retail store or chain of stores has the legal right to market and sell the product line in a geographic area. Exclusive distribution is sometimes requested by the retailer, not the producer, to ensure that the retailer has something unique, that customers can't get anywhere else. This may also mean the retailer commits to not selling any products that are going to compete with the line. In exchange, the producer or manufacturer offers sales assistance, training, point-of-purchase materials, and other perks to the exclusive distributor.

Such a distribution arrangement can work toward the "exclusive" image of the product (because it's harder to get), the retailer (for having "the only ones" available), and the manufacturer (by implying that the company is interested in marketing "quality, not quantity.")

In B2B commerce, exclusive distribution works well for extremely specialized product lines, such as heavy equipment or high-tech products, ordered to the customer's specifications and budgeted for in advance of the purchase.

* Selective distribution means the retailers are carefully screened, and only a few are permitted to carry the product line. As with exclusive distribution, part of the goal here is to enhance the image of the product by making it harder (but certainly not impossible!) to obtain. This allows the retailer to charge full price. The ladies' clothing industry is full of selective distribution agreements between designer labels and so-called "finer" department stores. (The producers may have other, lower-priced merchandise lines to sell to discounters; but these are generally sold under separate, secondary brand names.)

* Intensive distribution is the closest thing to blanket coverage in retail, a "you can find it anywhere" theory of marketing. Snack items, like candy and soft drinks, are great examples of intensive distribution-their individual unit prices are so low that thousands must be sold to make a profit. (Continues...)

Excerpted from Supply Chain Management in the Retail Industry by Michael H. Hugos Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents



The Evolution of the Supply Chain.

How the Supply Chain Works.

The Evolving Structure of Supply Chains.

Participants in the Supply Chain.

Aligning the Supply Chain with Business Strategy.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.


Participants in the Distribution Channel.

Types of Channels.

Channel Relationships.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.


Five Links in the Chain.

Demand Forecasting.

Product Pricing.

Inventory Management.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.



Credit and Collections.

Product Design.

Production Scheduling.

Facility Management.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.


Order Management.

Delivery Scheduling.

The Reality of Returns.

Outsourcing Supply Chain Operations.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.


The “Bullwhip Effect”.

Coordinating the Supply Chain.

Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment.

Starting Supply Chain Collaboration.

Information Systems.

Inventory Management Systems.

Assessing Technology and System Needs.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.


Four Types of Markets.

Market Performance Categories.

Customer Service Metrics.

Internal Efficiency Metrics.

Demand Flexibility Metrics.

Product Development Metrics.

Collecting and Using Performance Data.

Spotlighting Problems and Opportunities.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.


Identifying Opportunities.

Combining System Design and Strategy.

Initial Project Plans and Budgets.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.


Organizing a Systems Development Project.

Designing a Supply Chain System.

Creating a System Prototype.

Final Planning and Budgeting.

The Build Phase.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.


Power on Demand.

Global Sourcing.

Retail Technology Trends.

Thinking Strategically.

Adaptive Networks.

Chapter Summary.

Discussion Questions.



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