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In the second annual “Voice of the Store Manager” survey conducted by JDA Software Group Inc. researchers concluded that “a retailer’s success lies in becoming problem solvers for busy consumers, going beyond just selling products.”

Moreover, the solutions center on the need for better inventory management.

That conclusion was based on responses from 252 U.S.-based retail store managers this past summer that also revealed the need for “speed and convenience of fulfillment to compete in today’s unified commerce environment.” Authors of the report said that on the store execution level, “store managers are trying to master the combination of order fulfillment, inventory visibility and staffing needs to keep up with customer demands.”

Jim Prewitt, vice president of retail industry strategy at JDA, said based on the results of the survey, “it’s clear that retailers are making progress to better handle operations in today’s retail environment, but inventory and staffing needs are often a bottleneck. It’s not a question of whether stores will evolve, but rather a question of ‘to what?’ Successful retailers are looking at how quickly their supply chain and store operations need to react and adapt.”

When asked to cite the “biggest challenges for retailers at the store level,” 29 percent said it was fulfillment, and 29 percent noted it was “limited staffing.” Inventory visibility came in at 24 percent while “scheduling/workforce management” garnered 18 percent. With inventory specifically, “survey respondents find that inaccurate data (31 percent) and limited stock and slow replenishment (31 percent) are the biggest challenge for operations,” JDA said.

Still, the majority of store managers — 64 percent — said they are “using technology in some capacity to check store inventory availability, whether it be real-time inventory visibility via mobile or wearable devices (33 percent) or a central computer system (31 percent).”

Authors of the report said while there “has been a lot of speculation around a retail apocalypse, new fulfillment options are offering ways for stores to provide ease and convenience to busy customers while driving traffic back into stores.” The survey found that 44 percent of those polled “said their stores offer buy online ship from store services.” And 41 percent offer buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) while 40 percent “offer buy in-store ship to home, and 38 percent offer buy online return in-store (BORIS).”

The poll found that 65 percent of respondents have staff allocated to support BOPIS services, and 64 percent for BORIS. With buy in store, ship to home, 61 percent had staff allocated to the service while buy online ship to store had 59 percent. With buy in store ship to home/store from another store, 49 percent had staff allocations.

The survey also found that 41 percent of managers “believe lack of visibility across inventory is the biggest difficulty when it comes to BOPIS services.” And 36 percent said their companies offer a discount to shoppers who use BOPIS services.

Prewitt said as customer expectations continue to rise and change, “it will be crucial for brick-and-mortar stores to streamline how they fulfill customer orders and work to draw in shoppers with incentives for in-store fulfillment options like BOPIS. In the future, we foresee some stores evolving into distribution centers, fulfilling 100 percent of customer demand, while others will morph into showrooms with centralized fulfillment.”

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