Few sectors have experienced such seismic change over recent years as retail. Private consumption in bricks and mortar retail has decreased steadily since 1990s, when it was around 40%, to below 30% today – and revenues have been stagnating. The explosive growth of online retail has seen customer needs shifting accordingly, with heightened expectations of 24/7 availability of information and shopping opportunities, increased price awareness and sensitivity, as well as massively increased diversity and customer segmentation.

Brand loyalty has also declined, with rapidly increasing choice and the effects of internationalisation. Life cycle acceleration is another key consideration – since 1997, product innovations have increased by 11% year on year and the flop rate in the same period has risen from 60% to 69%. In an increasingly competitive and segmented marketplace, there is now little margin for error.

Whilst it has always been true of retail, the importance of inventory management is therefore more important today than ever before. Four Principles focus on optimising flow at every stage of the process – from transporting products from the manufacturer or supplier to the central warehouse, onto delivery trucks and finally onto the outlet shelves.

By taking a holistic view of the entire supply chain – from planning season trends all the way through to selling merchandise to the shopper – Four Principles help implement a Lean, agile retail process, built for long term, sustainable profitability and growth.

Sales planning, life-cycle management, discounting and fire sales through “clearing zones” – tighter control and management of the entire sales process eliminates waste at every step of the way. Optimised logistics and just-in-time stock replenishment help reduce warehouse capacity requirements and reduce or even eliminate stock-outs. The net result of all of these improvements is felt most keenly at the front line – where retail staff are freed from stock management and merchandising duties to do their primary job: serving the customer. In this way, Lean retail – just like every other sector – ultimately puts the customer first. By providing better, more personal service, Lean is bringing retail full circle, providing the opportunity to build loyalty through “old fashioned” customer care.