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Retailers Eye Automation to Solve Inventory Problems

April 22, 2019

A survey found that chronic inventory problems affecting the $1.3 trillion retail industry. The vast majority (87%) of Corporate Retail Professionals report inaccurate inventories are to blame for more lost revenue than theft (13%), and the breadth of the problem is apparent: nearly all (99%) survey respondents admit to some kind of constant inventory problem.

Among the key findings:

Despite major spending on inventory management, catastrophic problems remain

  • 73% state inaccurate inventory forecasting is a constant issue, meaning retailers end up with too much or too little supply to meet demand
  • 66% say price inaccuracy is a consistent issue, which can lead to unbalanced P&L reports
  • 65% report an inability to track inventory through the supply chain, resulting in potential sales lost

Wasted time is wasted profits

  • 67% of retailers feel that analyzing inventory on store shelves is not an effective use of employees’ time
  • Data shows that instead of spending time on sales-driven customer service and upselling, the majority of employee time is spent filling out-of-stock holes on shelves (56%) and pulling items forward on shelves (55%)

Technology is moving faster than the industry

  • 92% of retailers agree their stores spend more time identifying inventory issues than they do implementing solutions
  • 81% feel their stores are only keeping pace or actually falling behind technologically, despite the availability of new technologies

Automation is the answer

  • 76% of retailers say the introduction of robots in stores would improve employee productivity
  • 74% said inventory accuracy would improve as a result, while increased profits would be another direct result of introducing in-store robots
  • A majority (62%) of retailers feel that employees would embrace their new, automated colleagues

“Inventory accuracy is a never-ending challenge for retailers,” said Martin Hitch, Bossa Nova co-founder and chief business officer. “Bossa Nova’s mission is to help retailers understand what’s happening in their stores and more specifically on their shelves. Our data is ground truth for the store and enables retailers to transform store operations, influencing everything from the flow of goods, to the product replenishment process and ultimately, to the customer shopping experience."

The Bossa Nova Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 100 Corporate Retail Professionals with a title of Director or greater, at companies with $500m+ in annual revenue, excluding clothing and department stores, between December 4 and December 11, 2018, using an email invitation and an online survey.

Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 9.8 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

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