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January, many a retailer’s missed opportunity

January represents the dawn of a new year, a new beginning and a chance to start over. However, as is most often the case retail outlets are stuck with the unavoidable conundrum of having to deal with faulty purchases and returns. Through the inevitable come-backs, the opportunity to make a good start to the year is often missed and passed up.
In an effort to get reworkable repairs and returns back into a sales cycle as quickly as possible, Grant Marshbank, Chief Operating Officer of Supply Chain Specialists Vsc Solutions, offers retailers a number of insights that will help in reigning in unnecessary expenditure with the start of a new year.

He notes that, “every year, gift returns and repairs in January are at an all-time high, while new sales tend to be at an all time low. “More than at any other time, the new year period is the time to work smartly in order to ensure that you don’t wipe out great December profits with poor return supply chain efficiencies.” He added, “a lot of money can be lost through poor route planning and theft during the return process, but with a top warehouse management system and a good route optimisation tool in your arsenal, 2014 could see the best January your company has had in a while.”
Planning to succeed starts with having a good optimisation tool in place and helps to maximise January profits whilst at the same time having a process that deals with high return volumes.
According to Marshbank, “ Not only will your vehicles be doing deliveries to stores – they’ll also need to do collections ”, a process which will undoubtedly have an effect on route planning. He said that a route optimisation tool can coordinate the best routes for vehicles considering all of these factors,” and further advises pilfer-proofing retail operations through greater visibility of stock.
Goods are usually returned because of damaged packaging and often because they need repair.  Marshbank pointed out that,” with greater volumes of stock returning on trucks to the warehouse, it’s easy to lose track of all of the items being moved around – which in turn increases the risk of theft.”
Advances in technology have made it possible to scan items being collected by each vehicle at the various delivery points. This information can then be integrated into warehouse management system that allows users to verify whether all the items have in fact been returned to the warehouse.
“This means assessing them to see if they need to be repaired, repackaged or simply moved to the front of the queue for saleable goods that are about to leave the warehouse,” said Marshbank.
This than becomes of importance when considering goods that have a limited shelf life. “Every day these goods are back in the warehouse, they’re impacting on your bottom line, so it’s important to get them back on the shelves as soon as possible. That is why a good warehouse management system is critical to streamline the process because it enables staff to allocate items to the correct bays, ensuring that they’re the first items that leave the warehouse again to fill orders. Failing this, companies stand to see their December profits eroded in the month that they can least afford for this to happen. It is clear that efficiency at each step of the returns process is key,” he said.

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