Are we starting to see new thinking in retail relative to inventory levels?
The reality is that somewhat under the radar, retail inventories have been rising. The inventory-to-sales (ITS) ratio measures the amount of inventory held as a percentage of one month’s worth of sales. As can be seen in the chart below, while the retail ITS is highly seasonal, the trend since 2010 is definitely up. Now, some stores are once again trying to slay the inventory beast.
For example, Tom Shortt, Home Depot’s senior vice president of supply chain told the Wall Street Journal his new message to the stores is “Get comfortable with days of inventory, not weeks.” The retailer is targeting sales growth of nearly 15% by 2018, but wants to keep inventory levels flat or slightly down – quite an accomplishment versus how retail has historically managed sales growth and inventories.
It is a shift happening across the retail sector, as companies try to figure out ways to profitably serve the growing needs of on-line shoppers while making their networks of brick and mortar outlets generate more cash.
“Chains must predict whether demand will come from the internet or a store visit, and whether they’ll ship online orders from a distribution center or a store,” the Wall Street Journal noted. “Every move of inventory is an added cost that eats away at already thin margins.”
As we reported in the Retail Vendor Performance Bulletin recently, Target stores announced earlier this year it was replacing its existing forecasting and replenishment software with in-house developed applications to manage the complexity of inventory deployment and fulfillment across its omnichannel network.
Share your opinions with us in the comment box, and subscribe to get updates.