SUPPLY CHAIN

Prepare for the Perfect Storm

BY Connie Robbins Gentry

August may be the hottest month on the logistics calendar—and it has nothing to do with humidity or temperature. Even if this year’s predictions for an active hurricane season prove false, this is when the perfect storm may begin to brew in retail supply chains.

For starters, back-to-school inventories are circulating from DCs to shelves to customers, teaching retailers valuable lessons about weak links in their distribution cycles. However, for most retailers the ships with peak-season holiday merchandise have already sailed. If not literally, then certainly figuratively—with ocean and transportation capacities tightly booked for the pivotal fourth quarter. Only the most nimble and astute supply chain managers will be able to make adjustments this late in the season.

On a positive note, third-party logistics (3PL) providers are giving retailers viable options that will make it easier and more cost-effective to respond to cyclical shifts and unique consumer demands.

For exceptions management, check out a new Web-based on-demand solution for time-critical shipments from Detroit-based National Logistics Management (NLM). The NLM business model can support a one-time event or repetitive events within dynamic supply chain environments that are characterized by extreme volume fluctuations, making it an ideal fit for the spikes that plague peak-season retail distribution. NLM has ground and air services throughout North America.

Retailers can also learn from the example set by Aaron Rents for bundling electronics equipment and discover how a 3PL partner can work with vendors to create shelf-ready merchandise. With more than 1,380 stores in 48 states, the Atlanta-based retailer has a unique approach: 98% of its customers lease rather than purchase products, albeit primarily in a lease-to-own model.

Computer equipment, one of Aaron’s fastest-growing categories, became much easier to manage after the retailer partnered with Carson, Calif.-based New Age Electronics, a 3PL provider that handles inbound shipments from the retailer’s computer equipment vendor (Hewlett Packard). In addition to assisting with forecast models, New Age receives the product at its DC where laptops are married to their appropriate cases and printers are aligned with their prerequisite cables.

All of the products necessary to complete a computer ensemble are packaged together in what Dag Norton, Aaron’s director of computer purchasing, described as a “more retail-friendly white box,” customized with product labels describing the contents. The bundled packages of computer SKUs ship to one of Aaron’s 16 DCs and, when they arrive at a store, can go immediately to the sales floor. Everything a customer needs is included in a single box, simplifying both inventory management and the consumer’s shopping experience.

According to Norton, sales of computer equipment were up 46% last year. “We saw double-digit growth in desktop sales and sales of notebooks were up 35% to 40%,” he explained. “Our lease-to-own options are as good as or better than the credit options offered by other retailers. Because we aren’t a traditional retailer, developing cost-effective, full-color packaging could be difficult for a manufacturer—but working with New Age has given us the perfect solution.”

In 2006, Aaron’s sales topped $1.3 billion and sales in the first quarter of this year were $387.9 million, a 12% increase over the same period last year.

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Coca-Cola names chief marketer

BY CSA STAFF

ATLANTA The Coca-Cola Company has appointed Joseph Tripodi to the position of chief marketing and commercial officer, reporting to president and coo Muhtar Kent. Most recently, Tripodi was the senior vp and chief marketing officer for Allstate Insurance Co., where he was responsible for the structure, strategy and execution of all of their marketing efforts.

In his role, Tripodi will lead a new function consisting of the combination of the company’s global marketing and commercial organizations. In addition to overseeing all aspects of marketing, he will be responsible for coordinating and leading the company’s strategic direction in commercial leadership.

Prior to joining Allstate in 2003, Tripodi was chief marketing officer for The Bank of New York. He served as chief marketing officer for Seagram Spirits & Wine Group from 1999 to 2002. From 1989 to 1998, he was the evp for global marketing, products and services for MasterCard International, where among other achievements he was a chief architect of the acclaimed “Priceless” campaign. Previously, he spent seven years with the Mobil Oil Corp., where he gained considerable international experience in roles of increasing responsibility in planning, marketing, business development and operations in New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Guam.

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Whole Foods takes top spot on EPA list

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON Whole Foods Market took the top spot this quarter on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Top 10 Retail Partners in its Green Power Partnership program. Other major retailers on the list include Kohl’s (2), Staples (4), Lowe’s (6) and Office Depot.

According to its profile on the EPA Web site, currently, Whole Foods Market is purchasing or generating 100% of its total national power load from green power sources.

The Top 10 Retail Partners in the Green Power Partnership is released quarterly and represents the largest completed annual green power purchases of all Retail Partners within the Green Power Partnership. According to the EPA, the combined green power purchases of these organizations amounts to an estimated 1.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually, which is the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power more than 140,000 average American homes each year.

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