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Retail supply chain

Courtesy of DHL

Note from the editor

Traditional retail supply chains have been disrupted by the rise of new distribution and fulfillment channels. Delivery times are faster, stores are becoming online fulfillment centers and many retailers are considering how to pull last-mile delivery in house. These modern challenges have been layered on top of the already complicated traditional supply chains that have kept goods moving to brick-and-mortar stores and into consumers' hands for generations. And that was before a global pandemic complicated both back- and front-end operations for retailers.

In this collection of features, Retail Dive looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic upended some trends, and dramatically accelerated others to further disrupt the flow of goods from manufacturers and suppliers through retailers to consumers. 

The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a harsh hand to the retail industry, first disrupting supply chains overseas and then by sinking demand for discretionary goods in the U.S. and forcing stores to close. Even as things tentatively started to open up — and then in some areas to close down again as new hot spots for the virus emerged — retailers were left with a complicated set of decisions to make around inventory already on hand, how to order for an unpredictable future and what to do with pent up returns accumulated during a season that pushed what few purchases were happening outside of essentials online.  

The only thing certain for the moment is that nothing is certain. 

Liza Casabona Managing Editor

Retail suppliers are still under strain — and it could hurt everyone

Stores are open, but vendors face longer payment terms and financial uncertainty, which could hit retail shelves just as the holidays ramp up.

How Sephora prepped for an e-commerce onslaught

With its biggest sale of the year in April, the retailer was ready for surging volume when stores closed in March, SVP for Supply Chain Mike Racer said.

The strategy behind turning department stores into warehouses

Rumors circulated about Amazon converting vacant mall space into fulfillment centers — a move experts say would round out its omnichannel approach.

Suppliers feel retail's pain, too

As retailers canceled orders and held payments, their vendors were stretched for cash, making hard decisions and worried about what might come next.

From shipments to cash flow, pandemic uncertainty makes reopening harder

Nobody really knows how to forecast the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis without precedent. Getting it wrong could wreak havoc on retailers' operations.

COVID-19 changed the stakes for e-commerce. Do fulfillment networks need to change too?

​The pandemic that cratered demand for discretionary goods and upped screen time has changed the risk calculus for online operations.

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on inventories

Just when retailers had pared down thanks to a busy holiday season, merchandise piled up again.

After COVID-19, is curbside delivery here to stay?

The need for contactless fulfillment is spurring retailers of all sizes and categories to pursue new pickup options that could last.