Inside retail supply chains

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 the continued impact of COVID-19. It 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. Retailers are still dealing with supply chain ramifications, including major bottlenecks, complications surrounding reverse logistics and the expense surrounding streamlining omnichannel operations. 

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

Liza Casabona Deputy Editor

'We're going to see a lot of bare shelves': Retail preps for a holiday beset by supply chain pain

Bottlenecks from factories to cargo ships mean fewer goods on shelves and fewer discounts for the season.

• Published Oct. 4, 2021

The omnichannel age is here — and it's expensive

Store pickup of online orders grew by triple digits amid the pandemic. Retailers are now scrambling to become more efficient sellers across channels.

• Published April 5, 2021

'You can pay or you can wait': How retailers are navigating a shipping crisis

Consumer demand came raging back this year. The supply chain wasn't ready for it, and now retailers, brands and consumers are paying the price.

• Published Aug. 2, 2021

How the case for drone delivery expanded beyond parcels

Parcel-carrying drones haven't filled the skies yet. But some are taking on last-mile deliveries couriers can't do as efficiently.

• Published Oct. 5, 2021

Don't make it free, don't make it easy: How retailers can support sustainable returns

Consumers returned $428 billion in merchandise last year. Retailers need to change systems for the sake of the environment and the bottom line.

• Published April 19, 2021

'Real pressure on supply chains': How major players are balancing costs, speed and a new retail world

Executives from PVH, Under Armour, Dollar General, Tractor Supply and American Eagle spoke about current challenges at NRF's Retail Converge.

• Published July 6, 2021

How the pandemic drove retailers to on-demand warehousing

A pivot to holding more inventory, rising warehouse rents and Amazon's decision to limit its fulfillment service all played a role.

• Published April 12, 2021

After the extremes of 2020, retail resilience means a new sense of what's possible

A pandemic exposed the industry's vulnerabilities and latent survival skills. To weather the next disaster, companies must be agile and take risk seriously.

• Published Jan. 25, 2021

RFID's e-commerce growth spurt

The need for visibility drove companies to invest in solutions for their complete supply chain while Adidas is using the technology to verify provenance.

• Published May 5, 2021

Home Depot, Lowe's build on supply chain foundations to make quick work of omnichannel

When the pandemic arrived around the same time as the home improvement retailers' busy spring season, they had to pivot to meet demand.

• Published March 29, 2021

COVID-19's impact on retail supply chain

The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a harsh hand to the retail industry, between disrupting supply chains overseas, sinking demand for discretionary goods in the U.S. and forcing stores to temporarily close. Retailers are still dealing with those ramifications, including complicated decisions around inventory and handling returns as more purchases move online. 

included in this trendline
  • How Sephora prepped for an e-commerce onslaught
  • The strategy behind turning department stores into warehouses
  • After COVID-19, is curbside delivery here to stay?
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.