The face of retail has forever changed, with the COVID-19 pandemic further amplifying an already dismal outlook for brick-and-mortar operations. Coresight Research is now predicting store closures could reach an all-time high in 2021 as the effects of the virus and online shopping habits continue to grow.

Flexible fulfillment
While consumers may prefer to do more online ordering in the future, retailers can still utilize their existing brick-and-mortar footprint to fulfill customer needs in 2021 and beyond. Stores offering low-contact click and collect pickup options, such as buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup, will continue to attract more shoppers who have enjoyed the convenience and safety of these services throughout the pandemic.

With online orders continuing to overwhelm warehouses operations, some retailers are also transforming their physical stores into mini fulfillment hubs. In addition to the popular click-and-collect services, retailers are able to leverage their in-store inventory and physical proximity to customers to increase delivery speeds and reduce transportation costs.

Adding automation
With the ongoing labor shortage and mandatory social distancing practices, automation can provide some added relief for retailers looking to expand their fulfillment capabilities. While many traditional fixed systems require longer lead times and a large upfront investment, flexible solutions can be installed in as little as a few weeks at a fraction of the cost. Most of these solutions are also scalable and portable, enabling retailers to rapidly expand or relocate the systems as volumes and requirements change.

The only thing certain in these times of uncertainty is that change is inevitable. The best way for retailers to prepare for the new normal—and the next normal—is to employ flexible supply chain solutions that are capable of quickly adapting to meet constantly changing requirements and achieve high customer satisfaction.

A version of this article originally appeared in SupplyChainBrain.

About the Author
Dale Harmelink
Dale Harmelink