Wednesday 24th May 2017 - Logistics & Supply Chain

Wal-Mart’s challenge to retail supply chain

“I want us to stop talking about digital and physical retail as if they’re two separate things. The customer doesn’t think of it that way, and we can’t either. Customers just want us to solve their everyday problems with an easy, seamless shopping experience.”

A lot of people in retail are starting to think this way. The significance of this particular statement is that it comes from Doug McMillon, president and CEO of the world’s biggest retailer – Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

His speech, to 14,000 Wal-Mart associates and shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, put particular emphasis on the role of supply chain in developing the strategy.

“We have strong competitors, but they don’t have what we do. They don’t have you – two million associates who want make a difference. Think about the map of our locations. No one else has that incredible network around the world,” he said.

“Now, think about our supply chain and experienced logistics team. I get excited about what our technology team is now capable of. As we add new capabilities and join these unique assets together effectively, we’re going to have something special.”

“We’re approaching this work with both urgency and determination. We’re moving fast to exceed our customers’ expectations, while making purposeful choices that will position us for the long haul. This is a turning point in our story, and the investments we’re making today will set the stage for strong and sustainable growth.”

Of course, there have been a number of retailers that have already moved on from the concept of multiple channels to an omni-channel approach. In the UK, for example, John Lewis has taken a lead in embracing omni-channel thinking.

But Wal-Mart is a huge organisation serving 245 million people around the world. McMillon’s powerful statement of intent is a challenge to retail supply chains globally.

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