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1st Row

Combatting growing pains within small retailers

Starting up as a retailer is easy – it’s managing growth that’s tricky. Entrepreneurial individuals can leverage any one of over 400 marketplaces to build up a brand and access global customers. Stock can be stored in a single location and orders quickly fulfilled by hand. But that’s just the start. Successful business expansion depends upon the ability to sustain customer experience and brand value irrespective of the number of additional customers, channels, or product lines. And that is where a great business – and business owner – can start to unravel. 

Identifying the right time to invest and scale up the business to the next level is difficult. But there are often signs the current model is beginning to creak. Whether it is spending evenings and weekends trying to keep up with orders, making mistakes in order processing and inventory that are leading to customer service issues, or feeling overwhelmed by a spiralling cost base, it is time to invest in technology before growth risks derailing the business.

Chris Timmer, CEO of Linnworks explains why an e-commerce platform that seamlessly manages inventory and order fulfilment across multiple marketplaces, third-party logistics, and couriers, as well as providing a real-time view of business performance, is essential to safeguarding both customers’ and owners’ retail experiences… 

Expanding Business Opportunities

The number of UK retail companies is on the rise, with a 14% increase in five years, resulting in an additional 27,445 new companies in the sector. Many of these companies have exploited the power of online marketplaces to take an idea from the kitchen table to potentially a global audience. Entrepreneurs have mastered product design, sourcing, and marketing; they have leveraged small start-up capital investments to build inventory, create the right pricing model, and curate a brand. All of this typically uses basic tools such as spreadsheets.

But what happens next? When customers like the product, sales soar and feedback is great, how does a business take the next step? Multi-channel retail is really important – with 70% of customer searches originating on marketplaces and social media– but each additional marketplace adds complexity and risk. How can the order process be managed effectively? Where should stock be located? Are third-party logistics (3PL) providers the best option? Which courier’s price and service delivery model provides the best fit for customer expectations? And is it possible to provide customers with the full visibility of order status throughout?

These decisions are daunting – and it can be tempting to stay small in order to control. But realistically, is the business really under control? Or is the business owner working 7 days a week simply to keep the wheels turning? Any growing small business will hit a point when change is inevitable. But what needs to change and where should the investment be focused? Adding people is expensive, inflexible, and higher risk, especially when sales can be cyclical at best, and volatile at worst. Extending the number of marketplaces the business sells through is simple on paper but can be a nightmare in practice, especially if a retailer is still trying to handle the entire process manually and can be a fast track to losing hard-won customer loyalty.

Timing is Everything

To scale without adding unnecessary risk or unacceptable cost, a retailer needs to connect and automate every aspect of the e-commerce process. With a flexible pricing model that aligns cost to value, dedicated Connected CommerceOps software affordably provides a level of cross-marketplace efficiency with inventory management and fulfilment excellence that cannot be achieved using multiple spreadsheets or home-grown databases.

By operationalising the entire e-commerce process, a small retailer can seamlessly scale up while sustaining a high-quality customer experience. With a single, reconciled view of inventory across warehouses and third-party logistics providers, the risk associated with expanding across multiple marketplaces is mitigated by enabling efficient order fulfilment processes that truly meet each customer’s expectations.

Leveraging an ecosystem of integrated solutions to include pricing, listing capabilities, or shipping to provide customers with full visibility of order status and delivery, with access to marketplace channels, the entire e-commerce process can be executed holistically. The retailer’s reach is extended while safeguarding the quality of experience that is at the heart of successful, profitable growth.

Retain Focus with Intelligence

Furthermore, Connected CommerceOps delivers new levels of insight into every part of the retail process, allowing early intervention when inevitable problems arise and supporting further growth plans. Rather than spending 100% of the time operationally firefighting, a business owner or management team can use insight to understand trends in customer behaviour, optimise inventory models, and continually assess courier performance.

For example, evidence suggests that a five or more marketplace model provides optimum performance for a small but growing retailer. It smooths out the volatility that can occur with a one or two-channel model and, with complete visibility and automation, provides a successful platform for growth. Once retailers have become established at that level, insight into performance across each marketplace, product line, and customer profile can then support further marketplace expansion as required.

Critically, this can be achieved without working seven days a week; without the need to constantly juggle order fulfilment with finance, and customer services with merchandising. Combining slick operational processes with accurate business insight not only allows a retailer to scale and sustain the customer experience but it also gives a retail owner their weekends back. 


Many entrepreneurs wait too long to make the change. They hit the moment when the excitement of business success tips over into the dread of business overwhelm. And while it is always tough to decide when it is right to invest in the technology required to support growth, it is far, far better to go early than wait too long, miss the boat, and watch hard-won success unravel.

Investing in the right technology at the right time safeguards not only business growth but an entrepreneur’s business commitment. No more problems associated with inconsistent stock information, leading to missed opportunities and the untenable costs associated with overstocking. Or nights spent second-guessing this season’s performance when planning what to buy for next season. And no more risk associated with unfocused multi-marketplace models that add complexity but fail to truly reflect the business concept.

By investing in automation at the right time and operationalising the business, a retailer owner reduces the risks associated with growth, while retaining the innovative spirit that was the original business inspiration.

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

TRANSPORT PLANNING MONTH: How approaches to transport planning have evolved

Transport planning within supply chain management has experienced significant evolution over the last 10 years, driven by technological advancements, environmental considerations, and changing market dynamics. For Supply Chain Managers, these shifts have necessitated a reevaluation of traditional transport strategies, leading to more efficient, sustainable, and responsive operations. Let’s explore the trends, based on input for attendees at the recent Total Supply Chain Summit…

1. Embracing Digitalisation and Technology

Perhaps the most transformative change has been the widespread adoption of digital technologies. A decade ago, many supply chain managers relied heavily on manual processes for transport planning. Today, the utilisation of Transport Management Systems (TMS) and advanced software solutions has become standard. These digital tools offer enhanced capabilities for route optimisation, load planning, carrier selection, and real-time tracking of shipments. The integration of GPS and telematics has further revolutionised transport planning, providing unprecedented visibility and control over logistics operations.

2. Focus on Sustainability

Environmental sustainability has become a central consideration in transport planning. In response to growing environmental concerns and regulatory pressures, supply chain managers are increasingly adopting eco-friendly practices. This includes optimising routes to reduce fuel consumption, transitioning to alternative fuels, and investing in electric or hybrid vehicles. Furthermore, the concept of ‘green logistics’ has gained traction, with an emphasis on reducing the carbon footprint of transport operations.

3. Agile and Flexible Planning

The dynamic nature of the global market, underscored by challenges such as Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, has highlighted the need for agility and flexibility in transport planning. Supply chain managers are now prioritising adaptive transport strategies that can swiftly respond to changing market conditions and disruptions. This involves diversifying transport modes, maintaining buffer stocks, and developing contingency routes to mitigate risks and ensure uninterrupted supply chains.

4. Collaboration and Integration

There has been a shift towards greater collaboration and integration within the supply chain. Managers are now working more closely with suppliers, manufacturers, and transport providers to create more cohesive and efficient transport strategies. This collaborative approach, often facilitated by cloud-based platforms, ensures the alignment of transport planning with broader supply chain goals.

5. Customer-Centric Approach

Driven by the rise of e-commerce and heightened customer expectations, transport planning has become more customer-focused. Supply chain managers are now more attuned to customer needs, emphasising speed, reliability, and transparency in deliveries. This customer-centric approach has led to innovations such as last-mile delivery solutions and enhanced tracking systems for customers.

6. Data-Driven Decision Making

Data analytics has taken a front seat in transport planning. Supply chain managers are leveraging data to make informed decisions, predict trends, and identify areas for improvement. By analysing data related to transport times, costs, and carrier performance, managers can optimise transport strategies for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.


In conclusion, the landscape of transport planning in UK supply chain management has evolved significantly over the last decade. Supply chain managers have had to adapt to technological advancements, environmental concerns, market volatility, and changing customer demands. By embracing digitalisation, focusing on sustainability, adopting agile strategies, fostering collaboration, prioritising customer needs, and utilising data analytics, they have developed transport strategies that are not only efficient but also resilient and adaptable to future challenges.

Are you looking for Transport Planning solutions for your organisation? The Total Supply Chain Summit can help.

Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash