BIG BOX STORES… IT’S YOUR MOVE

Major retail importers must calculate their next chess moves.

Instead of keeping up with market trends, they need to assess and prioritize what cargo is most important so that by the time it’s sitting on their shelves, it’s not collecting dust.

A recent Freight Waves article states that Black Friday is kinda-sorta happening all summer long. Target, Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart have slashed prices on goods people don’t need anymore because they’re going back into the workplace and traveling abroad rather than stay-at-home-cations and redundant Zoom meetings. As a result, flashy TVs, outdoor furniture, and leisurewear are heavily discounted. 

Usually, influential organizations and systems can easily absorb unexpected issues.

But from the news, how retailers are in this sort of scramble only means they were playing catch up from the get-go. And now, they’re in the same vicious circle as the holidays are just around the corner. 

Putting stress into the zeitgeist is not only a good thing but a great thing. From stress, only muscles are built, and resilience is made. The supply chain gets stronger because preventative solutions show themselves. Stresses inform the system what does and doesn’t work.

Some things are for sure in America, and the spending habits of consumers are always going to fluctuate with the change of seasons and crises (whether it be manmade or natural). For example, you can feed, nourish, and love a turkey all year long, but once Thanksgiving rolls around the corner, it becomes food.

Could there be solutions for these retailers rather than stating the problem and putting more trepidation into our industry? 

Like an omniscient presence with a bird’s eye view, puppeteering what cargo container goes where, what truck needs to move what from warehouse to store, and what ship needs to take what from the country of origin to destination. They’ll be able to take sniper rifle shots instead of scattered bird shots, so they’re not just shooting in the dark, hoping something sticks.

Retail importers can take much more calculated measures. They don’t have to struggle to get more things on and off the shelves.

How does this omniscient presence form these masterful chess moves? With transparent data sharing digital technology, of course.

And who becomes one? Anybody, honestly. 

No rocket-science degree is required. On one single screen, an importer can see what is being shipped, when it’s being shipped, why it’s being held at customs, and how long it’s waiting at the port. Then, he/she/they can calmly decide which truck needs to take the top-of-mind cargo pronto.

There’s no need to hire a fancy consultancy or strategist group to predict the future based on a false narrative from the past. People who follow these predictions risk suffering the consequences when things don’t work out as expected.

Retailers can make plays to steadily move the ball down the line instead of throwing Hail Mary’s and pray. This helps with consistency. It ensures everyone is spending and putting money back into the economy at the right place, time, and frequency. 

They’ll have an unprecedented ability to understand and use data to drive decisions, address trade disruptions, clear customs, procure drayage, and ultimately alleviate supply chain chokepoints. Moreover, they won’t depend on consumers’ granular individual spending habits. 

It won’t matter what the next crisis is, oh, and there will be one. Retail importers will be impenetrable because they’ll have a much better sense of knowing before a wave crashes. They can now manage the risks from unpredictable events and, dare we say it, benefit.

Author Nassim Taleb coined this kind of thing Antifragile. “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors…antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

Retail importers can be a hydra rather than a Phoenix. Instead of just being reborn, after one head is cut off, they instantly grow two and are stronger than ever.

Take advantage of this moment. Seize the solutions because they’re already here. Stay away from the rat race path of trying to keep up with supply and demand from the weeds and stay above the clouds. Try something new. It’s scary, but it’s the only way to strengthen and grow muscle.