After absorbing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent inventory challenges, executives surveyed are focused on fine-tuning their supply chains and taking advantage of the latest tools and strategies for mitigating future turbulence, Carl Marks maintained. As they prepare for the year ahead, 53% of respondents said they plan to diversify their supplier base, while 46% intend to increase onshoring, 44% to invest more in supply chain technology and 43% to do more with automation.
Most retailers in the survey said they wanted to realign their market position to accommodate evolving dynamics, with most either planning to open new storefronts, at 96%, or close existing locations, at 89%. Despite plans to shake up their brick-and-mortar portfolios, a significant minority of respondents said they would invest in more employees, at 35%, or customer service, at 39%.
Other survey findings include:
AI Will Impact All Aspects of Retail. At 56%, the majority of respondents cited plans to invest in AI to support marketing initiatives, and 52% said they would boost resources dedicated to financial forecasting, while less than 1% of respondents reported that they had no AI investment strategy for the coming year.
Widespread Optimism. Less than 10% of respondents expected sales to decrease in 2024 versus 2023, while only 38% of respondents believe rising inflation will impact supply chain investments.
Supply Chain Evolution. Less than 1% of respondents reported that they don’t intend to act on supply chain development in the year ahead.
Customer Experience Innovation. Retailers are prioritizing simple and efficient transaction processes and payment options to enhance customer experience, with 37.2% of respondents investing in buy now, pay later programs, and 35.6% focusing on implementing same-day delivery options.
“With inflation abating and interest rates leveling off, 2024 presents an exciting opportunity for retailers with the courage to embrace out-of-the-box thinking and innovation,” said Howard Meitiner, managing director at Carl Marks. “Retailers who are prepared to re-evaluate their business model and take the necessary steps to invest in integrated omnichannel experiences should be optimistic about the coming year. Following record lows in unemployment and a strong holiday season for retailers, now is not the time to be pessimistic. Companies willing to risk trying something different, whether a new strategic partnership or sourcing on-shore, will be rewarded in 2024.”