Top Retail Supply Chain Executive Speaks About Talent, Analytics, and the Future of Retail

June 9, 2015

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“If you can get down to looking at a specific customer and what their needs are, that’s gold.” – Peter Georgacopoulos

Welcome to Argentus’ Supply Chain Executive Interview series, where we speak with senior leadership in Supply Chain about the state of the talent market and industry trends.

This week, we spoke with senior Retail Supply Chain executive Peter Georgacopoulos. Mr. Georgacopoulos is a Supply Chain analytics guru and operations leader with extensive experience leading Retail Supply Chain transformations. Beyond that, he’s a visionary executive with his eyes on Retail’s future, and a profound understanding of the intersection between efficiency and excellent customer service.  We spoke about:

  • The unique challenges and opportunities in an omni-channel Retail world, using the Books industry as a case study
  • Skills that are most interesting to Retail Supply Chain leaders
  • The future of brick-and-mortar stores
  • The huge business potential inherent in Retail analytics, and more.

It was a fascinating discussion with one of Supply Chain’s leading lights that offered some great business intelligence about where things are headed. We’re sure you will agree.

What does the hiring picture look like from a Retail executive’s perspective?

“Let’s start with talent,” says Georgacopoulos. “I came from planning and allocation with a Supply Chain background. What you find in hiring is, you have to be pretty open with respect to the talent you’re searching for to work in a Retail Supply Chain environment. Supply Chain is changing drastically in the Retail space, and that means that people coming out of university aren’t necessarily experts. You really need to be looking for some seasoned veterans, and the cost of bringing in someone like that is too much for some retailers. So you have to be open minded about who you bring in from a talent perspective. They don’t have to be from a Supply Chain background, but they do have to have business and financial acumen.”

“Supply chain’s not sexy, but it’s becoming pretty important in any industry that you might be in. I think schools are starting to understand that and offer courses along those lines. I’d be looking for somebody that has those courses embedded in their experience. Someone who understands how product moves and the costs associated with the cost of moving product is perfect. I read your article interviewing a rising star in Supply Chain. That’s the perfect person.”

(Hey, thanks for the shoutout! Nadia Kassam is still on the market, by the way, for anyone curious. But she won’t be for long.)

“I can see how lots of technology will become integrated into brick and mortar, but not the other way around.”

The Changing World of Retail:

“You have a Supply Chain industry that has exploded in Retail over the last ten years,” says Georgacopoulos. “And that’s because of the online channel. You have nuances. Who would have thought that online would have exploded the way it has over the last 10 years?”

Retailer-Technology-Trends“And Retail wasn’t ready for it. The challenge is to be able to satisfy the needs of a customer using old practices that a lot of retailers are using right now, and that just isn’t working for them. When online was introduced to the customer, companies first treated it as a complement to bricks and mortar. An online purchase would be a silo’ed event. But with the advent of Omnichannel, a customer doesn’t care. An old school practice is just not working on the online side, so you need to come up with creative solutions. Let’s say you have a retailer that has one warehouse: how do they satisfy next day delivery with one warehouse in all of Canada? Say you work with a retailer that has 200 stores. Can they utilize those retail stores as a satellite network?”

Customers’ demands are increasing. The ability to satisfy those needs by the retailer is becoming very difficult. Someone like Amazon doesn’t have bricks and mortar. Their entire Supply Chain has been built in an online world. They’ve been able to conform to the needs of the customer as they go on. They put a lot of pressure on bricks and mortar. They’re the 800 pound elephant in the room.

So what can Retailers Do to Navigate this Changing Landscape?

“Retailers have to break out of the silo’ed events in terms of what is online and what’s bricks and mortar,” says Georgacopoulos. “They need to incorporate all of their inventory into one set pool, incorporating their processes, planning and allocation department, and look at their demands holistically, and not in silo’ed events. They have to think about how they can reinvent themselves so they can satisfy a customer regardless of the channel the customer shops from.”

The Books Industry as a Case Study:

Let’s look at books; you have two channels: you have a brick-and-mortar and online channel. You have a books industry where there are 4million SKUs. There’s no way where you’re going to get 4 million SKUs in a store, but you will be able to get them online. So how do you fulfill the needs of a customer who’s in store who wants a book that’s online? How do you fulfill their order? If they want their product immediately, how do you get it to them? That’s a problem with any industry that’s SKU intensive. And SKU intensity is increasing because of online all across a bunch of industries. It’s a tough nut to crack, especially in the book industry. But you have massive amounts of data, so you can predict demand. The book industry is doing a lot in terms of demand predictability.

How do you make sure that you do it in a seamless manner and you don’t look like two separate businesses? That’s the challenge.”

“I look at numbers differently from how a lot of people look at them. I don’t look at them from a finance perspective. I look at what the customer is trying to tell us.”

The Future of Brick and Mortar Retail:

“I don’t think brick and mortar stores are going away,” says Georgacopoulos. “But in my opinion, they will become more like showrooms. Leading retailers are doing everything they can to make the experience as fulfilling as online. They’ve gone to bigger amounts of SKUs [shopkeeper units, in other words discreet products]. They’ve put intuitive screens in the store, and they’ve integrated technology to help a customer with decision making, with viewing reviews online. I can see how lots of technology will become integrated into brick and mortar, but not the other way around.”

What’s important in Retail Supply Chain analytics?

“Everything,” says Georgacopoulos. “I live and breathe analytics in a retail environment. I look at numbers differently from how a lot of people look at them. I don’t look at them from a finance perspective. I look at what the customer is trying to tell us. Their transactions, their basket, how many points they’re using. Inside that data is a gold mine. You look at the data that you get from loyalty programs. There is a plethora of information that sits inside that data. And if you can mine it and crack it and get it open, it’s valuable to any retailer.”

“I strongly believe if any retailer brings on any type of loyalty program you explode your data to the Nth degree in terms of understanding what your customer is trying to tell you,” says Georgacopoulos. “A retailer has to listen to the customer. That’s through your data. Unless you have a way to capture a specific customer’s transactions through your system, it’s difficult to understand what your customer is trying to say. If you can get down to looking at a specific customer and what their needs are, that’s gold. You’ve got a massive amount of collaboration between retailers and their suppliers, and point of sale is part of that picture. It’s a massive point of information that retailers can utilize to predict demand, predict product, predict flow.”

–          –          –

Thanks to Peter Georgacopoulos for the insightful, informative and interesting interview. As a boutique recruiter specializing in Supply Chain with retail as a major focus, we’re thrilled that we have visionary executives like Peter in our network who are willing to share their expertise and intel with our readers.

Interviews like this are part of a dialogue. So if you’re a leader in retail Supply Chain, we want to hear from you: What skills are in high demand? How are top retail Supply Chains dealing with the changing business landscape of an omnichannel world? Leave a comment or get in touch at 416 364 9919 or Tweet @ArgentusTalent! 

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