If there is one thing that’s certain in today’s retail trade, it’s that there are no certainties!

Though demand forecasting and inventory control are evergreen issues, they are now the source of particularly heated discussions in many boardrooms and executive teams.

The fast pace of retail transformation and ever-higher consumer expectations are making it more complex than ever to predict trends and patterns. Competition is fiercer and brand loyalty more fragile than ever before. Retailers are now increasingly in the hands of random variables and subject to increasing numbers of seasonal peaks and troughs.

This adds to new layers of uncertainty to buying roles, supply chain management and inventory control. The companies who survive this, will not be the ones who rely on tradition, long-standing experience and “gut instinct” to guide them.

Instead, analytical tools are now the key to success.

Knowledge and control comes from technology

Improved data flow from supply chain control systems, inventory management and transportation management systems (TMS) is just the start. But it’s an important launch pad for being able to respond far more swiftly and robustly when problems and opportunities arise.

From this solid platform, demand prediction software makes sense. Not only can you see into the future better, you know how well – and how quickly – you can respond as an organisation.

Retail demand forecasting tools use historic and current data to map potential consumer patterns. They are increasingly sophisticated and provide important insights into buying behaviour and the effects of multiple variables. It can help to make sure that the products on your shelves are what consumers want, even before they know it themselves.

Demand forecasting “demands” new skills

From better ability to see forwards, you build greater skill in sourcing, allocating and replenishing inventory. You also gain more assurance in price and promotion planning.

This creates an important shift in attributes required for retail executive search, in terms of purchasing, supply chain management and inventory control.

At one time, retail executive recruitment pivoted largely on extensive experience of this sector. This was an important measure of how versatile and responsive senior staff could be in predicting consumer trends and gearing up the business to respond.

It is now a more finely tuned balance between science and experience, being tech-savvy and having good natural empathy and affinity with your target consumer.

A senior recruit could potentially step into a management role in buying, warehousing, supply coordination and product planning with little or no previous retail experience.

Analytics are going a long way to harnessing uncertainty in the retail sector and finding executives who can interpret and apply them is now crucial.

If you need executive recruitment with the best balance of abilities in the search mix, contact Anthony Gregg for support.