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Inventory Visibility Key to Retail Success in Post-Pandemic Environment

SML RFID has launched its “State of Retail Insight Report Part 1: Adapting to a Post-Pandemic Retail Environment” to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the apparel retail industry, while also looking at the sector’s growth and challenges.

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Researchers at the company found that over one-third of retailers said they “feel confident in their business’ ability to grow within the next year, but recovery from the pandemic still remains a concern.”

The report was based on a survey of over 500 industry executives in the U.S. and U.K.

Dean Frew, chief technology officer and senior vice president of RFID Solutions at SML Group, said the impacts and changes “that have come about from the pandemic on retail are clear to see by now. However, as recovery from COVID-19 continues, it’s important that retailers continue to strive to understand the ever-changing needs of their customers and invest in the solutions that help to provide the best customer experience and returns for shareholders possible.”

The company said that the 18 months have “proven to be a significant challenge for the retail industry, having been impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, these organizations were forced to adapt to shifting consumer demands as in-store operations temporarily ground to a halt and e-commerce became the primary sales channel.”

Thirty-eight percent of those polled said recovering from the pandemic has been their most significant obstacle. “However, despite the numerous setbacks that the sector has faced, retailers remain optimistic about the future, and have adapted to the need to fulfill online demand throughout the pandemic,” authors of the report said, noting that two out of five retail decision-makers (42 percent) “say online home delivery has been their primary sales channel the past year.”

But the respondents also recognize “that there are still improvements to be made in delivering top-quality customer service” in this post-pandemic period. SML RFID found that 43 percent of retail decision-makers polled claimed that having “real-time visibility of stock levels would be one of the most critical factors in delivering a better customer experience.”

Frew said as merchants “look to find the balance between in-store and online operations, it is clear that there is still work to be done in developing a seamless omnichannel approach. By investing in the right technology — such as item-level radio frequency identification (RFID) — retailers can have a near-perfect view of inventory to drive better enterprise decision, processes and ultimately be able to provide a better service to consumers.”