On 19th October, RELEX held its fifth annual UK Space & Supply Chain Forum, hosted by Ms Päivi Luostarinen, Ambassador of Finland, at the Finnish residence in Kensington Palace Gardens, London.

The Forum provided an opportunity for RELEX to present its vision of a fully unified retail planning solution bringing together supply chain, space and workforce planning to increase operational efficiency.

After a welcome introduction by Ms Luostarinen, RELEX Group CEO Mikko Kärkkäinen kicked off the main seminar by providing a quick overview of RELEX’s progress to date. As an organisation with academic, as Mikko put it, “geeky” roots and over 200 customers in 18 countries, we’re very proud of our growth while staying true to our core value of working collaboratively with our clients to achieve measurable value from their technology investment.

Two customer presentations followed. RELEX’s Kevin Wales gave, on behalf of John Power from Wyevale Garden Centres, an overview of how Wyevale’s partnership with RELEX has helped them to better calculate forecasts and orders for perishable, short–life and rationed products within a highly seasonal industry.

John’s presentation outlined how RELEX has helped Wyevale to significantly improve forecasting, availability and achieve vastly reduced working capital. Of particular note was how the RELEX solution has helped Wyevale adopt a detailed approach to range management across such a rapidly changing inventory. In addition, Wyevale highlighted success in its Christmas range, where with 33% fewer units purchased, WGC achieved 9% higher sales revenue in 2016 compared to the previous year.

We then welcomed Stephen Lamb and Chloe Jacobs from East of England Co-op to present their case study on increasing sales using localised planograms. This was a fascinating insight into the customer adoption of RELEX software as Chloe gave a very honest and appreciative account of using the software hands-on.

The main challenge RELEX has helped East-of-England overcome is a historic lack of visibility of range compliance with Co-Op’s core national products and high degree of range variability at a local level. East of England Co-op is now able to generate store-specific plans that marry core and local products aligned with customer demand. The retail technology overhaul programme resulted in increased availability, improved stock holding and boosted sales. As Stephen said: “We now know that we have the right range, in the right space, at the right time.”

The forum concluded with a panel discussion, hosted by RELEX’s chairman Andrew Blatherwick, with participants including Katy Moren from online electrical retailer AO.com, John Dixey from East of England Co-Op, Michael Berridge, consultant for ICE Supply Chain Planning working for Tourvest Inflight Retail Services, and Mikko Kärkkäinen. The main take-away from the debate was beautifully summarised by Michael Berridge, now on his second RELEX implementation, having previously worked with RELEX at Adelie Foods. Michael concluded, and the other panellists concurred that: “Supply chain affects everything – from HR, to retail, to marketing and operations. It is absolutely vital that you have a change management process that gets buy-in from all stakeholders. RELEX has really helped us understand the ripple effects of our initiative and given us the tools and the data needed to communicate the importance of what we were doing across the business.”

There was a great vibe in the room all afternoon, with delegates keen to discuss challenges and opportunities in retail. As we look ahead to 2018, there is a range of exciting developments in how we can bring merchandising, supply chain and store operations closer together for increased store efficiency, labour optimisation, and forecasting & replenishment accuracy – the future that is Unified Retail Planning.