Leading supply chain and merchandising executives from across UK retail gathered at the London residence of the Finnish Ambassador on Wednesday for presentations by some of RELEX’s highest profile customers.

Haylea Smith and Jag Banwait from the UK’s leading newsagent WHSmith talked about the growing importance of food in their offering, with chilled items now being sold in 241 of its stores, particularly targeting people wanting affordable meals on-the-go, often at transport hubs or visiting hospitals.

Ms Smith said one of the most noticeable effects of implementing RELEX to handle demand forecasting and replenishment for its food items was that store managers had raised their expectations of their supply chain knowing that it could now deliver more efficiently and reliably than before.

Stuart Hayes from Morrisons on stage

Stuart Hayes, Head of Trading at Morrisons, one of the UK’s ‘big 4’ supermarkets, focused on the retailer’s use of RELEX space and assortment tools. Having been founded on very ‘down-to-earth’ principles Morrisons has adopted technology cautiously with digitization only gaining momentum in recent years. However, as Mr Hayes told the audience, new technology is starting to have a huge impact on ranging decisions.

He explained that by being able to analyse data at individual store level the retailer had gained valuable insights into the behaviour of different product lines. He cited examples including that of Irn-Bru, whose popularity falls the further away from Glasgow stores are – except in the Northamptonshire town of Corby which has a large Scottish population drawn there by the steel industry. Other products also told their own story; for instance, with non-dairy milk alternatives the retailer found that the numerous clusters inside the London orbital motorway were being echoed in university towns around the country, allowing it to understand segments of its market better.

The panel discussion on the challenges for retail arising from a volatile environment featured John Power, from the UK’s leading garden centre chain, Wyevale, Michael Berridge from in-flight retailer Tourvest, and RELEX CEO Mikko Kärkkäinen. RELEX Chairman, Andrew Blatherwick who moderated the panel also brought in contributions from Martin Draper from iconic UK retailer Liberty London.

The presentations were followed by a reception in the residence gardens and a further networking drinks session at a pub in Notting Hill.