Prepare for an Unpredictable Retail Future with Goods-to-Person Automation

This white paper explores how retail distribution and fulfillment centers can confidently address the challenges and uncertainties associated with volatile future demand.

How and why the coronavirus pandemic threw retailers and their warehousing and distribution operations - whether omnichannel, pure e-commerce, or direct-to-store replenishment - into a tailspin has been well documented. Stock-outs of high-demand items.

Exponential growth of e-commerce for both parcel shipping and curbside pick-up at a brick-and-mortar store. Shifting customer demands for more product choices and expectations of hyper-fast, free delivery.

Just as nobody could have predicted the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the future is equally unclear in terms of the demands to be placed upon retail and fulfillment operations. However, these recent predictions from the National Retail Federation (NRF) point to continued growth across all channels:

  • As the U.S. economic recovery accelerates, 2021 retail sales are expected to grow between 10.5% and 13.5% to more than $4.44 trillion, the highest growth rate ever forecast by NRF.
  • As of May 2021, retail growth outside of e-commerce was 17% above 2020 levels.
  • U.S. e-commerce growth in 2021 is predicted to be 17.9%, reaching $933.30 billion.
  • In 2021, e-commerce will represent 15.3% of total U.S. retail sales and is forecast to surpass 20% of total retail sales by 2024.
  • U.S. retailers plan to open more than 4,900 brick-and-mortar stores in 2021 and close around 2,300 storefronts across all sectors.

With the current growth in retail relatively assured, fulfillment operations and distribution centers (DCs) must take steps to mitigate against the uncertainties of consumer demand and the on-going challenges of e-commerce and omni-channel fulfillment.

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