Achieving Excellence in Retail Operations

The Achieving Excellence in Retail Operations (AERO) study examines what retailers are doing well, and identifies considerable opportunities to make an immediate impact on performance and generate a long-lasting advantage.

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Retail Success Still Depends on Core Principles

The 2013 Achieving Excellence in Retail Operations study

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As we developed A.T. Kearney's 2013 Achieving Excellence in Retail Operations (AERO) study, we were aware of the huge changes that had occurred just since our previous study in 2010. Three years ago, we did not ask retailers anything about social networking. We covered far fewer options for deploying technologies to customers—and for getting information back from them. And although we asked about multiple channels, the notion of integrated channel retailing was at best a distant mirage. But look what happened with our results in 2013: Despite the changes, the AERO study demonstrates the importance of many traditional core principles of retailing. It confirms that running a successful retail operation is all about people: employees, customers, and the interactions between them. One of the biggest secrets to success is the simple notion of engagement: listening to your staff and your customers. Another is cutting back on administrative burdens to get managers out in the field. And although the new wealth of technologies and available data is a great boon, often the most productive uses of it are in addressing familiar challenges such as managing shrink and out-of-stocks.

Sure, it is both fun and important to look at new technologies and the insights you can gain from them. Yes, there is some value in the gee-whiz imaginings of a Jetsons-like retail future. But when you dig deep into what actually generates profits for today’s most successful retail companies, it turns out that they’re simply good at what great retailers have always been good at: the nuts and bolts of operations. They identify the right metrics, analyze them appropriately, and act intelligently. They support field leadership with tools and processes to improve their decision making. They rely on, and seek insights from, front-line staff. And they view technology as neither a threat nor a toy, but as a tool that better enables them to achieve ancient ambitions such as customer insight, operations efficiency, and customer service.

In a sense, then, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In an information-soaked environment, amid the emergence of multiple retail channels, it’s important to understand how to take advantage of the changes. But it’s equally important to keep a hand on the pulse of core principles: people, customers, and physical store layouts. This report examines the insights from our 2013 AERO Study to show how retailers are turning great operations into profits.

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Related Article

  • Retail Success Still Depends on Core Principles

    Retail Merchandiser Blog, 30 May 2013

    A.T. Kearney’s Achieving Excellence in Retail Operations (AERO) study uncovers insights into how retailers worldwide can improve their operations.


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