Growing pressure on retail sector “could increase risk-taking in supply chain”

Growing pressure on the retail business sector could increase risk-taking in the supply chain, data in a new report suggests. With more than 7,500 shops closing in 2018 and High Street brands hitting the headlines, if retailers are not able to manage the trade-off between risk and cost then that could lead to further store closures and the disappearance of more well-known brands.

In the latest Global Supply Chain Risk Report, published by the Cranfield School of Management and Dun & Bradstreet, data for the retail sector shows increased levels of risk-taking since Q4 2018, with retailers reporting high levels of dependency on suppliers and indicating a propensity to off-shore to low-cost, high-risk countries where suppliers are more likely to be financially unstable.

The quarterly Global Supply Chain Risk Report investigates the level of perceived supply chain risk faced by European companies with international supplier relationships. Using four key metrics – supplier criticality, supplier financial risk, global sourcing risk and foreign exchange risk – it assesses overall supply chain risk and provides businesses with a view of trends within their industry sector and the wider economy. In analysing trends by sector, the report highlights areas for monitoring and consideration in procurement decisions.

Dr Heather Skipworth, senior lecturer in logistics, procurement and supply chain management at the Cranfield School of Management, said: “We know from recent news headlines on store closures, and the collapse of well-known chains, that the UK retail sector is under huge pressure at the moment. With many consumers preferring to do their shopping online, any retailer with a ‘bricks and mortar’ footprint will be feeling the pressure. Analysis suggests that the sector is sourcing more from low cost regions, which are often associated with heightened risk and the potential for supply chain disruption caused by political, environmental or economic factors.”

Skipworth added: “There’s also an increased probability of suppliers themselves being financially unstable in these countries. To mitigate these risks, it’s imperative that retailers ensure they’re practising dual supply strategies in order to help manage the trade-off between risk and cost and ensure the smooth running of operations.”

Identifying cost efficiencies

Chris Laws, product leader at Dun & Bradstreet, observed: “With retailers under pressure to identify cost efficiencies, it’s more important than ever for them to know exactly who they’re doing business with to help minimise risk and ensure compliance with regulations. Having robust due diligence processes in place is key to ensuring the stability of the supply chain and maintaining responsible, ethical procurement practices. In a challenging economic environment, risk-taking is understandable, but retailers need to ensure they have a full picture of supply chain relationships to flag potential risks and protect their reputation.”

Data for Q1 2019 shows the retail sector experienced the greatest increase in risk since Q4 2018 out of the seven sectors measured, with three out of the four metrics increasing significantly. Three out of the four metrics are also at the highest level of all the seven sectors reported.

Analysis in the Q1 2019 report was carried out using proprietary commercial data supplied by Dun & Bradstreet, which included around 200,000 anonymous transactions between European buying companies and their suppliers in more than 150 countries worldwide.

*The Q1 2019 Global Supply Chain Risk Report is available to download from

**A webinar on the results will be run on Wednesday 19 June at 1.30 pm. For more information and to register visit

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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