A slowed economy, a tentative consumer and vulnerable supply chains have combined to make this year's holiday season one of uncertainty. Dealers who wish to come out ahead are going to have to keep a venerable witch's brew of potential contingencies under close consideration in the days ahead.
For years, retailers and manufacturers alike have been perfecting supply chain management. Wal-Mart owes much of its dominance in the retail arena to its inventory and distribution systems that put products on the shelves when and where they are needed. Carmakers likewise have developed highly complex supply chain management systems to ensure just-in-time delivery of critical parts and components for the assembly line. Inventory management in this great Information Age had become almost an exact science, ushering in unparalleled efficiencies in the way makers and merchants move products.
All that came down with the Twin Towers on September 11. Suddenly, the country braces for war, and the volatile new climate is one marked by uncertainty. Security at our borders is tighter than ever, and shipments from around the world are subject at any time to significant delays due to security checkpoints or the grounding of flights due to more terrorist incidents. Shipments are actually being passed through compression chambers to ensure that they don't contain time-sensitive explosives. All these factors contribute to the potential threat of massive delays in inventory management.