Despite the ever-increasing complexity of modern multichannel retail, the biggest concern for supply chain managers is the age-old desire to increase availability without increasing stockholding.

This was the top business issue for 63% of UK retail supply chain managers quizzed by researchers Martec on behalf of supply chain solutions provider Relex.

The State of Retail Supply Chain 2015 report also found more than a quarter of retailers (28%) have no systems to support their forecasting processes and simply rely on spreadsheets. It also found the average age of all forecasting and replenishment systems, for those retailers that do have them, is 10.5 years.

In terms of forecasting, 69% said the most difficult issue was predicting demand for new products, while 66% said it was forecasting effectively for promotions.

“The research indicates quite clearly that the average UK retailer has established a ‘standard’ level of automation within their supply chain planning and execution,” said Martec International deputy MD Fran Riseley.

“These retailers have started to automate, but many retain a number of basic, manual processes and systems. There is variable visibility of the supply chain and some basic supplier collaboration and monitoring.”

Relex group CEO Mikko Kärkkäinen said the research highlighted that for most retailers “current processes and technology are not supporting supply chain efficiencies optimally”.

Relex has been working with Northern supermarket Booths for just over a year to introduce new forecasting and replenishment software. Andrew Rafferty, Booths IT and e-commerce director, said the new system had helped reduce spoilage by 10% overall and 20% in its most difficult area, its chilled cabinets, as well as ensuring availability was above 95% for all product categories.