For Walmart suppliers hoping for quicker access to backroom inventory data as they walk the aisles, there's now an app for that.
The SPARC (Supplier Portal Allowing Retail Coverage) app was unveiled last month at its annual gathering of suppliers in Orlando known as the Year Beginning Meeting, according to the newmarketbuilders blog.
Suppliers who receive appropriate training will be able to use their smartphones to perform many of the functions that currently require assistance from a store associate armed with a bulky Telxon tracking device, according to retailtoday.com. With the likelihood of dozens of suppliers in a store on a given day, finding an associate with a Telxon can be a frustrating process.
"Suppliers often visit our stores to check on their products," Walmart spokesperson Ashley Hardie, told Arkansas' The City Wire. "Allowing them access to on-the-spot information through the app on their smartphone increases efficiency and allows for real-time decisions — and in retail, speed is important."
The program will be rolling out this summer. Beyond real-time access to data, suppliers and third-party merchandising firms will be trained to use the devices to handle basic practices such as printing missing shelf labels for items, stocking their products, and ensuring their displays are correct.
The program, developed by Walmart's digital partner Rockfish, was piloted in 28 stores in four markets over the last several months with several major suppliers including L'Oreal, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Kellogg, Unilever and ConAgra.
Some see the app as a potential labor saving device for Walmart. Staffing issues are said to be behind reported replenishment issues at Walmart. The retailer has disputed the reports, first published by Bloomberg News.
Proactive suppliers stand to benefit from SPARC.
Speaking to The City Wire, Jami Dennis, a retail consultant who teaches classes on retail replenishment, said many smaller suppliers underestimate the follow-through work required at the store level that follows an initial order. Smaller vendors also face bigger challenges contacting a replenishment manager.
"Improving replenishment standards is manageable, but suppliers need to be engaged every step of the way," Ms. Dennis said.
How effective do you suspect a supplier app such as SPARC will be in improving the in-store replenishment process?