5 Steps to Achieve Operational Resilience in the Retail Sector


Operational resilience is a goal that many of today’s retailers are not achieving..

If your retail organization is not truly resilient, any number of potential threats could have a devastating impact on the entire company. From disruptions to the supply chain to damaged reputation to product recalls, retailers face a wide variety of risks. Preparing accordingly could mean the difference between long-term success and an unexpected “going out of business” sale.

To achieve operational resilience, it is vital to take all threats into account and prepare for each as thoroughly as possible. Here, we count down the five steps toward resilience in the retail sector:

1. Identify and manage risks.

Work with your business continuity team, as well as other stakeholders, to ensure all risks facing your organization are accounted for. This includes any internal or external force that would disrupt critical services and operations, such as:

  • Supply chain disruption
  • Reputation risks (especially through social media)
  • IT outages
  • Product recalls
  • Employee injury
  • Natural disasters
  • Socio-political risks (both in the U.S. and abroad)

Ensure that each risk is taken into account and, when possible, mitigated. Of course, it is impossible to do away with every threat. That’s why it is important to properly understand and prepare for each.

2. Develop crisis response plans.

Now that each threat has been identified, create a crisis response plan that will enable the organization to respond quickly and decisively. Establish a protocol for each emergency scenario, with staff backup and redundancy clearly defined throughout the organization.

In the retail sector, crisis response also should include methods for continuing service. For example, how would your organization continue delivering its product if your facility experienced flooding? Think through how various emergencies would impact your ability to continue service and, when possible, plan for ways to work around potential risks.

3. Delegate responsibilities and conduct regular training.

Once your plans are established, be sure that each stakeholder knows his or her role and receives regular training. Employees, partners, contractors and other stakeholders should be briefed on the types of risks that face your organization, as well as what to do if an emergency occurs. Train new employees on each crisis scenario, and conduct refresher training at least once a year to keep their understanding up to date.

4. Streamline communication and raise awareness.

Be sure to make the crisis plans available to all stakeholders in a simple, convenient way. Today, many retailers are moving away from traditional hard-copy planning documents in favor of mobile apps. These platforms turn crisis plans into actionable, digital playbooks that are accessible by every employee using their smartphone or tablet.

A crisis app improves communication and awareness by putting key information right into the hands of your stakeholders, precisely when they need it most. Using the app, employees and other stakeholders can communicate effectively, instantly send alert notifications and submit incident reports, and receive real-time updates.

5. Continually manage business continuity efforts.

Of course, achieving true operational resilience requires ongoing effort. Ensure that your organization has the dedicated staff and resources to effectively manage your business continuity program. Your team should conduct regular planning sessions, as well as implement methods for assessing the success of their resilience efforts. When necessary, they should make corrections to ensure that your organization’s business continuity plans are ready for anything.


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