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OR Forum Paper on Retailing

The OR Forum (part of the journal Operations Research) has just put out a new paper:  Marshall Fisher on “Rocket Science Retailing”:

In the May-June, 2009 issue of Operations Research, Marshall Fisher, UPS Transportation Professor for the Private Sector at the Wharton School, discusses his experiences with the Consortium for Operational Excellence in Retailing. This paper grew out of Fisher’s 2006 Philip McCord Morse Lecture. From the abstract:

Retailing is a huge industry. In the United States, retail business represents about 40% of the economy and is the largest employer. Retail supply chain management is still more art than science, but this is changing rapidly as retailers begin to apply analytic models to the huge volume of data they are collecting on consumer purchases and preferences. This industry-wide movement resembles the transformation of Wall Street that occurred in the 1970s when physicists and other “rocket scientists” applied their analytic skills to investment decisions.

The Consortium for Operational Excellence in Retailing (COER) (codirected by Ananth Raman, Harvard Business School, and myself) is a group of academics working with about 50 leading retailers to assess their progress towards rocket science retailing and to accelerate that progress through selected research projects.

After some brief comments on the current state of industry practice in retail supply chain management, this paper will describe examples of COER research in four areas: assortment planning, pricing, inventory optimization, and store execution.

There are a couple commentaries on the paper at the website.  Check it out (and feel free to add some comments)!