Buyers at Next have had more regular contact with suppliers © Getty Images
Buyers at Next have had more regular contact with suppliers © Getty Images

How working from home has benefited buyers

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
17 September 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has been “expensive and miserable” but it has led to benefits in warehousing and buying, according to Next.

In results for the first half of 2020, Next said home working and travel restrictions had encouraged more regular contact with suppliers and closer collaboration, while more efficient ways of working had been developed for warehouses.

The company said for departments including buying “working from home has forced us to take advantage of new technology with all its possibilities for improved communications, efficiency and employee job satisfaction”.

“In our buying teams, restrictions on overseas travel have actually encouraged more regular contact with suppliers and closer collaboration through video calls.”

Next said PPE and setting up warehouses for Covid had cost £4m, while temporary storage had cost £3m. However, reduced parcel volumes produced savings, which meant overall logistics costs amounted to £5m.

“It is remarkable what can be learnt from shutting down your entire operation and slowly, department by department, store by store, warehouse by warehouse, bringing it back to life,” said Next. 

“All the more challenging and informative with much of the endeavour managed by hundreds of our colleagues sitting in their spare bedrooms, kitchens and conservatories.

“We have learnt how we can work more effectively. Lessons which, if we are careful to preserve them, will stand us in good stead for years to come.”

Next said “one important theme” had emerged. “We have had to let go of some of our time-honoured product selection processes – with all their checks and balances – and we have empowered individuals and small teams to make more decisions outside of the corporate machine. 

“For many, this has been liberating and the best people have increased and improved their creative output. With hindsight, it appears that the corporate machine was supporting the inexperienced and the less able, but holding back the strong.”

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