As the largest British retailers set their sights on the international marketplace, opportunities for graduates are expanding farther afield. And nowhere more so than in the area of logistics: the art of moving products from A to B.
It may not sound it, but logistics is a dynamic retail activity fuelled by technology enabling the accurate logging of stock, tracking of sales and efficient replenishment of supermarket shelves.
"Logistics" covers a broad range of distribution activities, such as liaising with product suppliers and co-ordinating the delivery of goods to a retailer's storage centres. It also covers managing stock before it is distributed to branches, co-ordinating the division, allocation and delivery of stock to branches and monitoring sales to start the whole process from scratch once again. This process has been evolved considerably with the development of computer networks linking cash tills to warehouses, ensuring new goods are ordered at the time they are sold. Technological change has also been fuelled by increased pressures on retailers' costs. Today, managers are working to maximise the efficiency of distribution systems and networks while minimising costs. "Logistics is about far more than understanding distribution computer systems or, for that matter, co-ordinating fleets of lorries," says Asda's human resources manager for logistics, Carol- Ann Massie. "It's also about people management and strategic planning - it's a core part of every retailer's supply chain." Asda recruits l20 graduates each year on to its three-year retail training scheme; around seven of these will be taken on to work in logistics which, although administered centrally, is run as a separate training scheme. Starting salaries are from pounds 16,000. Asda employs between 6,000 and 6,500 in logistics. Graduates taken into logistics typically gain experience through three placements: in supply, line management and special projects. Supply analysts liaise with storage depots, distribution handlers and product buyers from head office. Line managers work within distribution centres, managing drivers, stackers and loaders. Project work can range from co-ordinating new distribution centres to work with national transport teams. "We are looking for relevant experience where appropriate, good communication skills with people at all levels of an organisation, and an outgoing nature," Carol-Ann Massie says. After two years' training, graduates will move into distribution, supply or to head office logistics departments such as transport, IT, supply planning and supply forecasting, where analysts plot future shopping trends. Each of the UK's major retail chains runs a graduate recruitment and training scheme. Most divide recruits into tomorrow's store managers and specialists who are taken into centrally-based departments such as marketing, finance, product development and logistics. …