Friday Feb 03, 2023

Behind the bookstore shelves: How supply chain interruptions impacted Notre Dame merchandise and what they mean for business at large – Observer Online


Even Notre Dame’s signature Kelly green is not safe from supply chain issues interrupting industries across the globe.

As supply chain complications persist into 2022, the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore confronts a number of lingering inventory challenges, including difficulties sourcing Kelly green clothing items to sell online and in stores, director of strategic initiatives Gracie Gallagher said.

Since the merchandising industry is fairly forward looking, Gallagher said the Kelly green shortage has not yet affected customers, but it might become prevalent next fall if supply chain complications prevent her team from chasing down enough of the color.

“When we’re hearing in the fall, ‘There’s no Kelly green,’ you might not necessarily notice that immediately, but you might notice it next year,” Gallagher said. “Is the supply chain going to open up enough that we can chase a little bit more with Kelly Green? Otherwise, right now, [we] don’t necessarily have the amount of Kelly green that we would normally want.”

Last football season, the bookstore also faced difficulties stocking every size, adequately staffing stores and maintaining the same volume as previous years. Customers may have been surprised when they could not find their size, or they might have noticed the bookstore looked a bit sparser than usual, Gallagher said.

While most customers were understanding, Gallagher observed many surprised reactions that Notre Dame — despite its resources and reputation — faced the same supply constraints as any other merchandising company.

“A lot of people know Notre Dame as an incredible place, a place that has very good resources and the ability to give lots of financial aid and offer top tier products in the bookstore,” Gallagher said. “The fact that the supply chain woes were impacting a place like Notre Dame was kind of surprising and humanizing to people.”

Gallagher said the bookstore also faced supply challenges for personal technology. Staff members often had to wait months longer than anticipated for computer replacements.

Business professors, including Katie Wowak, who specializes in operations analytics and supply chains at the Mendoza College of Business, also referenced the delays faced when replacing office equipment and computers. 

From a wider scope, Wowak said recent supply chain issues have spurred businesses to change the way they think about their operations and fostered new interest in formerly overlooked supply chain operations.

“I think that COVID really exposed how fragile supply chains are and how global they are,” Wowak said.

Before the pandemic, lean supply chains were the name of the game, but pandemic-induced bottlenecks have encouraged businesses to re-evaluate the low cost just-in-time inventory strategy, Wowak said.

“Companies really tried to operate lean,” Wowak said. “They don’t want to keep a lot of safety stock or excess inventory on hand because that can be expensive for them.”

Holding safety stock and excess inventory adds costs for companies, but the inability to provide products to customers in times of shortage also hurts profits, leading some firms to beef up inventory as insurance against shortages and bottlenecks.

Many manufacturing companies shut down when the pandemic struck. This included many large factories in China where COVID-19 was first discovered. Businesses with lean supply chains quickly burned through their inventory and were unable to order more input materials to solve the …….


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