|Simplicity & Complexity of Big Box Retailing|
A couple of years ago, I was asked to deliver a scholarship on behalf of the Winnipeg Chapter of the American Society for Quality in Manitoba, Canada alongside experienced career faculty offering scholarships to students. On the back stage, presenters (faculty members and guests) met for orientation prior to the ceremony. Most of the attendees introduced themselves as professors and/or other prestigious business roles. When my turn came, one could see eyebrows raised as I introduced myself as a Civil Engineer who have taught mathematics of finance at college level and working as a big box retail manager. I heard an unasked question: “how would retail fair with mathematics and engineering?” So, I volunteered an answer: as an engineer, in a highly predictable and well-defined physical laws, the most difficult equation I had to deal with involved few variables and few unknowns; but imagine an equation that has to do with 200 people who are influenced by hundreds of unknowns, and unpredictability interacting daily with over 1,000 customers who are influenced by hundreds of variables and unknowns to offer over 35,000 products and services ranging from a simple nut and nail to sophisticated appliances and kitchens manufactured and/or imported from local communities or from across the glob to drive $35 million business or more. Trust me, I emphasized, I tried mathematical modeling but I could not build that equation. Indeed, I propose that mathematical problem for a contest challenge. Yet, proud and inspired retail managers and employees deal with this equation day in and day out; and deliver unparallel products and services.
Sources: Ayad, A. (2008). Optimizing Inventory and Store Results in a Big Box Environment. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 36 (3), 180 – 191.