How to Slash the Inefficiencies of Your Retail FF&E Program

See if you’re spending too much time and money on your retail FF&E program AND learn what to do if you are.

Whether it’s a wave of store remodels, openings, or conversions, your upcoming projects mean preparing for major expenditures. But how long has it been since you’ve reevaluated just how cost-effective your approach is?

By sticking to the same old ways, you could be missing key opportunities to save significantly. Take, for example, your process for retail fixtures, furniture, and equipment (FF&E).

Relying on vendor-direct, just-in-time deliveries to each store site comes with inherent inefficiencies and unnecessary expenses.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Find out how an alternative approach—FF&E consolidation—remedies common inefficiencies while it also generates significant savings.

Understanding the fundamentals of FF&E consolidation

Consolidation involves partnering with a consolidator who receives and warehouses the FF&E you need for future store projects. The consolidator also inspects, organizes, builds custom pallets (if needed), and ships FF&E to specific store sites precisely when they’re needed. (Check out What Is Inventory Consolidation for Retail Fixtures? for more on the fundamentals.)

Okay, let’s dive into those inefficiencies to see how FF&E consolidation saves you time and money.

FF&E consolidation saves you time and money

Inefficiency No. 1: Your FF&E process hampers your staff’s productivity

With a conventional vendor-direct approach, a surge of store projects puts heavy demands on your staff to manage dozens of vendors and coordinate potentially hundreds of just-in-time FF&E deliveries.

Is sherpherding FF&E orders the most efficient use of time?

While that’s happening, those same staff members will likely need to put other important initiatives on the back burner. But is shepherding all those FF&E orders really the most efficient use of their time?

Sure, increasing your head count could help, but is that even possible, especially when you’ll need approval and budget to make a move like that? Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. But what if the staff you already have could use their time more efficiently?

fixture inventory storage

How FF&E consolidation can help

With a warehouse to ship to, your staff can conveniently order FF&E items further in advance, potentially for your entire program’s next cycle. You can also ramp up for projects faster because your FF&E are now sitting ready to be picked, packed, and shipped when needed. 

Then there’s the bigger picture: Your current staff are more efficient because they can focus on managing FF&E inventory levels—rather than managing all those vendors.

Your shipping and logistics costs are way too high

Inefficiency No 2: Your shipping and logistics costs are way too high

A direct-to-store supply chain model relies on an LTL (less-than-truckload) network, which is both inefficient and expensive because it requires more trucks on the road hauling smaller amounts of freight.

Shipping LTL will come at a higher cost.

As Vines explains, “When you ship using an LTL model, it’s going to mean paying a much higher cost per pallet, and you’d be surprised how much that can add up with dozens of store projects,” Vines says.

On top of that, all those vendor-direct deliveries mean a bigger carbon footprint. “If you’re a retailer looking for ways to be green,” says Vines, “you’re missing a big opportunity to show your customers and shareholders that you’re implementing more eco-friendly business practices.”

How FF&E consolidation can help

Consolidation saves you significant money thanks to full truckload shipping. That’s because your warehouse space lets you buy FF&E in bulk volumes for multiple stores, leading to both more full truckloads and fewer overall shipments.

Similarly, when your consolidation team ships FF&E to store sites, they can create full truckloads with all the needed fixtures and store supplies—everything from shopping carts to registers to entrance carpets.

Your installation times are taking too long

Inefficiency No. 3: Your installation times are taking too long

You do your best to estimate—and budget for—the time it’ll take installation crews to set up a store. But of course, efficient installations depend largely on the timely arrival of critical FF&E.

Just-in-time deliveries from vendors can be late for myriad reasons. Plus, there can be problems with the contents of the order themselves. Disruptions like these come with a cost and slow installation down. Will installers have to hang around longer than estimated? Will they need to be called back?

When stores don't open on time, anticipated revenue is lost forever.

In worst case scenarios, you may even have to delay openings. “When stores don’t open on time, anticipated revenue is lost forever. That’s not the kind of news you want to bring back to executives and shareholders,” says Vines.

How FF&E consolidation can help

With consolidation, ALL your needed FF&E items are already at the warehouse, ready for delivery to your site on day one. Also, chances for order problems are reduced because the consolidator inspects FF&E and audits your entire store order before shipping.  

With these advantages, you could compress installer timelines, negotiate shorter setups, even move soft openings up in your calendar and start ringing in sales sooner.

You’re paying too much due to cost creep and missed savings

Inefficiency No. 4: You’re paying too much due to cost creep and missed savings

We’ve already touched on how LTL shipping is both inefficient and expensive (see above). But with every transfer terminal and forklift touch, this method also increases your risk of lost and damaged freight. And that can turn into more costs due to reorders and last-minute shipping. 

And what about when a vendor-direct order goes out but the store site isn’t ready for it? You’ll have to find a temporary—and likely expensive—storage solution. 

There’s also the fact that relying on vendor-direct, just-in-time shipments means ordering individually for specific store sites. But by doing that, you’re missing out on bulk rate discounts.

How FF&E consolidation can help

All those full truckloads (see No. 2) minimize loss and damage because your freight doesn’t travel through multiple terminals—nor get touched by multiple forklifts. Moreover, if there’s a sudden schedule change but FF&E are already en route, the driver simply returns to the warehouse. Your consolidator will unload your FF&E at no extra cost. 

And since you’re having FF&E shipped to your warehouse space in advance, you can leverage vendors’ bulk rate or tiered pricing plans for larger orders—potentially a huge cost-saver.  

You’re at the mercy of the supply chain

Inefficiency No. 5: You’re ultimately at the mercy of the supply chain pendulum

The recent pandemic caused construction, manufacturing, shipping, and delivery delays worldwide while also contributing to inflation and labor shortages. And a war breaking out in Eastern Europe only added to the chaos.

Now that the supply chain pendulum has swung back to a degree of normalcy, it may be tempting to heave a sigh of relief and just return to business as usual. But what about learning from the past?

Think about these questions: How well did you handle your supply chain challenges, particularly when it came to your FF&E? Did your competitors struggle as much as you did? And how prepared will you be when (not if) that pendulum swings back to more supply chain pain?

How FF&E consolidation can help

Since that warehouse space enables you to order further in advance, you can blunt the sting of longer vendor lead times. You can also build up a safety stock of FF&E, which can help keep you on track when the supply chain goes awry.

In addition, you can now be more strategic with your purchasing decisions, choosing to order or delay ordering based on market conditions.

Just how much could YOU save with FF&E consolidation?

FF&E consolidation can improve your efficiency AND save you significantly. But every retailer’s situation is different. That’s why Store Opening Solutions offers a free FF&E program audit. Find out what factors we analyze to calculate your real savings potential.

About Store Opening Solutions

We support the strategic vision of retail organizations with focused expertise in the consolidation and installation of store fixtures and equipment. Our dedicated team embraces your vision and partners with you to create appropriate inventory control processes.