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September 28, 2015

With the growing prevalence of online and mobile shopping, traditional retailers face significant hurdles to effectively compete in the global marketplace. Adding big data analysis to their toolbox presents an opportunity for retailers to enhance their decision-making process, improve supply chain management and reduce insolvency levels.

Bob Rajan, Managing Director and the Co-Head of Restructuring with Alvarez & Marsal in Munich, and Maximilian Baer, an Associate with A&M, were recently featured in INSOL World about the role of big data in retail restructuring. Mr. Rajan and Mr. Baer spoke with Global Marketing about the current challenges in the retail industry and the role that big data will take in the near future.

Q.  Volatile demand, shifting consumer preferences and the increasing influence of online / mobile shopping are some of retailers’ biggest issues that you highlight in your article. What are other barriers that retailers face when trying to improve performance, particularly as we move into the holiday season and 2016?

Leading into this year’s holiday season, retailers are still facing relatively high stock levels, resulting in significant pressure on prices and promotion activities. Retailers need to be careful not to run into a vicious cycle with price wars and consumers focused on bargaining offers.

Long-term, retailers are facing many other challenges such as demographic change, privacy issues and sustainability, among other potential problems. However, in the end consumers’ behavior and technological change seem to be the most important factors in a retailer’s environment.

Q.  You mentioned that investors across the board have been avoiding retail investments. Do you expect these funding constraints to continue to affect traditional retailers, or could they expect some relief to their liquidity issues in the near future?

We believe that retailers will continue to face significant funding constraints in the future due to the fact that retail in general is a highly volatile business. Particularly, the outlook for traditional financing instruments is unlikely to improve in the near future. However, alternative funding instruments (e.g. asset backed lending and traditional borrowing base facilities) might be an opportunity for many troubled retailers.

Q.  Why haven’t traditional retailers with physical presences fully taken advantage of big data in their decision-making process to date?

Many retailers seem to have ignored the early indicators of this changing retail environment. It is very difficult for retailers to compete and get ahead of their competitors when they have entered the race so late. And while some are still trying to fix their e-commerce platforms, the early birds have taken the next step by creating a “uniform omni-channel” experience for their valued customers.

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