What Is Inbound Logistics In Retail?

Inbound logistics is an integral step in a supply chain as it is an essential value-adding element. In retail, inbound logistics refers to receiving your inventory or raw materials that your manufacture to create a new product. Being at the beginning of your supply chain and one of the first steps in your business process, inbound logistics are a critical step. To avoid problems further along in the supply chain, having a robust inbound logistics process is vital.

Why is inbound logistics so important in retail?

While inbound logistics have always played a prominent role in retail, the importance has grown dramatically in the last decade. With a demand for real-time data and instant delivery for both inbound and outbound logistics, having a well-coordinated inbound logistics strategy is essential.

For retail businesses, it is essential for their inbound logistics program to have visibility, with aspects such as real-time dashboards and shorter delivery times. Data analysis and trend monitoring are also necessary so that it can assist processes further down the supply chain such as during outbound logistics and reverse logistics.

For businesses looking to speed-up the supply chain and increase customer satisfaction, inbound logistics is an important aspect of reviewing and making for a leaner operation. It is critical to evaluate the task used for inbound logistics and eradicate as many of the processes that don’t add value.

What is the difference between inbound and outbound logistics?

In simple terms, inbound logistics is between suppliers and the business and outbound logistics. Inbound logistics for retailers doesn’t just have to cover raw materials to make products; it could be stock as well as tools, equipment and business essentials. Anything that you add to your inventory from a supplier can be considered inbound logistics.

Outbound logistics are the processes in place to get your retail goods to your customers; this may be via post, delivery lorries or freight to other businesses who use your business as a supplier. Whether business to business or business to consumer, outbound logistics is another important aspect of the supply chain that can be hampered by delays in the inbound logistics process.

Inbound and reverse logistics

Another aspect of logistics is reverse logistics, whereby customers return items back to your business through damage, fault, end of life or repairs. With e-commerce and a change in customer, attitudes mean that returns are becoming more and more popular.

Reverse logistics can be a way to find value through returns. For example, Ribble Right Size allows you to repack returned items in a perfectly size box on demand. What’s more, this process also helps to speed up the returns process meaning you can get the product back on the shelf ready for a customer purchase.

In many ways reverse logistics need to be treated in the same way as inbound logistics as the process for receiving items is similar. With a beneficial returns process where you create value from a return, the way you can efficiently turn the item around from goods receiving into goods departing is a sign of a robust and managed inbound logistics process.

Inbound logistic considerations for retailers

Without a reliable inbound logistics process, it can be disastrous for businesses. A slow and unpredictable supply of goods can cause problems with customer dissatisfaction and lose revenue. Other considerations that retailers must consider for their inbound logistics processes include;


Just like your customers, your business should be looking for speedier and more efficient ways to receive goods from suppliers. Automation services that can not only increase capacity and loading but also track packages can be vital in giving your customers an appropriate lead time for their goods.

Technologies that automate tasks such as the labour involved will also need a review to help get your goods moving quickly and cost-effectively.


Once goods are received from inbound logistic process how quickly are they added to your inventory and put away ready for sale? Processing can be an aspect which can be improved through a better inbound logistics process. By knowing what you’re going to receive and when, your warehouse and team can be prepared, reducing congestion and ensuring that your inventory is meticulously up to date.

Reverse logistics

Receiving returns as well as new stock can cause challenges for processing and storage. With correct identification labels, staff can receive, process and add items back into the inventory quickly. Another benefit of a more efficient returns process is the speed the customer sees, allowing them to be credited quicker and improving their perception of your business.

If you want to improve your reverse logistics process as part of your inbound logistics strategy, then get in touch with the team at Ribble.

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