Bamboo Rose Blog | Industry Insights

Navigating General Merchandise Supply Chains: Insights from Josh Curtis, VP of IT Product Management at Five Below

In the fast-paced world of retail, effectively coordinating general merchandise supply chains for goods can be a daunting task. 


I sat down with Josh Curtis, Vice President of IT Product Management at Five Below, to get some insider insight on the intricate workings of this industry. Keep reading to uncover Josh’s timely tips about the tactics and technologies driving success in general merchandise today.

Josh is an experienced retail leader with a proven track record of solving complex business challenges. Time and time again he’s delivered successful change initiatives across IT and supply chains resulting in cost savings and revenue growth. He spent many years at Adidas and is now at Five Below.


During our conversation, we covered the numerous complexities of retail general merchandise supply chains. The truth is that things are changing rapidly, and it’s more important than ever to be prepared to pivot when challenges surface.


The Top 6 Trends Guiding General Merchandise Today:

1. Supply chains in the general merchandise retail sector are unique due to their trend-based nature, wide variety of SKUs, and the cyclical nature of the holiday season.

2. Technology plays a crucial role in supply chain management by providing visibility, enabling intelligent decision-making, and facilitating automation.

3. Supply chain visibility is essential for ensuring product availability and creating a competitive advantage.

4. Diversifying the supplier base is key to building resilience in the supply chain.

5. Emerging technologies like machine learning and AI can generate better intelligence about supply chain behaviors.

6. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns are becoming increasingly important in supply chain management.

Agility Reigns Supreme in General Merchandise 


Josh described the distinct hurdles confronting general merchandise supply chains. He emphasized the dynamic nature of these chains, underscored by trend-driven products and a vast array of SKUs. 

Unlike traditional seasonal patterns, agility reigns supreme, calling for adaptive strategies to meet evolving demands effectively.

Our approach is trend-based and covers a wide range of product types. This can be a complex task to manage. The predictability of our products is also a challenge as they are not strictly seasonal and can fluctuate, explained Josh.

He also mentioned the cyclical nature of the holiday season as a challenge, with businesses needing to manage a large influx of demand and then scaling down operations afterward. “The other thing for us would be just the intense cyclical nature of the holiday season where you get all your business hitting at once,” he shared.


Technology Drives Operational Efficiency


Technology has emerged as a pivotal lever for optimizing supply chain operations. It really all comes down to choosing partners and solutions that support two things: 1) collaboration and 2) visibility


Collaboration is critical for ‌businesses like Five Below. With tens of thousands of SKUs, it’s simply not possible to coordinate sourcing and fulfillment without bringing all internal and external parties into a single system.  


Josh stressed the importance of visibility and automation for informed decision-making and operational efficiency. To compete with other major players, it’s crucial to have access to all steps in the product process and accurate, up-to-date data. By harnessing technology, retailers can establish centralized platforms that streamline processes, bolster responsiveness, and enhance overall performance.

“Navigating the general merchandise supply chain requires a blend of agility, innovation, and collaboration. By leveraging technology that supports supply chain visibility and staying attuned to industry trends, companies can position themselves for success in an ever-evolving market landscape,” added Josh.

This emphasizes the significance of visibility and the role of technology in achieving a single, reliable version of truth across the supply chain – leading to better decision-making and task automation.


Disruption Breeds Resilience


The conversation underscored the paramount importance of resilience in supply chain management, especially in the face of disruptions. Diversifying the supplier base emerged as a critical strategy, empowering companies to mitigate risks and ensure continuity during challenging times. 


Josh emphasized the necessity of remaining abreast of industry shifts and seizing nearshoring opportunities to fortify resilience.

ESG goes High-Tech 


Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations came up in the discussion, reflecting a growing focus within supply chain management. Josh highlighted the pivotal role of technology in facilitating traceability and sustainability endeavors, emphasizing the significance of collaboration with vendors and suppliers to uphold ESG standards effectively.

“The use of technology is rapidly advancing ESG, as it allows for innovative methods such as geofencing and satellite tracking to improve traceability and introduce a variety of exciting features.,” he explained.

Josh also emphasized the importance of vendor and supplier collaboration, suggesting the use of an end-to-end platform for traceability to smooth the process.

Insights for Retail Success


Our discussion yielded profound insights for navigating the intricacies of general merchandise supply chains. From embracing technology for heightened visibility to fostering collaboration and resilience. Following this roadmap for success will keep you prepared when the time comes to pivot…which is likely right around the corner.

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