The annual convention for retailers ended this week. It was a jam-packed convention with all the big players making their presence felt. The first thing I noticed is that the retail industry is used to the notion of 'analytics', which for most part is tied to forecasting and making good use of Terra bytes of data. Nevertheless, as a retailer looks to maximize their revenue dollars and improve operational efficiency, O.R. has an increasingly large role to play. Retail O.R. problems are pretty challenging in both scale and complexity and given that retail margins are small, improved decision making for such complex planning and operational problems using 'decision science' can make a big difference. Textbook retail decision models provide a starting point for building innovative practical solutions, even if they cannot be directly deployed within products, and the retail world abounds with hidden, interesting O.R. problems if you start looking for them.
A good introductory (non-technical) book that retail analytic experts have suggested as part of recommended reading is "Retailing Management" by M. Levy and B. Weitz.