The Backroom Effect in Retail Operations



Traditional inventory models fail to take into account the dynamics between the retail sales floor and the backroom, commonly used by retailers for extra storage. When a replenishment order for a given item arrives at a retail store, it may not fit on the allocated shelf space, making backroom storage necessary. In this article, we introduce the backroom effect (BRE) as a consequence of misalignment of case pack size, shelf space, and reorder point. This misalignment results from the fragmented nature of inventory policy decision making in the retail industry and affects basic trade-offs in inventory models. We specify conditions under which the BRE exists, quantify the expected amount of backroom inventory, derive an optimal short-term inventory policy, and assess the impact of the BRE on the optimal inventory policy and total costs. Our results indicate that ignoring the BRE leads to artificially high reorder points and higher total costs. The paper concludes with a discussion of theoretical and managerial implications.