Supermarkets Alter Layouts, Use Decoys to Fill Gaps Left by Shortages

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Product shortages due to supply-chain constraints are prompting grocers to get creative so that consumers are not faced with empty shelves

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Shoppers in the UK said they have seen huge crates of beer and boxes of boxes filled with fresh vegetables, usually chocolates, in aisles reserved for pre-packaged meals. A branch of Co-Operative Group Ltd., which operates stores under Co-op, stocked refrigerated displays with shelf-stable HP Sauce and Heinz Salad Cream condiments so that shoppers didn’t see empty racks.

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A spokesperson for the co-op said, “We have been affected by some glitches in our deliveries.” “Our team is always trying to make sure our stores look as attractive as possible and sometimes managers come up with creative ways to make sure the shelves are full.”

Businesses around the world are facing product shortages as demand for goods grew faster than supply after the worst of the pandemic, disrupting labor availability at food suppliers. In the UK, 17% of consumers said they could not buy essential food items because they were unavailable between 22 September and 3 October, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

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Retailers say they need to keep their customer experience as best as possible in order to remain competitive.

Some 58% of consumers said that supply-chain disruptions, product shortages and shipping delays have made purchases more stressful, and 41% said that product shortages and significant shipping and delivery delays have caused them to have a purchase. The brand will have to leave, according to the results of an October survey. ICSC, a New York-based trade association that represents retail businesses.

For grocers, this means managing the store to at least look well-stocked, ordered, and clean.

Some have made entire aisles stacked with items that usually have a small amount of space on a shelf. Katherine Shuttleworth, founder and chief executive of retail consulting firm Gate, said others have filled in the blanks with cardboard “dummies,” which include empty prepackaged sandwich boxes — a strategy that’s not new, but has been gaining attention by shoppers. is likely to be employed more frequently. Savvy Marketing Limited

A spokesman for British grocer Tesco plc, which was seen displaying cardboard photos of items in place of merchandise in some stores, said the use of the cutouts was not linked to recent supply-chain challenges, and that the use of the pictures Made by big stores. For various reasons, such as a layout reconfiguration. Meanwhile, supermarkets, including Waitrose & Partners of Sainsbury’s plc and John Lewis Partnership plc, are using signs to fill empty shelves. A Sainsbury’s spokesman said it had used signs to fill empty shelves in some stores before the supply-chain issues began.

Ms Shuttleworth said the use of cardboard placeholders makes operations easier for supermarkets, many of which are struggling to hire and retain employees.

“It’s probably quicker and certainly cheaper to put down pieces of cardboard than to do something else,” such as reorganizing a store’s aisles or moving stock to fill the empty space, she said. . Ms Shuttleworth said placeholders can also tell employees about the whereabouts of items from shoppers’ inquiries.

Grocery stores in the US have not been spared product shortages, although larger companies that have access to wider networks of suppliers, capital, and location have more success working around supply-chain issues without disrupting the buyer experience. Is.

Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the US, said it increased its safety stock of items in more than 70 categories, created additional warehouse space to hold additional products, and expanded ports used for imports. walmart Inc.

It also said it has diverted ships to less congested ports, while hiring 20,000 supply chain workers and automating some warehouse operations.

But smaller grocery retailers with less flexibility have struggled to keep shelves full and plan what items might appear on any given day.

“I have over a decade of retail experience and it’s like nothing I’ve experienced or seen before,” said I’Talia McCarthy, general manager of Dill Pickle Food Co-op in Chicago. Incomplete or not at all with daily deliveries. “We’ve put in a lot of effort to make sure we don’t have such huge gaps.”

Dill Pickle is filling the fridge with surprising products in its coolest part. This includes tofu, which is usually placed on shelves in the Asian section of the store, and shelf-stable products such as oats and soy milk.

“But of course you take a risk. Like, do I have to convince someone that they have to keep it refrigerated now?” Ms McCarthy said.

Grocery store managers said they are using one of the oldest techniques commonly used by low-production stores in other sections of the store: “face up” or exposing certain items to the shelf so that customers Can’t see the empty space behind. They are also increasing the number of “facings” or rows a certain item is given on the shelf to cover the gaps.

Matt Santarpio, owner of Walnut Food Market in Newton, Mass., said some items he previously gave a shelf spot are spread over two or three to cover the gaps left by unsold or unattended items. Ms. McCarthy said Dill Pickles has also changed the layout of the shelving to avoid empty space.

“If we see holes, we’ll suddenly make our bestsellers slot three or four instead of just one or two,” she said.

But confronting doesn’t solve all problems, said John Rosser, general manager of the Weaver’s Way Cooperative Association in Philadelphia. “It gets to the point where it looks silly, say if you’re walking down the aisle and you see seven or eight faces of the same product,” he said.

Weaver’s Way isn’t bothered about leaving gaps, Mr Rosser said. The store uses signs to indicate that a product is out of stock and instructs customers to ask staff about substitutes. The store also tells employees what items can be in or out at the beginning of each shift, Mr. Rosser said.

And for Walnut Food Market owner Mr. Santrapio, leaving some shelves empty is a tactic designed to keep customers coming back.

They took over business in January 2020, just before coronavirus measures led to the closure of nearby offices, so many shoppers are visiting the store for the first time since it was remodeled.

Imports like Smarties candy and Cadbury chocolate have been the hardest-hit, and display boxes have been empty for months. But still, Mr. Santrapio puts them on display.

“For some things, I’m afraid people will come in, see it’s not here and there’s no coming back for it,” he said. “Keeping the box out shows that I’m making an effort to get them in, and not giving up on them.”

Katie Deighton [email protected] Feather

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