How to keep your shelves stocked: three retailers reveal their availability secrets

The betterRetailing team finds out how retailers are finding enough stock to keep their shelves full

soft drinks fridge

1Jacob Connington, Blakemore Bala, Gwynedd

“We’ve got a central ordering system that orders all our stock. We review the orders to make sure it’s correct and any gaps are reordered. In our head office, we have a department called Scan Queries that deals with scanning queries, availability issues and planograms. If we have issues with the planograms we contact them. If it’s a short-term issue, we can overface something else. If it’s long-term, they’ll look for a replacement.

“We also have quite a few local Welsh suppliers, being a Welsh store. We don’t usually have many availability issues with them. Blas ar Fwyd provides us with products from Edwards Dairies and if there are any new meats available, they’ll contact our head office and let us know so we can adapt our planograms. We’ve launched new hot dog sausages, burgers, chicken burgers and things from them. If something isn’t available we order a replacement until it comes back.”

2Josie Harrison, Etnam News, Leominster, Herefordshire

“I use a lot of different wholesalers so I can fill the gaps with stuff from other people. We have a local discount store called Baby’s and I have a promotion stand of short-date, reduced-price stock and that fills any gaps. We stopped relying so heavily on Booker three or four years ago and I’ve got another couple of online wholesalers I use as well now.

“I buy my vape products from an online retailer who delivers without a minimum order, with a small delivery charge and a per ounce discount on the next order. I get household products and smoking accessories from another online wholesaler. They have a higher minimum order, so I buy infrequently but in bulk.

“Retailers should diversify their suppliers and what they sell. There are things customers want and expect, but there are things you can put in front of them that they didn’t know they wanted. At the right price they’ll buy them.”

3Uthay Soundararajan, Costcutter Inverleith Row, Edinburgh

“It used to be that I ordered stock and the products were delivered to the door, but that’s not happening any more. We have to go out on our own to get stock. This week, Haribo wasn’t available on delivery, and a month ago all the Walkers crisps were out of stock. It’s become routine for something to not be available for a month and then come back. So it can be a matter of waiting until it comes back online.

“There are three cash and carries in Edinburgh, and I go around every one of them to get stock. It’s now a part of my working week. Customers won’t trust us if we don’t have the stock on the shelves, and they don’t come back.

“We’re swapping products and brands if needed, but it doesn’t work across the board. We swapped our ketchup when the normal brands weren’t available, but for some products, if we don’t have a particular brand, the customer will go somewhere else.”

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