March 18, 2008

The shelves really are empty

Oh goody, it's not just my imagination: our major supermarkets really don't know how to sell us stuff for which we would otherwise - willingly - pay their over-inflated prices.

Yes, the shelves are truly empty of the things you want to buy, because the supermarkets choose to under-stock by several thousand units of the most popular items - thereby forgoing sales - rather than run the death-defying risk of having an excess packet of tissues or can of tomato soup scattered about the place.

"Why is it that whenever you go into your local supermarket it never seems to have what you are looking for?

According to a survey by the nation's biggest supermarket stocking and marketing agency, the answer is not straightforward - but the big retailers are keen to find it, and fix the problem."

Gee, good for them. So keen that they've waited until well into the 21st century to give it a burl.

"The Bailey Group found one in four supermarkets nationwide is consistently out of stock of staple groceries, and not just when items are on special.

While Coles and Bi-Lo have historically been the worst offenders, all the big grocery retailers - including market leader Woolworths and the No. 3 IGA - are failing to keep their shelves filled with popular items.

The chief executive of the Bailey Group, Stewart Bailey, said failure to ensure shelves were full was the biggest problem supermarkets faced. "It is a massive problem. It can kill brands"

Not to mention kill a consumer's appetite for grocery shopping.

"While it was impossible to say how much the lost sales were worth, worldwide the problem was estimated to cost retailers and manufacturers up to $100 billion a year, Mr Bailey said."

A well deserved loss of revenue - akin to a stupidity tax - I would have thought.

"Coles's reliability of supply is anecdotally regarded as poor, mostly due to its lack of computer-tracking systems, with which its rival Woolworths boasts it is streets ahead."

It beggars belief that Coles doesn't have an integrated computer based tracking and ordering system, but having said that, Woolworths, despite boasting an IT solution that is so awe inspiring that we'd have a brain-meltdown if we were to be invited to view it's inner workings, still isn't much better at having groceries on their shelves.

Meanwhile, someone in government, or a government body, at the directive of the government, is going to attempt to solve the mystery of why a bottle of coke costs around three dollars in an Oz supermarket chain (far more, of course, at at a 7/11, petrol station, takeaway food place, or sundry other outlets), but only costs half that in the US.

Empty shelves plague supermarket chains ...


  1. Anonymous10:19 PM

    What happens to the $100 billion?

    A rough calculation based on 20 million Aussies makes it $5000 per person per year.

    Where is the family of four spending their $20,000 if they aren't spending it at the supermarket? It's about $100 per person per week - where's it going?

    I remain skeptical of nice round figures like '$100 billion' and I am tempted to call shenanigans.

  2. The figure is absurd Dylan, but he's a consultant and needs ongoing work.

    The number is more laughable when you assess it from a per household perspective, of which there are - how many - about 6 million "households"?

    Then take account of people who have nothing more than social security to live on, low income workers, etc.

    Rough guess, for me, I'd forgo spending, maybe $20 a week, on average, because shelves aren't stocked. In general, I either keep it on my list for next time, or I go to another store - either the local, small supermarket, or even a 7/11 if I truly must, or I might go to a Chemist, or Priceline, to get an item that I would otherwise have bought at Coles or Woollies.

    Now, as for all those other households, I'd figure they end up with bugger-all groceries and end up spending that $100 per person on take away. :-)