Restocking during high footfall – how retail is changing

Article by Martyn Jones | 15th April 2020

UK retailers depend upon one specific time of the week. ‘Restock time’ is a quieter period when colleagues can calmly fill stock levels. But ‘restock time’ may become a thing of the past. Surges in footfall have occurred consistently throughout the week. In the last fortnight alone, the UK Retail Consortium found an extra £1 billion of goods purchased.

Colleagues are having to respond to growing demand for certain items with few lulls to safely restock. Instead of bulk fills at specific times, shelf stocking is now a rolling process. When an item becomes low or runs out, staff must restock regardless of time or convenience.

The shift in consumer behaviour has changed the nature of colleagues roles. The pressure of staff shortages, high demand and high sales have forced staff to work more flexibly. Colleagues must react to whatever the situation requires, focusing on equal access to food, regardless of timing.

Self scan hygiene

One solution to the current challenges is an increase in self scan units. Although the British Retail Consortium is rightly advising retailers to practise high standards of hygiene with any self scan, we expect that the use of self scan units will increase even after the current crisis has subsided.

Those monitoring self scan units face social distancing challenges. Colleagues must be available to clear queries, but also need to remain apart from customers. We’re working on providing clear communication between colleagues without compromising on social distancing.

Click & Collect as an alternative

As the UK high street responds to the crisis, Click & Collect services are a firm favourite among consumers. Many prefer this to entering stores. Our technology enables the provision of an external button which serves one of two functions – either to unlock a secure box or bring a staff member to the customer.

Some UK retailers are beginning to rely purely on Click & Collect. In the future, we expect to see a more widespread adoption of this, with better streamlined Click & Collect systems connecting colleagues to customers. Retailers are already looking at how to keep one colleague with the customer, while another fetches the parcel, thereby saving time and improving the customer experience.

How this will impact supply

At the same time, the UK supply chain is pushed to maximum capacity. With borders closing and delays in transportation, some are worried about long term shortages. The UK only produces 53% of its food supply. There hasn’t been a time in living memory where so many shortages of bulk items have occurred. This has forced retailers to bulk buy certain items, creating further stress and pressure on delivered stock.

Retail in the UK is being put under unprecedented stress at the moment. The British Meat Processors Association have predicted up to 20% of their staff may go into isolation, compromising meat supplies in the coming months. Stock levels of all essential groceries are rising and falling dramatically. Whilst being pushed to the maximum to deliver store cupboard ingredients, supermarkets and suppliers are working more closely together.

Expect to see more innovation with intelligent shelving. This new system monitors product stock levels, creating voice activated alerts when a product becomes low. This alert is delivered over a shared channel, immediately notifying colleagues when an item needs replenishing.

With current stock levels rising and falling dramatically, intelligent shelving could be a key investment. This way, colleagues will know immediately when a product becomes low and can act quickly.

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