BACK OF STORE – Are you in shape for 2014?

Welcome to The Grocery Trader’s first quarterly Back of Store feature of 2014, bringing you the latest news about the warehouse and logistics products and services available for Britain’s multiple grocers and their supply chains, and customer case studies from key suppliers of equipment and services.

chaz‘Back of store’ covers everything the shoppers don’t see in the retailer’s supply chain, starting from the distribution centres where the suppliers hand over the goods. Supply chains aren’t normally thought of as sexy, though BBC Breakfast’s business presenter Steph McGovern gets a lot of interest from her fans when she does live interviews outside supermarket warehouses on wintry mornings in a Puffa jacket.

Televised or not, these operations continue to be the power ?behind Britain’s ongoing retail success. Whether you’re talking about the latest market share gains, or the adventures of our leading supermarkets overseas, behind them are supply chains whose efficiency Napoleon would admire – and he knew a thing or two about expansion in Central and Eastern Europe.

As the record consistently shows, we have some of the most efficient and dynamic supply chains in the world, particularly in the grocery retail sector. As befits our status as a consumer nation, our warehousing and logistics infrastructure is highly sophisticated. Our supply chains are valuable national assets, with the power to help drive our economic growth by putting the goods in front of the shoppers. Like the products they deliver they need managing and replenishment, and equipping with the tools for the job and the services to support them.

So, what can we expect in 2014? The outlook is definitely brightening. The IMF has upped its growth forecast for the UK economy, citing easier credit conditions and increased confidence. That said, pending an increase in real wages, consumers are still being careful with their spending. It means manufacturers and multiple grocers alike will still be highly reliant on their teams putting in a winning performance, to ensure the goods are there in store for the shoppers to buy.

We’re all much cannier than we were, with Waitrose shoppers happy to visit Aldi and Lidl looking for offers and Poundland continuing to open new stores in the UK’s high streets. But punters still do most of their shopping at the major multiples, though admittedly they’re doing it more cleverly these days, especially on-line. Which makes product availability even more important than ever. And achieving it comes down to food and drink logistics physically delivering the goods.