In our last Back of Store feature of 2016, we visit the warehousing and logistics side of the multiple grocery supply chains and bring you news about the latest equipment and solutions from the major suppliers and innovators in this important area.
At this time of year the pressure is on back of store areas and distribution warehouses to perform and meet expectations. All the promotions and seasonal stock coming into stores have to be received, held and put out on sale.
Fixtures have to be kept replenished and seasonal staff hired to do the job in all parts of the store. It generates welcome work for people at this time of year, good news for stores’ links with their communities, but without previous experience they have to be trained and managed properly.
The dark months of autumn and winter are a very busy time for the multiple grocers. From October onwards, on top of the regular stock lines they are also selling Christmas products. And the long evenings and twilight weekends bring a welcome, major uplift in Big Night In sales, as in treats for sharing across the product categories as people spend more time indoors and want to enjoy themselves with their nearest and dearest.
The downside to all this is the British climate. Long before we gained notoriety in Europe because of our votes for Brexit, Britain was famous on the Continent because we can’t cope with the winter weather, unlike other countries. When the slightest slurry of snow falls here, things traditionally grind to a halt. It’s highly entertaining for our Northern European friends, but not funny for us.
In recent times, as we are seeing, home delivery operations like Amazon are driving the major multiple grocers to improve their performance and achieve guaranteed delivery at extremely short notice. Given our historic poor performance in whiteouts, the pressure will be on Amazon and their grocery partners this winter to sustain their one-hour promise when the snows fall.
Even when it’s not snowing, as the cold sets in, the Back of Store comes under siege. The components of back of store areas and distribution warehouses needing particular attention in autumn and winter are readily identifiable – doors, because they keep out the elements and lighting, because it’s darker outside and inside at this time of year. With the increased levels of stock and faster stock throughput you also have to keep the shelving and racking in perfect order. And as the pressure mounts, you have to be mindful of forklift truck safety. The faster your trucks are working, and the more productive you try to be at this time of year, the bigger the possible risks of accidents. And so are the consequences.