Welcome to our first look of the year at the Back of Store, taking in warehousing and logistics for UK supermarkets, Co-ops and convenience store chains. It’s business as usual for this time of year, with high winds, low temperatures, snow and motorway repairs under way across the UK, but the goods must still get through, on time and at the best possible price.

A study by consultancy Oliver Wyman confirms Amazon Fresh is undercutting UK supermarket prices by up to 20%, raising further pressure on grocers as the online giant grows its dominance. It adds to the burden on other multiple grocers to deliver the all-round shopping experience at all times, with such services as convenience format stores, home delivery and click and collect. The Back of Store area is what makes it happen, hence the major retailers’ ongoing investment in this part of their business.

Speaking of investment, as reported in our news pages Lidl UK is building a major new Regional Distribution Centre in Luton to service its stores across Greater London. The new million square foot warehouse is double the size of its other UK warehouses. The new RDC will be Lidl’s fourth for Greater London, supporting warehouses in Belvedere, Northfleet and Enfield. Along with the other London RDCs, the new warehouse will manage the supply and distribution of food and nonfood products to Lidl stores in and around the M25.

When the UK struggles with ice and snow, like it was doing when we went to press, it places the Back of Store under siege. Two back of store components which become mission critical in the winter are readily identifiable – doors, because they keep out the elements and lighting, because it’s dark outside and inside much of the day at this time of year. With the increased levels of stock and faster stock throughput that omnichannel retailing demands, you also have to keep shelving and racking in perfect order. And as pressure mounts, you have to be mindful of forklift truck safety. The faster your trucks work, and the more productive you try to be, the bigger the risks of accidents. And so do the consequences, if there are injuries or worse, fatalities.

Doors get checked: racking and shelving are inspected: lights get changed. But none of these move at the speed of your forklift trucks, or have the same potential for serious injuries. Whether your forklifts are loading and unloading lorries, moving pallets around or working in the racking, these activities demand the maximum care and attention from forklift operators and supervisors.

Especially when there’s ice and snow. Have a good month and stay safe.

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