Consider a financially successful week in any retail food store like a difficult journey to cross a hot dry desert. The logical threat of dehydration would make us very intentional to properly prepare enough provisions and water to reach our goal successfully. Without adequate water we would become tired and weary barely able to trek onward. Our resources would deplete quickly making a trip more difficult than necessary. Without adequate water, many may never see the other side of the dessert, and others may barely just cross exhausted, weak, and suffering a major blow to their short or long term health. Every week, a similar situation happens to food retailers across America who instead of water lack the life blood of retailing: an adequate number of products to sell to generate the necessary profitable transactions to succeed. Not just products but enough products to prevent regular out of stock situations. Not just products but a healthy variety of products to appeal to a larger audience. Not just products but the products our customers need. Not just a fun mix of "on-brand" products but a comprehensive product mix without major gaps that would make it inconvenient to visit our store. When confronted with this idea, many of my clients often look at me crazily and say "Where are we going to fit more products?" Great question! For retail environments with expansive space we add fixtures and shelves. For many the answer is much easier, "On your existing shelves." I'll say.
Take a look at this up-close visual example of 3 simple common sense food merchandising problems on our shelves which if not solved and optimized will regularly limit our sustainability and financial success as a food retailer. The goal of optimal food merchandising sets is to ensure shelves look entirely full from top to bottom. The varied color segments represent three common but distinct limitations outlined below.
•The example features one regular wooden shelving unit, but represents opportunities in all store retail shelving areas including those dry units, inside service cases and door refrigerated cases.
In small markets shelving and space must be used to it’s fullest potential. Consider how shops in Manhattan must use vertical space and shelving in creative methods simply to “fit” everything into the store and to ensure they can be profitable at a level to cover high rent / real estate expenses.
Keep in mind specialty or gourmet food products or boutique type markets with very high margins may have the luxury of taking a more creative design oriented approach to placing products on their shelves. In these circumstances the relative higher revenue of selling a smaller number of items will still generate the profitability for the business to remain successful without having to consider how to optimize every square foot of space.
For the rest of us, staying focused on making your space work for you will involve setting your displays appropriates, keeping them filled, training and hiring the right employees, and regular review. While dynamic grocers may be using plan-o-grams and big data to solve these challenges, smaller retailers can move in this direction by dedicating a set time to make the changes and simply using some good old fashioned common sense!
Our best luck in making your food merchandising efforts more profitable in the year to come.