3 Problems in Supermarkets that Cause Products to Expire

The growing problem at both the store and corporate level towards product expiration in Supermarkets today are caused by three main problems: task management, lack of priority, and inefficiencies brought on by product trends.

The issue of product expiration has been the Achilles heel for Supermarkets looking to distinguish themselves from the competition through a prioritization of customer experience. Simply put, there is a growing emphasis within said Supermarkets to provide fresh and in stock products to increase guest satisfaction; however, there is no correlation in the increase of efficient product rotation that ultimately can work against this competitive advantage. Here are the 3 main contributors to the problem:

People Management

Employee management can be a large problem with product expiration at the store level. Hourly, entry-level associates are the main source of labor to carry out the current rotation and spot-checking processes. Many times, a focus on stocking pace leads to a lack of rotation while stocking. There may also be too many task taking up the priorities of these associates, therefore the 5-10 hours a week assigned to them to spot check, may either be half-heartedly executed, or not done at all depending on the workload assigned to the individual.

Lack of Priority

The very nature of the Supermarket industry itself causes associates and management to pick and choose what they can get done—usually resulting in rotation and spot checking being pushed aside as a focal point. Obviously at the store level, there is a sense and drive to prioritize customer satisfaction by having good service, in stock products, clean and safe shopping environment, and quality products. If the customer is the priority, then the conversations must then be geared towards the level of negative impact of said customer purchasing and consuming an expired product – and the negative connotation that carries for a retailer’s brand perception.

At the corporate level, expired product costs generally remain hidden. As a result of date management execution challenges, expired products end up in the hands of customers or on the back of the shelf rather than on the P&L. The true cost of customer satisfaction, or dissatisfaction in this case remains unseen. In fact, research from Date Check Pro, the industry’s leading expiration date management software, shows that the average supermarket has over 1,500 expired items on the shelf within the center store alone.

Product Trends

Stores have expanding product lines and additional size options for each product category. A category shelf space may remain 4 to 8 feet wide, but the number of offerings in that section are much more vast.

This increase of product line expansion has impacted the amount of labor required to rotate effectively while stocking as well as the time required to spot check that category.

In summary, product expiration is a preventable problem in Supermarkets today. Unfortunately, it remains the case that the people management aspect with regards to product rotation persists to be an issue. Additionally, with the vastness of responsibilities within growing stores, rotating products falls short on the very extensive list of priorities. Finally, the outside force of brand competition has increased the complexity of product expiration due to product line expansion. If Supermarkets insist on retaining customers through shopping experience and outstanding service, then the fact remains that these are issues that can no longer be ignored.