The Dangers of Face Overs & Stuffing

The term planogram is nothing new to any retailer. It refers to a set plan of where products should be placed throughout the store. Much planning goes into the development of these plan to ensure complimentary products are placed close to one another, product assortment is optimized for sales, and more. Even with such detailed planning, it is fairly common to see stores vary slightly or even greatly from their planogram. Two primary causes of this deviation being face overs and stuffing.

While facing refers to pulling product to the front of the shelf to make it easily visible to shoppers, face overs occur when a near by product is out of stock. Product available to the left or right of the out of stock item is used to fill the hole on the shelf. The result is the store looks full, without visible holes on the shelf.

Stuffing occurs when there is not enough room on the shelf to stock a case in the proper shelf location. Instead, it is “stuffed” in the closest free space on the shelf. Sometime the extra inventory ends up filled right next to the proper shelf location, other times it can end up on a completely different shelf or 4′ section.

The intent behind both face overs and stuffing is to increase visual appeal in the store for the shoppers. The store looks full rather than feeling “shopped out” with frequent holes on the shelf. However, the consequences are numerous and substantial:

  • Planogram Deviation – this isn’t a surprise, since it is how we started the article. When a product is placed in the wrong location, we are deviating from the planogram. On occasion, this can lead to a more permanent issue if the item is given a second shelf tag for its new yet incorrect spot. We now accidentally discontinued one item, while carrying far too much of another. Pricing department beware – this is a nightmare the next time that product goes on sale.
  • Visible out of stocks – if a product is in stock, but gets faced over or other product stuffed in front of it, it creates a visible out of stock for the original item. In the event a product is stuffed in place of a true out of stock, it becomes increasingly likely for the item to remain out of stock until the stuffed inventory sells out. Here’s the damage report – research found that out of stock products costs stores up to 4% of sales per year and anywhere from $192-$785 per week in store labor spent helping customers find out of stock products. To read the original study, click here.
  • Expired food – when a product is stuffed in the wrong location, it generally isn’t permanent. It doesn’t take a genius to guess what happens when the shelf is filled again with the right product. The incorrectly “stuffed” product is pushed to the back of the shelf, where it will remain until it expires and eventually gets pulled as shrink or ends up in the hands of a less than happy customer.
  • Embarrassed customers – picture this, a shopper grabs a product off the shelf marked as $1.99. They get to the register and it rings up as $3.99. After asking the cashier about the difference and waiting for the cashier to get a price verification, they find out the product was stocked in the wrong spot. Now they have to decide whether or not to purchase the item still, all while bearing the angry glare of shoppers behind them who have grown impatient. Certainly not how we want shoppers to remember their last experience with our store for the day.

So what can you do?

  • Fight out of stocks elsewhere– out of stocks will happen. They make us cringe when we see them. However, there are far better ways (without the above consequences) to reduce the frequency of out of stocks than using face overs. You will never fully eliminate them, but the costs of face overs far outweigh the benefits.
  • Train on “Why” in addition to “What” – many times we tell our stockers what to do, but forget to tell them the value behind the task. If our stockers knew the impact face overs and stuffing had on our store, they would be far more likely to take the easy way out and follow processes as intended. I.e. no more face overs because they are too lazy to reach to the back of the shelf to grab the right product to pull forward.
  • Accept backstock – for some reason, we have grown to view simply having backstock as poor execution. That perception carries over to our stockers, who fear they will get in trouble for too much backstock. Thus, they stuff instead of bringing the extra case to the backroom. Instead, have night stockers bring a flat cart out to each aisle for easy transport to backstock, and make it a part of your standard operating procedures for excess inventory to end up there.

These may seem like simple solutions. Unfortunately they are nothing close. Training and changing store processes take time, commitment, and supervision. Correcting a store that has deviated dramatically from planogram due to face overs and stuffing will take time, and so will getting the entire stocking team on board to the process changes.

I promise you the results are worth the effort. It is almost a guarantee that the stores with the highest frequency of expired or out of stock are also having above average issues with face overs, stuffing, or both.

Not sure if this is happening in YOUR stores? It is likely well worth the time to do a quick audit. Pick a few categories to thoroughly check planogram compliance. The results could save you significant money.