Managing expired products is a pain. With the average grocery store carrying 40,000 different SKUs, it is nearly impossible to prevent having expired products on your shelves. But what can you do today to do a better job?
Today, many supermarkets have abandoned rotating when stocking center-store products in favor of a spot-checking schedule. Using this method, items are checked by section or aisle according to a scheduled cycle. This transition makes complete sense in terms of labor hours. As grocery stores carry more and more products and sell through them faster and faster, the time to rotate every item every time you stock adds up quickly. Spot-checking requires far less labor time, but it is not a very proactive method of preventing expired products.
When I worked for a grocery store, it was my job to maintain a spot-checking schedule. The company I worked for followed an 8-week schedule to check every non-HABA (health and beauty aids) item. Any product that was within 10-days of expiring was pulled off the shelf, but what did we do when I found a product that was four to six weeks away from expiring?
The answer is simple: nothing. Which was a problem.
Most of the time the grocery managers assumed we would sell through the product before the four or six weeks were up. So nothing was ever done. The problem is that our stockers were not rotating when stocking. That meant that over the next few days, it was highly likely that the product about to expire was going to be pushed to the back of the shelf with newer product placed in front of it. The result = a bunch of expired products.
So what can you do?
A very quick and easy solution is to implement a dot system. Every time your spot-checkers find a SKU with product close to expiring (you can set the actual timeframe), place a small dot sticker next to the price tag. Then, train your stockers that items with a dot sticker mean the product needs to be rotated. Better yet, train your stockers to actually look at the dates on SKUs with a dot sticker. That way as the product gets closer and closer to expiring, the price can be reduced to incentivize a quick sale. The stockers or spot-checkers can then either pull off these stickers after finding the close-dated product has sold through.
Keep in mind; the dot system is still only a step in the right direction to effectively managing all the expired products in your store. Many times a spot-checker finds a large amount of product on the shelf for which it is too late for the dot system to make a difference. For more info on how many expired products the average grocery store has on the shelves today, check out our latest info-graphic and look at the “Rotation Results” section.