Unexpected item in the bagging area dies screaming – but it’s not alone!

Tesco has announced that it is introducing a new audio voice to its self-service and scan as you shop checkouts, with the ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ alert also becoming a thing of the past.

Following feedback from customers which described the previous voice as ‘shouty’, ‘irritating’ and putting them under pressure, the retailer said the new voice will be “friendlier, more helpful and less talkative”.

It said six ‘unhelpful’ phrases including ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ and ‘please take your items’ have been removed, while ‘thank you for shopping at Tesco’ has been added.

It seems quite amazing that Tesco have installed 12,000 self-service checkouts, since they were first introduced in 2003. Feedback from the US showed that this was a part of the reason this initiative failed.

Of course, here in the UK we will put up with anything I guess.

Or perhaps we won’t, which is why there is a sudden interest in what shoppers like, and the fact that they have been unhappy for years with other simple, and easy to fix things such as offers and core products always being out of stock, as you can see on this site.

Of course, not having listened for years, and getting your trade body to gloss over the tacky availability bits does mean that when people do vote with their feet you panic.

The latest Position with Tesco Change

The mass reduction in Tesco ranging is now in full swing, and many products are on their on the way out with many areas cutting their sku count by half.

Shopper Response – or Supply Chain necessity

The reduced sku count is replaced by additional facings, and – Hallelujah – they are saying that they will always have 40% of a weeks demand on the shelf. Of course, for many brands this is unnecessary overkill if their facings have been increased in proportion to the drop in offered variety.

In general, the faster moving the product the greater the need for high stock cover since you are covering the increased risk of a product going out of stock in any one day. You also need more stock for products that are very price sensitive, examples being in the BWS area. But this also applies to snacks, and the “general rule” will shortchange some here.

In general there is no general rule, and this particular one, if applied across the board, demonstrates a clear understanding of the shortcomings of the current just in time delivery system, but with a fix that is crowbar, not scalpel.

As for shopper response, well the other side to availability is having the right products in the right place. No point in supplying jellied eels to Merthry Tydfil, or lava bread to West Ham. But in general terms that is the current plan.

Moreover, if you, as a shopper, should complain that your favourite product is no longer available, you will be offered a coupon for an alternative.

Now I have no objection to coupons. In fact they are an incentive that is currently under-used by brands (and over-used by Tesco Club Card!).

However, for a significant percentage of people only the product they wanted will do. We have a case study of a cat food – ultima – No 3 brand in Europe but in low distribution over here. They were kicked out of Tesco (the Sales Director says because they were overbid by the competition for back money). 3 weeks later, their sales in Wilkinson nearly doubled, and stayed up. They are now arguably the major dried cat food stocked there. These are facts.

One of the reasons given at the time by dunnhumby was that loyalty to the brand was low…..

This is, sadly, another instance where Tesco are taking strategic decisions without understanding the downside.

Getting the supply chain right is not just about getting any old product there, it’s about getting the right product there. The larger the store the more important the decision is. Of course, in the past, listing decisions were taken off the back of a wallet. So if big brands are bearing the brunt of the downsizing, I may be forced to eat my words. BUT

I have a crisp £5 note that says this will make very little difference to the current Tesco decline. If you need to grow turnover per square foot and you are cutting back ranging by 20% it is perverse to feel that out of stocks will fill the gap.