Retaining Talent

Like many other industries, supermarkets have been facing an ongoing staffing challenge.

The problem presents itself in various ways. For example, shelves might not be re-stocked as quickly as shoppers would like, or stores may note be as clean as they once were. In worse cases, specialty departments such as the deli might not always be staffed, in which case shoppers can only select from pre-packaged options.

So what is a retailer to do?

SupermarketNews has reported several examples of how some supermarket chains are dealing with the “talent” issue.

One such example is BJ’s Wholesale Club, which has launched a program to provide mental health and unpaid caregiver support to company employees.

According to the article, BJ’s associates and their dependents will have access to a well-being platform offered by LifeSpeak Inc., a Toronto based firm that provides expert-led digital resources that include classes on mindfulness, building resilience, managing stress, and related mental health topics.

In addition, BJ’s employees will have access to LifeSpeak’s caregiver support products, along with advisors who can help people resolve modern caregiving challenges.

A different SupermarketNews article reported that Walmart has taken a different approach to attracting and retaining talent, as they will be raising pay rates for hourly employees.

“Our new starting range for entry-level roles is $14-$19 an hour, depending on location,” a Walmart spokesman said.

Whether it’s more money or more benefits, it only stands to reason that retailers will need to find better ways of engaging their workforce. Automation can only go so far at satisfying the demands of today’s shoppers.

Another Process Improvement Story

Continuing the theme of our previous post, a recent SupermarketNews article reported that Walmart is software giant Salesforce Inc. to help retailer customers improve local pickup and delivery services.

San Francisco-based Salesforce is a provider of customer relationship management tools. According to the article, they will make the Walmart Commerce Technologies’ Store Assist local fulfillment app and Walmart GoLocal’s delivery services available through its Salesforce AppExchange.

Walmart said the arrangement will provide retailers with access to the same scalable technologies that Walmart uses and enable real-time order visibility and reliable local pickup and delivery.

“Retailers are looking for ways to improve cost efficiency while meeting their customers’ needs, no matter where or how they choose to shop,” Harsit Patel, Walmart GoLocal vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “Fulfillment from stores is an effective way to achieve these goals and serve customers quickly and reliably through local delivery.”

Read the full article.

2023 Forecast to Be a Year of Supermarket Process Improvement

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that the use of digital technologies by both shoppers and grocery store associates are forecast to increase in 2023.

However, the piece also indicated that retailers will need to implement an array of improvements if they are to maximize performance to match customer expectations.

The article shared data indicating 87% of shoppers will use digital ordering in the upcoming year and that a 16% increase in the number of pickup orders is also expected. The average basket size of online orders is also expected to grow.

Unfortunately, as grocers are taking more ownership of the digital experience and leveraging leveraging more of the available technologies to support operations, many users are still dissatisfied with online operations.

The contention is that supermarkets will need to improve operational and fulfillment processes, invest in more effective digital tools, and enhance communication protocols in order to satisfy consumer expectations.

Process Improvement Plan Will Drive Costs Down at Walmart

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Walmart will be investing in automation and related process improvements to drive costs down in the future.

According to the piece, “robotic warehouses, in which goods are moved by unmanned wheeled carts, will not only reduce the need for workers in the warehouses themselves, but also in the stores where the goods are received.”

In explanation, in-store efficiencies will be enhanced because products will be delivered to the stores on pallets that have been organized according to each store’s layout so that employees can stock shelves more efficiently directly from a pallet, rather than carting boxes of individual products back and forth from a back room.

“It’s a different process, eliminating a lot of hours that we invest in in the back rooms of our stores,” Doug McMillon, president and CEO said.

“Over the coming years, combining those kinds of robotics with inventory optimization technologies and predictive sales analytics will drive costs out of the system.”

Study Predicts Increased Investment for Online Grocery

A recent SupermarketNews article reported the “digital sector” will continue to grow in 2023.

“Grocery operators’ spending to support digital transactions will increase by 2.3% next year despite a 1% shrinkage in technology budgets,” the article said, citing an October report from Grocery Doppio, a grocery insights and data provider. ,

Other findings:

  • 23% of grocers plan to increase their technology spend on digital in 2023
  • 77% said fulfillment efficiencies will be among the three most popular investments
  • 67% identified digital basket size nurturing would be a focus
  • 55% said system-wide inventory data accuracy/transparency would be a priority

Read the full article…

SCO or MCO?

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that the number of Self Checkout lanes (SCOs) in the U.S. has increased 10% in the last five years, estimating that they now account for nearly 40% of lanes in grocery chains in the U.S. 

Sharing data from shopper intelligence leader Catalina, the article also reported that more retailers are make shifts from manual to SCO lanes to offset “shrinking margins from inflation, respond to social distancing protocols triggered by the pandemic, and take advantage of automation technology.”

Based on a small local poll, we’ve concluded that shoppers most often prefer the self checkout option when:

  • Processing smaller orders
  • Processing orders without coupons
  • Processing orders without alcohol

Some additional insights presented in the article based on the Catalina data included 39% of shoppers used both lane types in 2021, depending upon their shopping mission. 49% of shoppers preferred the personal attention offered in the manned-only lanes (MCO), while only 12% of shoppers were steadfast SCO-exclusive fans. Breaking down the behavior of the hybrid shopper, their transactions were split 50-50 between MCO and SCO, with MCO accounting for 68% of sales and SCO for 32%.

Similar to our local findings, the study said SCO-only shoppers had smaller baskets and bought less than hybrid and MCO fans.

Generally speaking, it strikes us that offering a healthy mix of MCO & SCO options enables shoppers to leverage the technology to enjoy greater flexibility and convenience.

What’s your take?

Accelerating the Customer Experience?

SupermarketNews recently reported that Schnuck Markets will be providing 30-minute delivery with its “Schnucks Now” offering on smaller orders and fast delivery. 

“The new service allows customers to shop from a limited assortment of fresh groceries, pantry, household essentials, alcohol, meals, and snacks, with delivery in as fast as 30 minutes with no priority fees and lower delivery fees,” the article said.  

In today’s competitive marketplace, this seems like another step forward in providing an enhanced customer experience. As you may know, Schnuck’s has offered delivery and pick up options for some time, and has also partnered with DoorDash to provide prepared meal delivery.

The piece went on to quote Chace MacMullan, Schnuck’s Senior Director Digital Experience, who said, “‘It’s been something we’ve been talking about for a while. We partner with Instacart and together we’re always looking at different ways to innovate. Reach the customers where they are, and where they are in the delivery schedule.”

Bigger And Better?

A recent SupermarketNews article reported Kroger and Albertsons plan to merge in a deal valued at $24.6 billion.

According to the piece, the merger will combine two of the country’s largest supermarket retailers, “creating a national company with 4,996 stores, 66 distribution centers, 52 manufacturing plants, 2,015 fuel centers and more than 710,000 associates across 48 states and the District of Columbia.”

 The merged entity also would be the fifth-largest retail pharmacy operator, with 3,972 pharmacy locations.

Given the histories of these two organizations, we’d expect the merger will result in a “bigger and better” solution!

Process Improvement at Walmart for Next-Gen Fulfillment Centers

A recent SupermarketNews article reported the grand opening of Walmart’s 1.1M square-foot Next Generation fulfillment center, which will enable faster processing and delivery of on-line orders to wider geographic areas. The new concept facility will also bring about new jobs.

The piece quoted James Bright III, general manager, Fulfillment Center FC3040, who said, “As the first-of-its-kind for Walmart, our newly opened facility introduces an array of opportunities to our associates, including brand new tech-focused jobs. There’s never been a more exciting time to join Walmart Supply Chain.”

Process Improvement
The new center will be the first of four next-gen FCs that will feature a new patent-pending process that is “powered by the combination of people, robotics and machine learning,” the article said. “This process will set a new precedent in fulfillment speed by streamlining a manual twelve-step process to just five steps. Once completed, the four new state-of-the-art FCs for Walmart could provide 75 percent of the U.S. population with next- or two-day shipping.”

Read the full article…

Inventory Issues Costing Supermarkets Dearly

SupermarketNews recently reported that, despite internal systems improvements, retailers continue to struggle with labor and supplier issues, costing North American supermarkets over $349 billion in total sales lossesmdue to out-of-stocks and overstocks.

Reports of consumer discontent are common, with shoppers claiming one-out-of-five items they want to buy are out-of-stock according to new research from analyst firm IHL Group the article said.

“While there have been considerable improvements in systems and processes in recent years, labor challenges and continued supply chain disruptions issues continue to frustrate both consumers and retailers,” said Greg Buzek, President of IHL Group. “In addition, challenges from theft, mistakes by employees, and spoilage cause retailer’s inventory counts to be off as much as 25%, resulting in consumers having a shopping experience where they left the stores without buying 1 in every 5 items they planned to buy.”

Ouch!

You can read the full article here.