Best One retailer and Partners for Growth Retailer Advisory Panel member Kay Patel reflects on the challenges he faced during lockdown and how his ranging decisions in lockdown have left him with the need for a major relay across all his categories as he prepares his stores to exit lockdown.
With four convenience stores and one café, all in close proximity in East London, Kay and his family have been incredibly busy over lockdown, and although his business has seen levels of growth that he could only have dreamed of before, it has been an incredibly stressful time.
Kay comments, “We faced numerous challenges as soon as the pandemic hit, not least of which was an increase in staff absences, because a lot of the team weren’t comfortable being classified as key workers, exposing themselves to the virus on a daily basis. That meant my mum and dad had to come out of shielding to help run the stores.’
But like many retailers, by far the biggest challenge Kay faced was finding stock, both to replenish the existing stock and to cater for the wider needs of his customers during lockdown, many of whom had taken to home baking and scratch cooking to occupy their time. This meant Kay had a big challenge on his hands.
‘We had to make space in our fairly small stores, for a lot more products in order to cater for the shoppers that used us for their weekly shop during lockdown’ Kay adds, ‘which was compounded by the challenge we had sourcing some of the best-selling SKU’s. I even resorted to visiting cash and carries a lot more frequently and widening the number of wholesalers we used from 2 to 5, simply to keep stocked up – it felt like we had gone back years in time!’
To solve the problem, Kay resorted to single facing most lines, so that if a best-selling line couldn’t be found, he could stock any substitute products available. But as lockdown restrictions have eased, Kay sees that his lockdown ranging strategy has now created a major issue for him.
Kay comments, ‘I’m a firm believer in using unbiased planograms to guide our ranging and merchandising decisions, as I want to ensure we are stocking the best-selling lines, together with some niche and new products that our customers ask for. But the challenge we now face as we exit lockdown is that all categories need remerchandising. We need to delist the slower sellers and get back to giving the right amount of space to the best sellers. This has to be my priority over the next couple of months.’
Kay also stresses that he feels offering value to customers will be more important than ever.
‘As we exit lockdown, I think many shoppers will be feeling increased pressures on their weekly budgets, so we need to make sure that we can deliver the value they need to keep them loyal. That obviously means we need to offer keen price points throughout the store, and support these with Price Marked Packs across as many categories as possible’.
Kay concludes, ‘I imagine that many retailers are in a very similar position to me at the moment, and I would urge them to check out the Partners for Growth advice. It’s unbiased so you can trust it to provide a great basis for category relays, as well as a good sense check to your wholesalers’ advice.
Why not join Kay on his journey to re-planogram his categories as he exits lockdown? Kay will be working with Unilever and the Partners for Growth team over the coming months using their unbiased advice to relay his Home Cleaning and Personal Care categories. If you’d like to follow the progress, simply subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter!