Sainsbury is stepping up its availability drive as new supply chain director Roger Burnley takes over from logistics guru Lawrence Christensen.
Sainsbury aims to cut the number of stores that have night-time curfews on deliveries. At the moment, 100-plus stores have limited delivery times and are typically not able to start replenishing until 7am.
Sainsbury has already had the council's curfew lifted in Winchester following trials of "silent" night deliveries. As well as staff working as quietly as possible, empty cages are not loaded back on to lorries.
"It's made a huge difference," said store manager Rich Morris. "When the curfew was in place, we had an average of 1,300 gaps a day. That has now fallen to 500 and our sales have increased by £35,000 a week."
Where the curfews cannot be lifted, Sainsbury has altered working patterns. At a Liverpool store, located near its Haydock depot, it is able to receive late deliveries just before the curfew kicks in, with a new night shift working to re-stock the store.
In contrast, its Lewes Road store in Brighton is two hours away from its depot, so management has introduced early morning "rumbles", where staff wait at the back door to turn the delivery around rapidly.
Meanwhile, the roll out of the Retek Store System to all Sainsbury stores is completed this month. Handheld terminals allow staff to scan rollcages at the back door and prioritise those with lines that need to go straight on shelf. It provides real-time stock information and instructions for the staff.