Elaine Watson
Tesco and Sainsbury are missing out on a major sales opportunity through poor product availability, according to new research by Taylor Nelson Sofres revealed at the Schroder Salomon Smith Barney Food Retailing conference.
Data from TNS Superpanel for the eight weeks to September 15 revealed more than 15% of customers from Tesco and Sainsbury were emerging from shopping trips unable to purchase everything they wanted.
When asked, Were you able to buy everything that you had wanted on this trip?,' Morrisons came out on top with a 91.8% yes' rating, ahead of Waitrose, at 89.5% and Asda at 87.1%. At the bottom of the list were Sainsbury at 83.8% and Tesco at 84.1%, supporting growing anecdotal evidence that the number one and two players in the market have been having problems getting products on to shelves. However, Sainsbury said a complete overhaul of its distribution network would have a "significant impact" on onshelf availability. Business focus manager for instore supply chain Dominic Price said: "We're working to design a new inventory management system instore which will help to deliver significant benefits.
"We also have a highly reliable onshelf availability monitor that will give us tremendous information to prioritise availability on our fastest selling lines."
However, Tesco bosses insisted out of stocks were not keeping them awake at night.
Speaking at the conference finance director Andrew Higginson said: "If we had an availability problem we wouldn't have had the sales figures we've had. Last Christmas, our like-for- likes were something like 6-7%. I wish we could have a few more problems' like that."
IT & logistics director Phil Clarke also denied there was a problem: "Those numbers do not reflect the ones we see."
Clarke deniedTesco's decision to recruit 5,000 additional permanent staff (The Grocer, October 12, p15) reflected any special concerns about availability, but said: "We're making an extra special effort to get more goods on sale faster."
TNS Superpanel MD Andrew Czarnowski said Tesco was "probably a victim of its own success"."Store traffic has been growing enormously."

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