convenience store soft drinks confectionery aisle

Overstocking is the biggest challenge facing the independent and convenience store sector, according to the boss of field sales agency McCurrach.

CEO Angus Maciver said shop owners were missing out on profits as they filled up their stores with ranges for individual customers.

“How many times have I been into a retailer where he says, ‘Look. John down the road always buys Skol so I’ve got three SKUs of Skol in here; six-pack, four-pack, and single because I know he likes it’. John is the only person who’s buying that brand and the entire range is packed full of different Johns,” he told Him’s Wholesale Forum in London yesterday.

“There’s still too much that’s promotional driven, too much driven on margin and not on cash and what the bestsellers are and where you get the best return and best for the shopper experience,” added Maciver. “There is still a long way to go.”

Val Kirillovs of Him said smaller stores should follow the example of Aldi and Lidl, who have cut down their category range to about 1,500 SKUs compared with 26,000 in ‘big supermarkets’.

“Convenience retailers can’t really have a long table of SKUs sitting there collecting dust, not making profit, or taking up space,” he said.

“If that happens in convenience then it is happening in wholesale too. What we want to see is greater efficiencies. Fewer products in store leads to greater efficiencies in itself and makes the store look nicer - which is what the customers that go into the store really want.”

He added: “Excessive range makes a store look overstocked. It’s driven by the right thing in what the customers want, but sometimes you can get so carried away and start stocking so many products.”

Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore has dropped almost 15,000 products from its range over the past few months.

Managing director James Russell said the company decided to reduce its SKUs following consultation with customers.

“Historically we were one of those businesses with our head in the sand, but we’re taking our range down from about 25,000 lines to about 10,000 lines, and we’ve done that in consultation with our customers who are telling us that it’ll absolutely make their life easier,” he said.

“And that’s because it’ll make their everyday shopping missions easier to undertake, it’ll help them with their decision making, and most of all it’ll help us to reduce the floor spacing in some of our depots. That’ll make it quicker and easier to shop.”