SUPERMARKET AVAILABILITY: June 2004 to June 2005 - quarter by quarter

When it comes to getting product on shelf, it seems that nobody does it better than Morrisons. Having scooped the award for best availability for the past two years, the retailer, which has had a rough ride since taking over Safeway last March, has once again shown it can certainly still deliver full shelves.

In fact, its performance this year has been nothing short of extraordinary. During the year to June 4, Morrisons returned a total of 21 full baskets. Our mystery shoppers only managed to spot 21 out-of-stock products. Indeed, Morrisons has been out of stock of a mere six items since the New Year.

For the full year, Morrisons boasted an availability record of 98.3%. The task that now faces chairman Sir Ken Morrison and chief executive Bob Stott is to introduce the same standards into the Safeway side of the business as the conversion programme continues.

Availability for the last year at those stores still trading under the Safeway banner was down at 95.8%. The conversion programme is due to be completed by November and there is little doubt that improvements will have to be made at these stores if it is not to impact Morrisons’ chances of making it to four availability crowns in a row next year.

There was also plenty of encouragement for the other leading multiples, not least Tesco.

Last year Tesco was down in sixth place when it came to getting goods on shelves.

Then it appeared that the UK’s leading food retailer was much better at actually selling goods than it was at replenishing shelves. However, this now looks like yet another aspect
of the business Tesco is getting right. As it become a cornerstone of his recovery plan for Sainsbury. On the face of it, he still has a long way to go with an overall record of 95.6%. However, there are reasons for him to be cheerful. King set recovery in motion last October and availability has definitely improved since then.

Having started the year well, Sainsbury was at 97.5% availability for the first quarter, but hit rock bottom in the three months running up to Christmas at just 92.3%. During the third quarter, Sainsbury improved to 94.9% and came in at 97.1% for the past three months. Our shoppers have only reported three out of stocks at Sainsbury during the last eight weeks.

The continued speculation over the future of Somerfield seems to have impacted on its performance. Its availability for the year was just 94.6%. The retailer has performed particularly poorly since Christmas. Its third-quarter record was just 93.8%, which then slipped to 93.3% for the past three months.

This year, we also monitored availability in the big four multiples through our category spotlights (see below). The category the retailers found easiest to get right was household goods. All bar Sainsbury returned 100% availability over the course of the year.

This is to be expected, as it is the category with the least exposure to factors such as seasonality or the weather. However there was an impressive showing across the board in both the fresh and dairy fixtures.

The area the retailers struggled most in was meat, fish and poultry. Suprisingly, Morrisons came out worst with only 85% availability, while Sainsbury came in at 100%.

Ronan Hegarty