Gavin Chappell

Chappell: “we need to be ready to rock and roll by 3am”

Asda is considering moving its entire fresh supply chain forward by six hours in order to meet the changing needs of its e-commerce business.

Gavin Chappell, vice-president supply chain and e-commerce for Asda, said the move was in response to significant changes affecting its stores as a result of the growth of online.

Increased sales from Asda’s dotcom grocery business, driven principally by click & collect, now meant the busiest time of day was 5am, as staff ­fulfilled online orders. This meant the traditional method of setting up stores for a day’s trading was no longer fit for purpose.

“We always used to say we had to be full for 9am,” Chappell explained. “Some of our stores pick from 4am so we really need the whole store to be ready to rock and roll by 3am.

“We need to look at bringing the supply chain forward to ensure we can give the freshest product available to our home shopping customers.”

Asda’s online grocery sales recently hit £1bn, the majority of which is sourced from 280 stores, though it plans to add to its three dark stores.

Chappell also suggested suppliers might need to become more flexible in terms of packing their products later to respond to demand for different pack sizes across the various channels. He argued they could store product in “naked” packs before splitting up goods into the required pack sizes as and when to improve demand forecasting and reduce waste.

Chappell said this was not just a job for suppliers; retailers also need to improve to respond to the new challenges of e-commerce.

“E-commerce exposes your weaknesses as a business,” he said. “We have had 50 years to optimise a store-based model. We won’t get 50 years to optimise e-commerce.”