Tesco has turned to virtual reality to help it decide which products to sell in which stores.

It has remodelled its meeting space at its Welwyn Garden City merchandising centre and incorporated two giant 18ft x 7ft virtual reality screens displaying photo realistic products on shelf.

The system, which was developed by Red Dot Square, had made range planning quicker and easier, said Tesco group CIO Mike McNamara.

“Virtual merchandising allows us to pack virtual shelves with virtual products at the press of a button, he said. “Because we no longer have to go through the laborious process of laying out new merchandise assortments physically, we can now try out infinitely more range and format combinations.”

Buyers and merchandisers had halved the time they spent planning, claimed Red Dot Square CEO, Jeremy Cohen. “Previously, Tesco had these enormous warehouses where they built different fixtures from scratch. They then asked suppliers to send all their products to Tesco, then merchandised them. We allow them to do that very quickly.”

The other major advantage was its ability to interpret Tesco data in a visually simple way, said Cohen. “Tesco has seen significant uplifts in sales because they can interpret data far more effectively,” he claimed. “The system can colour-code products based on metrics from different store formats, or other data.

“So Tesco may look at a display and say, ‘We want everything that has a rate of sale above a certain amount to turn green, and anything that under-performs to turn red’. They are then presented with a very simple visual representation of that data, which means they are able to digest it very quickly.”

Tesco is the first UK retailer to adopt Red Dot Square technology.