The Co-operative Group has launched a major initiative to improve availability.

Supply chain and logistics director Mark Hale told delegates at IGD’s Supply Chain Summit this week that the society could realise millions of pounds in savings and new revenue by tackling inefficiencies and lost sales.

Its average availability was currently 97.2% and it had set a target of 97.6% by 2016, he said. To achieve this, it was looking at a number of key areas such as produce, bakery, chilled and prepared foods, he added.

The first step involved switching to seven-day receiving in its depots and working more flexibly at head office. HO staff were already working a five-over-seven-day pattern rather than the traditional Monday to Friday, he said.

Another priority was to work more closely with suppliers. Currently there are 10 suppliers embedded in the society’s head office and Hale said it was looking for more.

Next year, The Co-op would switch to single promotional forecasting, he added, admitting this was something it had not been good at in the past. It would now run forecasts for all 4,000 stores it supplies including other societies’ stores.

It would also have promotional stock delivered separately - it was currently separated manually, costing a seven-figure labour sum, said Hale.

Stockholding was another issue that needed addressing. In terms of the wrong stock in the wrong stores, The Co-op was 25% worse than its rivals - costing it a nine-figure sum.

The Co-op was also looking to work with suppliers to have stock delivered in more suitable case sizes. From January, all wine sold by the retailer would have to be delivered in cases of six. “For some of our stores a case of whisky might be a year’s supply,” Hale pointed out.