High levels of wastage used to be taken for granted in the fruit and veg category. Not any longer, says Geoff Clifton

Consumers are said to choose one supermarket over another because of the quality, variety and availability of its fresh produce. As such the leading supermarkets have gone to great lengths to promote this category.

The problem is that, with its short shelf life, fresh produce tends to generate tremendous wastage. For some retailers, the loss per branch can equate to its net profit.

While in more prosperous times, this shrinkage could be accepted, this is no longer the case. The smarter ones are, therefore, taking a harder look at how they can more easily identify which lines are approaching their sell-by date and ramping up in-store promotions.

So in addition to planned promotions, we are seeing a lot more reactive events, either triggered by excess stock or competitor tactics.

While most of these are planned and executed across the estate by head office, local managers are being further empowered to do what's best locally - a line that's selling well in York might be sticking in Southampton.

This doubles the issues that the business faces from a marketing perspective. For nationwide events, head office needs visibility of when a store actually gets a promotion up and running, so they are looking harder at EPoS data to check what's going through the till.

Generally where the sales are low, this is a red alert that PoS or stock has probably not found its way on to the floor.

Retailers need to make sure that they react as quickly as possible to best optimise the promotion. For most the only way to ensure this is by having PoS produced centrally and forwarded.

Precious time can be lost. But the technology is available to ensure both control and visibility is maintained at the centre, with the flexibility to enable individual branches to respond immediately to local conditions.

Products can change, products can be thrown away, but being able to maintain brand consistency and brand values, whether it be on full-priced or reduced products, is the best way to be sure of capitalising on the uplift when it comes.

Geoff Clifton is business development director at Pierhouse Business Solutions.