from Richard Finch, sales director, The Blue Water Agency

Sir; The problems of maintaining stock levels highlighted in The Grocer 33 survey and your article (JS falls down on stocks, The Grocer, September 18, p4-5) is a symptom of a bigger and more serious problem driven by the nation’s marketing psyche.
From the time we understand the function of the cathode ray tube and print advertisements in comics and magazines, we begin to understand marketing. Whether or not we pursue it as a career option, we grow up understanding the creative execution of advertising campaigns. The problem is that most people in business, and marketers in particular, never shake off the idea that marketing is about communicating messages on a large scale. Marketing therefore becomes a discipline that is all about making big promises, never fulfilling them.
And this is where the problem with stocking lies. Marketing departments are responsible for how brands are perceived by consumers but as far as they are concerned delivery of brand promise is somebody else’s responsibility. Too often this is left to part-time employees whose job it is to stack shelves.
The irony is that it does not take a change in mindset to redeem the situation. All it takes is recognition of the problem and the use of field marketing to regularly audit and ensure promotional compliance.
Most importantly, field marketers need to be allowed to take ownership of the problems in store and deal with them. This can be as simple as merchandising stock from the stockroom. This requires the field marketer to speak with the section manager about regular replenishment and contact the store stock controller to order extra stock and review replenishment levels.
Simple tasks, such as ensuring there is a shelf-edge label on the shelving means that the product can be re-ordered by staff scanning the barcodes. The benefits can occur within days and retailers, manufacturers and consumers all reap the rewards.