Thursday 4 April 2013

Walmart's onshelf availability – moving from 1-stop to full-stop shopping?

With a database ‘as big as the Pentagon’, Walmart are in a better position than most retailers to validate the extent of shopper migration  resulting from on-shelf out-of-stocks.

According to articles in Bloomberg News,  significant numbers of 1-stop shoppers are becoming so frustrated at finding empty shelves that their full-shop needs to be topped up with essential items bought elsewhere… Bloomberg claim to have more than 1,000 emailed complaints signalling that on-shelf availability is worse than is claimed by Walmart, who say that the small sample size does not represent a national picture.

Anecdotal details of the OOS complaints are given in the article, and over 500 comments are appended to the online version.
Moreover, it would appear that the stock is in the store in most cases, but that staff cutbacks mean that refilling of shelves is suffering because available staff are focused on manning cash registers and answering shoppers’ questions…

Most of the complaints were from previously loyal Walmart customers befuddled by what had happened to service at a company they’d once admired for its low prices and wide assortment. Many said they were paying more and driving farther to avoid the local Walmart. Some had developed shopping strategies, including waiting until the last minute to grab ice cream, lest it melt in the lengthy checkout lines.

Given Walmart’s scale, their ‘handful of complaints’ would be a serious issue for lesser retailers.

However, if the company accepts that a complaining customer is someone trying to give the retailer a second chance, it would be a pity if Walmart waited for an impact on the share price, before taking remedial action…

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