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Supermarkets Alter Layouts, Use Decoys to Fill Gaps Left by Shortages

Supermarkets Alter Layouts, Use Decoys to Fill Gaps Left by Shortages

While chaos reigns in supply chains, grocery stores are trying to present an appealing and seemingly organized front for customers. To do so, some are turning to age-old tricks of the trade, and developing new ones, to cover up gaps on the shelves.

That includes moving products to unlikely places in stores.

Shoppers in the U.K. said they have spotted bulky crates of beer piled into aisles reserved for prepackaged meals and boxes of chocolate filling crates usually stocked with fresh vegetables. One branch of Co-operative Group Ltd., which operates stores under Co-op, stocked refrigerated displays with shelf-stable HP Sauce and Heinz Salad Cream condiments so that shoppers wouldn’t see empty racks.

“We’ve been impacted by some patchy disruption to our deliveries,” a spokesperson for Co-op said. “Our teams are always trying to make sure our stores look as attractive as possible and sometimes managers come up with creative ways of making sure shelves are full.”

Businesses the world over are experiencing product shortages as demand for goods has rebounded faster than supply following the worst of the pandemic, which also disrupted labor availability at food suppliers. In the U.K., 17% of consumers said they couldn’t buy essential food items because they were unavailable between Sept. 22 and Oct. 3, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Retailers say they need to maintain their customer experience as best they can to remain competitive.

Some 58% of consumers said supply-chain disruptions, product shortages and shipping delays have made shopping more stressful, and 41% said product shortages and significant shipping and delivery delays would cause them to abandon a brand, according to results from an October survey by New York-based trade association ICSC, which represents retail businesses.

For grocers, that means managing stores to at least look well-stocked, ordered and tidy.

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