Range Transition – A basic skill not yet mastered

By Phil Dorrell, Managing Partner, Retail Remedy

Having spent over 30 years in various different retail environments and another 6 years as a retail consultant I consider execution fundamental to keeping customers engaged and coming back. The sticky bit of retail is more often where the rubber meets the road than in the higher environs of the strategic board room. So why is it that retailers still fail to get this right so often?

If I was to mince my words I would probably gab on about the needs of the range out doing the needs of the stores and that the stores have to be flexible in their approach, using long lost skills to dress problems away. That would be missing the real point however.

New ranges and new products are exciting both in supplier’s, head office’s and in customer’s minds. They are intoxicating in a way, they become the reason we do what we do. The defining moment of a buyer’s year can be the range review, it becomes the make or break of a buyer. And this is where it goes wrong.

On a recent visit to Tesco I witnessed the abandonment of space within their frozen food section as they made the transition on ready meals. The retailers nightmare, gaps left to wallow over a busy weekend with nearly 20% of the range unavailable and no teasing about the new offer that might be coming. In truth Tesco normally get this right.

What really worried me was the visit I took to B & Q over the Christmas break. I thought I would fit some new lights to the Kitchen and planned what I needed to make the change. Shame that B & Q did not do the same. The market is changing from Halogens to LED’s and yet the largest home DIY provider in the UK does not seem to be able to handle this change at all. Mixing the types of bulbs, fittings, confusing in the packaging differentiation and letting normal merchandising rules go. No good, better, best, no colour or type blocks, no explanation of the change in progress or attempt to dress the section to cover the gaps. Isolated store? Nope. The same horrendous section was in play in the store 6 miles away.

We often write about some heady subjects like strategy and market forces. I think that at times we just need to remember the basics of retail, if you cannot execute a range review that only impacts your customers (and bottom line) positively then start asking questions of the Central Operations function. Give them some teeth and see execution reap the rewards, oh, and you won’t look daft in having half empty shelves!

Retail Remedy provides bespoke, results-focused consultancy for retailers globally, from established brands to high-growth start-ups. Get in touch.

1 reply
  1. Reagan
    Reagan says:

    Great article. There are so many companies having this issue and its not just in the transition. It is all over the entire store. Stores have pushed to keep their wages so low that its been found that the motivation of the employee to get it right isn’t what it should be. The challenge is finding the people in the corporate offices to take it seriously and know that it can be fixed.


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