Saturday 7 January 2017

Should We Ban Storage Boxes From Aisles?

Every dollar counts in retailing and fine tuning the way we conduct our businesses can reap rewards. Some traders have suggested that we need to fine tune the way we load and unload stock in the Specialty Merchandise sector of our market. Specifically we may be able to earn extra sales by finding an alternative to the practice of blocking customer walkways with storage boxes.

There are essentially two modes of using storage boxes. One is to locate them within the trader’s stall so that all packing and unpacking takes place internally. Many traders operate this way. The other is to locate boxes in customer aisles while packing and unpacking takes place. Those boxes are then removed offsite.

It is the second mode that causes problems as the boxes block customer flow in the aisle. And it is not just blocking the stall that is packing. Boxes in the aisle create the impression that the whole aisle is closed for business. Customers will generally look for the passage of least resistance and in the worst scenario, exit the market all together. Other traders may be ready to do business but the action of the aisle blockers is compromising their sales potential.

There are probably a number of reasons why traders choose to operate their boxes in the aisles. One is because that is the way they have always conducted their business.  Another is because they feel they need to maximise display space and they don’t have space for boxes within their stalls. The latter probably has merit for traders on the “short side” of aisles.

Some traders have changed to internal storage of boxes by cleverly making them display spaces so they get the convenience of onsite boxes without losing display space. Some traders may need to move to larger stalls to achieve the same result.

This problem is particularly noticeable on busy days when customers abound and there is still potential for sales after normal closing times. Keen traders will see the opportunity to generate extra sales and keep trading. It is not uncommon on Tuesday for instance for trading to continue well beyond the normal 2:00 pm closing time. That is fine as long as all traders are willing to keep trading, but if just one trader decides to bring boxes into the aisle, that tends to put an end to business for traders around them.

Nobody wishes to diminish trader’s choices when it comes to packing on time, but if bringing boxes into the aisle stops traders who want to keep on trading, then that is restricting somebody else’s choices.

So how do we fix this? The simple answer is to ban boxes in aisles. All traders would be required to store their boxes within their stalls. But rarely do we find simple answers to market problems and this is no exception.

Traders who pack and unpack in the aisles believe they have good reason for doing so. Some traders may only do it because they have always done it that way. They would be the easy ones to fix. Finding alternatives for the others will require careful consideration. However, the benefits in trading flexibility and the opportunity to increase sales turnover are just too important to ignore. 

Packing and unpacking stock is an inevitable logistics problem for a pack-down market but operational logistics should not get in the way of doing business. Clearing the aisles of boxes is an opportunity to give every trader freer trading choices.

By Greg Smith

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