Life is about balance, and so is the grocery business. Getting too much or too little sleep, exercise or food can harm your health. Taking in too much or too little inventory in your grocery operation can cause your bottom line to suffer. Life requires a careful balance, and successful grocery-store operations require careful inventory management.
Portion-control is one of the top ways to lose weight, because it’s about right-sizing the amount of calories you take into your body. Grocery operations need to practice their own version of portion control by right-sizing inventory — something that’s easier said than done.
The importance of inventory planning
Right-sizing inventory is key for every type of retail operation, but it can be especially challenging in a grocery environment. In addition to matching supply to demand, grocery operations have additional considerations they need to weigh.
Grocery operators have plenty of tools to help them in inventory planning; point-of-service systems help track outgoing inventory and their own analytics help them understand their shopper’s interests. Yet inventory management has multiple layers, and if an operator fails to achieve balance in any aspect, the results can be costly.
Fail to order all the inventory you need in a timely manner, and you can end up with out-of-stocks and angry customers. Order too much and you face equally unpleasant eventualities, such as needing to return supply, slashing prices to move overstocked product, warehousing headaches and, in the case of perishables, spoilage that leads to waste.
Good inventory management is critical throughout every category, and doubly so when you’re dealing with perishables like eggs, poultry, dairy and meats. With shorter shelf lives and more fragile products, perishables present unique challenges for inventory management.
Right-sizing perishables by using RPCs
Consider this scenario: A package of eight prime-cut steaks costs your grocery store $20. You know from experience you’ll be able to sell four of those steaks, but the other four will probably go to waste. You can ask your supplier to package 4 steaks in the box designed to hold eight steaks but with the extra space, there will likely be considerable shifting in transit, causing damage and unsaleable product. Or, the supplier could identify a smaller corrugated box but that adds complexity integrating a new box footprint into the supply chain. Still another consideration — if you buy the bigger case of eight, knowing you’ll sell just one or two a day, by the time the product must be sold, the freshness will be at its lowest point.
What should you do? Buy the eight-packs that you know will arrive securely, risk freshness, sell the four you can and toss the other four when they spoil? Or buy the four-packs at the risk even more of the product will go to waste when it gets damaged?
Reusable plastic containers offer a third possibility. Available in multiple sizes and heights, Tosca’s RPCs can help you right-size your inventory by allowing you to order and safely ship only what you know you’ll need. The standard base footprint with varying wall heights lets you right size inventory for your various store formats and different inventory requirements. Also, the rigid, ventilated sides ensure product stays protected while still getting the air circulation needed to keep perishables at safe temperatures.
RPCs also allow you to “right-size” your grocery operation’s environmental footprint. Reducing waste and transporting no more product than what you actually need, the environmental impact of your inventory management decreases. Less food will be wasted, less product and packaging will end up in landfills and more efficient shipping means reduced vehicle emissions transporting your inventory.
Achieving balance in your personal life is good for your health, and right-sizing inventory is good for the health of your grocery operation, too. RPCs can function as your operation’s equivalent of smart portion control!