Overeaten chocolate during the holidays but still want some more? Get yourself and a large blue IKEA bag down to your local supermarket as chocolate is heavily discounted. Easter is not far away this year so why not save a little cash and stock up now - use by dates permitting, of course!
Post Christmas I have been taking a look at International Key Account retailers and seeing how they are coping in the continuing economic squeeze. One question came to mind after seeing well over 20 outlets of various retailers. What do they all do with all that chocolate and other Christmasy confectionery?
The same scenario is also present after Easter. Shelf after shelf and gondola after gondola of seasonal chocolate in all sorts of formats, shapes and sizes. Not simple packaging either and it must cost a fortune to pack a 15cm tall chocolate Santa or rabbit into a multi-coloured coffret. To be fair it is not just one manufacturer who has suffered a forecasting blip, every major name chocolate producer appears unable to get it right. For all of them Christmas must be a peak period and one that can make or break the year-end results and with no time left to remedy any sales deficit. Similarly, the timing can also place an un-provisioned hole in Q1 numbers even before you have taken down the decorations.
Of course, nobody wants to disappoint consumers and run out of stock at those peak periods but how can they afford the apparent over-stocking? If the goods are on consignment or “sale or return" then I can perhaps understand why retailers let displays hang around for several weeks. Even then I doubt the retailers would relish wasting valuable sales space on Easter themed chocolate into June and beyond.
Considering the power retailers have over producers I do not understand why stock is allowed to gather dust on shelves. Certainly, for many foodstuffs the listing contracts will contain clauses to withdraw stocks but usually only when the sell-by date approaches or off-take is ridiculously low.
What is the destiny of chocolate Santas and bunny rabbits after the sell-by date arrives? You cannot do much with it, can you? You cannot send it to a sink market in another country and with the vast majority of edibles you cannot recycle the stuff into fresh production as you could with washing powder, for example. If you have to write-off stock you have to pay to have it destroyed professionally and you frequently have to pay VAT on the stock value as if it was a sale.
Whatever the destiny of all that yummy chocolatey goodness, it is indicative of a lack of rigour in forecasting and/or sales expectations. Diverting some investment from stock that does not sell into taking a long, hard look at your Sales & Operational Planning (S&OP) process could offer a very rapid pay-back for those companies willing to break the chocolate losses mould.
As a step further, Supply Chain Analytics can help you to fully understand what is really happening in your peak periods and why you continue to miss your sales targets. Presently, there is a free of charge offer to analyse some of your data and expose the reality of your decision making.
Image courtesy of Nora Ashbee at Enchange.com