Supermarkets are using cardboard cutouts of fruits, vegetables and other groceries to fill shelf gaps as supply issues combined with a move to smaller product lines mean many stores are now too much. big.
Tesco has started using images of asparagus, carrots, oranges and grapes in its fresh produce aisles, causing ridicule on social media.
“Mmmm, delicious pictures of asparagus,” one commenter wrote on Twitter. Another mocked an oversized photo of the stacked vegetable: “I like asparagus to grow to this size in the UK. It’s our climate, I’m sure.
Shoppers spotted fake carrots in Fakenham, cardboard asparagus in London, photos of oranges and grapes in Milton Keynes, and bottles of 2D washing liquid in Cambridge. Sainsbury’s also used packaging designs to fill the shelves.
The tactic comes as shortages of truck drivers, preparers and packers on farms and food processing factories lead to low availability of some items in supermarkets. Problems at ports, where stevedores are struggling to cope with increased deliveries for the holiday season, are also causing shortages.
Bryan Roberts, retail analyst at Shopfloor Insights, said he only started seeing fresh produce cardboard cutouts last year, but said similar tactics were in place elsewhere in the shops. supermarkets for some time. “It has become quite commonplace. This is not just because of the shortages, but because a lot of department stores are now just too big. “
He said the cutouts were part of an array of tactics used to fill the space, including filling meat refrigerators with bottles of tomato sauce or mayonnaise, spreading packets of beer across entire aisles and installing large posters or other marketing materials.
Tesco, which boasted of boosting sales through its ability to stock its shelves, said the photos of fruits and vegetables were unrelated to recent supply chain issues and had been in use for many years. many months.
Traditional supermarkets, which can stock over 40,000 product lines, have perfected their grocery lines to improve efficiency so that they can lower prices and compete more effectively with discounters such as Aldi and Lidl, which sell less than 3. 000 different products.
This process was only accelerated by Brexit and the pandemic which resulted in staff shortages and difficulties in shipping goods. Supermarkets and manufacturers have reduced the range of different types of pasta, coffee or tea they sell to facilitate the movement of goods.
Some bulky and unprofitable items, such as bottled soft drinks and water, have also been pushed back on the delivery priority list due to driver shortages, meaning there may be larger gaps. on the shelves than usual.
Several chains, including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco, have also closed food outlets to cut costs, leaving more space to fill.
The boom in online shopping has led many supermarkets to stop stocking non-food items such as televisions, CDs or kettles, leaving empty spaces that many have not been able to fill with alternative products. Some have called on other services, such as opticians, key cutters or dry cleaners to take up space.
When it comes to fresh produce, stores like Tesco also have food waste reduction targets and therefore keep stocks tighter than they could in the past.
Cardboard cutouts of expensive items such as detergents, protein powders, and spirits such as gin are also sometimes used to prevent shoplifting. Photos of the items are placed on shelves to indicate availability, and buyers must collect the actual product at checkout.