Managing Director, Traka UK

April 12, 2021


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Asset management

How asset management tech has contributed to the UK lockdown supermarket success

Steve Bumphrey, Managing Director of Traka UK, looks at the significance of the last 12 months for the supermarket sector, highlighting the significant role technology and specifically asset management has played to enable supermarkets to successfully ride the storm.

Bucking the general downward trend in physical store visits, supermarkets across the UK have been touted as the big lockdown winners, as one of the few areas positively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supermarket success

The UK’s first national lockdown and its immediate aftermath saw a significant shift in consumer habits. Whilst this was initially mandated, it then lingered as non-essential shops and restaurants bounced between being open and closed as risks from the virus remained.

The upshot is that shops predominantly selling food, such as supermarkets, saw a 5-10% bump in sales during lockdown, adding up to an additional £4 billion in earnings over “business as usual” expectations.

The reasons for the supermarket success, are mainly due to the behavioural changes in consumers, as well as a quick response by retailers to embrace technology. Shopping frequency dramatically reduced, as people went online or used local outlets within residential areas when they had to shop. Consequences of lockdown, such as long queues outside supermarkets, also led to ‘forced experimentation’.

Ultimately, consumers had to explore new purchasing methods and change their habits. When people are forced to experiment, it can lead to behaviour changes that last well beyond the life of a crisis.

Supply chain recognition

UK supermarkets had to respond to the mounting pressures, and the changing nature of shopping behaviours, including the return of the ‘weekly shop’ habit.  This played to the strength of traditional supermarkets with large car parks, wide ranges and plenty of spaces for social distancing.

But in the same token, they had to keep up with demand. Supermarkets are very efficient at providing a large amount of food for a lot of people but they have their vulnerabilities, as we witnessed in the initial lockdown, and focus on consumer stockpiling, when supermarkets quickly became overwhelmed.

Technology proved to play its part to support supermarkets looking to meet rapidly evolving customer expectations.  The overnight transformation led to a renewed sense of efficient supply chains, where team members from frontline supermarket workers to those in distribution and logistics were recognised as key workers and celebrated by the consumer.

Technology transformation

Food distributors had to quickly find new innovative ways to ensure quick delivery from field to doorstep, driving new standards in design and use of technology to ensure products get to customers on time, in full.

Intelligent management solutions proved to help supermarket retailers create more efficient ways of operating, which became critical in delivering the optimal in-store experience in the new retail landscape.

With fully automated asset management solutions in place, valuables such as keys, cash trays, stock and equipment (e.g. handheld scanners) are monitored and maintained. A full audit trail with real-time reporting means retailers can see exactly who has removed which device, when it was taken and when it has been returned. This results in staff becoming more accountable and equipment being utilised more effectively, eliminating the need for arduous and costly manual administration.

A significant reduction in shift start-up times and required inventory not only improves operational efficiency, but also has translated to a better customer experience.

The adoption of asset management has supported one of the big four supermarkets, which is fulfilling orders and dealing with 2.4 million cases per week, which can grow to more than 3.1 million at peak periods, and even higher through the pandemic.

Says a representative of the leading superstore chain: “For the warehouse to operate at maximum capacity, we try to make it as simple as possible for authorised colleagues to gain total control of asset management with full traceability at all times.” The implementation offered “a futureproof system with an opportunity to network and build, as our operational requirements continue to grow.”

Traka-Supermarketwhitepaper-21In summary, by re-aligning their priorities and increasing efficiencies through the use of technology and asset management, supermarket retailers have the resources to deliver to meet changing consumer behaviours, in the next chapter of this tale as we go into ‘the new normal’. A critical part of this will be the creation of seamless administration and distribution processes. All without compromising on the humanity of the physical retail experience, as an integral touchpoint in the future success of the UK’s supermarket sector.

Traka has recently produced a white paper, entitled ‘Exploring the pandemic boost for UK supermarkets,’ which investigates further on the use of technology in supporting supermarkets to adapt and capitalise on the new opportunities brought by the pandemic. Download the whitepaper, here.


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