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Retailer Alert: Empty Shelves Can Empty Stores of Shoppers

Retailer Alert: Empty Shelves Can Empty Stores of Shoppers Photo Credit: © Pavel Losevsky | Dreamstime.com

A hefty number of holiday in-store shoppers felt Grinched this year when they couldn’t find the products they were looking for on their retailers’ shelves, a new survey found. They showed their displeasure with their feet, defecting in large numbers to a competitor’s store.

According to the survey of more than 1,000 in-store shoppers by Aldata, a producer of retail and distribution optimization software, 31 percent of them discovered that the product(s) they were looking for during the 2011 holiday season were out of stock. And after encountering empty shelves, nearly half of these shoppers (46 percent) headed for a competitor's store.

Food and beverage retailers topped the list of retail categories with the highest out-of-stocks. The survey showed that 56 percent of shoppers experienced out-of-stocks at these retailers during the holiday season. Food and beverage was followed by toys and games (39 percent), apparel and footwear (39 percent), consumer electronics (30 percent) and video games and consoles (25 percent).

Out-of-stock was not the only annoyance waiting for holiday shoppers in 2011. The feeling of being "lost" in a store was high up on the consumer grocery store gripe list. Shoppers familiarize themselves with store layouts, so when retailers make changes, shoppers find themselves adding significant amounts of time to their weekly grocery trips.

More than half (62 percent) of those surveyed claimed layout changes would add more than five minutes to their trip each week and nearly a third (30 percent) said these changes would add more than 10 minutes to each trip.

Changes in store layouts were an irritant to a significant number of people; 38 percent claimed the changes left them "annoyed, with an additional 28 percent feeling "frustrated."

"Today’s shopper is tight on time and money," said Allan Davis, CMO of Aldata. "Retailers should be doing everything in their power to provide the best possible store experience to meet their evolving needs. That means precise demand forecasting to ensure shelves are never empty, and optimizing the store floor to avoid constant layout changes. Not only did the survey data demonstrate that many stores missed the mark this holiday season, but also that these misses damage brand perception of retailers and result in lost revenue. If you’re not giving shoppers what they want, they will easily shop the competition."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and held a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.