Super Contributor
Posts: 370
Registered: ‎03-10-2010

Stores Re-arranging Product Locations for the Holidays

The following letter was written by a friend of mine, and was prompted by her discussions with other friends who were feeling the same way. Have you all noticed this, and experienced the same frustration? I'd love to hear your comments, and also suggestions as to how we might get stores (WalMart in particular) to remedy this:

It is the practice of many grocery stores to move items around and set up special displays of "holiday" food items, often located in the middle of narrow aisles. I understand that this is driven by marketing strategies and, on the surface, might seem more convenient for the customer to find most of the traditional holiday items in one location. However, I think I speak for a large number of shoppers and store employees when I explain why this doesn't work.

Grocery stores are especially crowded in the days just prior to a holiday and most shoppers want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Among stores with prices within our budget, we are going to choose the one with which we are most familiar with the layout.

This will become even more of an issue with the increasing use of phone apps to make grocery lists. These lists are usually organized by aisle numbers or locations in the shopper's preferred store. Moving items around negates the desired convenience and efficiency that make these apps popular.

During my shopping experience in WalMart for this Thanksgiving meal, I found the most crowded aisle was the one with baking ingredients. It was clogged with customers having to search in vain for items that have been moved. In contrast, there were few people around the special holiday item displays, indicating our inclination to look first where the items are normally found.

I first looked in the baking aisle for mincemeat pie filling. There were many cans of pumpkin and fruit pie fillings, but no mincemeat. Towards the back of the store, after I had finished shopping most of the aisles, I found a holiday food display, but no mincemeat. Since this is my husband's favorite pie, I finally asked an employee who was stocking the shelves. He suggested I try the baking aisle and said they must be out if it wasn't there. Then I spotted a manager, who was very helpful and took me to a SECOND display of holiday foods, not particularly near the one I had already searched. There I finally found the mincemeat. This one item resulted in searching three different places and bothering two employees.

Many spices were still in the baking aisle, but the shelf space for sage was empty. When I asked an employee if there was any more in the back, she led me to the meat department. More tins of sage were on a shelf next to the turkeys!

Most stores have pecans, walnuts, and almonds on racks in the baking aisle. In WalMart's I found none on that aisle, some with the holiday item displays, and some on the snack aisle with the peanuts. I was never able to find slivered almonds.

The store was also out of refrigerated pastry dough and half gallon sizes of 2% milk, which meant I would need to go to another store. I also needed to restock our meat supply, but found my time and patience had run out before I ever made it to the meat department. I realize that it is almost unavoidable for a store to run out of certain items at a given time, but after such a frustrating shopping experience, it was easy to decide to just buy the meat as well at the next store.

When I told the manager who was helping me find the mincemeat about how difficult the rearranging made shopping, he replied that this practice is directed by Corporate and that he and the store employees also hate it. It isn't hard to see why. Not only do they incur the costs of moving and restocking items, customers require more help from the employees in locating items. Bottom line, instead of providing a pleasant shopping experience for the customer, these mandates from corporate ADD unnecessary frustration to their shoppers at just the time of year when they are busiest and the stores are the most crowded.

I understand that psychological and behavior findings underlie the marketing and display of merchandise, and the contribution these can make to company profits. But consider the sales of convenience foods for proof that customers will pay for convenience. Would it not be worth a try to advertise instead the experience of being able to shop in a store where things stay in their same, familiar places (as much as possible) and where value is placed on the customer's time? That's certainly the store that would get my business!

“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” —Jackie French Koller