Date published

Retail Pulse: State of the Shelf in the US during COVID-19

By Lee Barwin, Head of Marketing, Retail Solutions at Trax

Panic pantry shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in-store merchandising conditions for many grocery retailers across the US, as well around the world. Leveraging image recognition technology to track what’s happening at shelf, we gathered data across 10 essential product categories in over 300 stores in the US, for a period of two weeks in April 2020.

In our previous blog, we compared shopper demand variations across various categories and identified which shelves were full and which were empty. For example, in 80% of the stores, toilet paper were completely out-of-shelf.

In this blog, we turn out attention to how retailers in various states within the US are faring in terms of average shelf utilization.

Heatmap: % Shelf Space Utilization by State

As seen in the heatmap above, the shelf reality of stores varied almost in direct relation to how early social distancing measures were implemented in states.

State-by-state comparison: How full are the shelves?

As shown in the graph above, retail stores in Ohio, South Carolina and Indiana had fuller shelves compared to stores in California, Nevada and Arizona – states where social distancing norms were enforced early, triggering panic buying.

This data is particularly useful when retailers are required to adjust their supply chain distribution processes to meet daily demand.

Looking at the individual retailer-level, most chains generally struggled to keep shelves reasonably stocked over the two-week period. Some showed better shelf space utilization in non-food categories while others had better stocked food shelves.

Which retailer has the best utilized shelves in the food category?

Which retailer has the best utilized shelves in the non-food category?

From the charts above, we can see that Target performed reasonably better in non-food categories while Walmart had better stocked shelves in the food categories monitored. For example, shoppers were five times more likely to find toilet papers in a Target store compared to Ahold.

If used properly, this data could provide retailers with the opportunity to inform shoppers of stock levels before they leave their home to purchase essentials, under restricted living conditions.

In-store automation: Key to the next normal

With fluctuations in demand and supply expected to continue, Trax provides retailers with a unique opportunity to automate shelf monitoring and use accurate, timely, and essential retail data to drive better supply chain decisions and store with agility and confidence.

In-store automation helps retailers by;

  • Lowering costs and eliminating manual and tedious in-store tasks
  • Improving shelf space utilization and stock availability
  • Reducing fulfillment times of online orders
  • Improving customer experience as shoppers face fuller shelves
  • Increasing staff productivity

With the future looking uncertain due to the COVID19 pandemic, in-store automation is now more important than ever to track on-shelf availability and out-of-stocks as they happen. Trax collects real-time SKU level shelf data for retailers globally with its proprietary Computer Vision technology.

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