By Gina Agapiou and Andrew Rosenbaum
Consumers are increasingly concerned about product shortages since lockdown ended.
In recent weeks, the Cyprus Mail has been receiving regular complaints from consumers who could not find their favourite products in stores, from their preferred cheesecake ingredients to computer hardware.
Eleni Papademetriou said she could not find raw corn for pop-corn about two weeks ago, while last weekend she had to visit three different supermarkets to find her go-to cream cheese brand. “It’s a very popular brand, I was surprised I could not find it and I immediately thought it was because of the virus” she complained to the Cyprus Mail.
Nicosia resident Sophia Kyprianou complained that her neighbourhood’s grocery store did not have the size of the adult diapers she buys for her mum. “This didn’t happen before,” she said.
Several readers have also asked us about a shortage of blank DVDs for recording. But customers in electronic stores persist in claiming that they are still unable to find selected products, although electronics stores were were allowed to remain open during the restrictive measures against the spreading of Covid-19 that decreed the closure of certain businesses.
Marios Droushiotis, head of the Consumers Association told us that delays in the supply chain caused by irregular ferry and air cargo arrivals due to the pandemic are causing these short-term shortages. “Shipping has to limit workers and control the risk of infection,” he pointed out. “But there are no concerns for an overall shortage of commodities.”
The General Director of the Cyprus Supermarket Association Andreas Hadjiadamou confirmed that specific products might be missing from the shelves of a specific supermarket. “However, our members have not suffered any shortages,” he added.
Experts in retailing warn that going out of stock in an item can send a consumer to a competitor to find it. This is the worst thing that can happen, as that customer may not return. For retailers, this kind of reaction also throws forecasting and ordering accuracy out of sync.
“A customer walks into their local grocer looking for their favourite drink brand, only to find that it’s out of stock. Frustrated, this patron considers her options: choose another brand, choose another store, choose to postpone the purchase, or choose not to buy the drink at all. None of these scenarios are favorable to the beverage producer or to the retailer,” warns retailing consultant Victoria Vessela.
According to Vessela, 30 per cent of consumers feel that not finding an item they want on the shelf is the worst part of their customer experience.
And, the first time consumers are faced with an item out of stock, 31 per cent go to another store, according to Vessela. The second time, 50 per cent go to a competitor to find it. The third time, 70 per cent switch stores.
Sales, brand image, and future planning efforts are all damaged as a result of out-of-stocks, she continues. Suppliers should do everything in their power to avoid the dreaded stockout.