Most resets are done in the middle of the night, which means few of us have the chance to see one in action. That’s too bad, because there’s probably no more important merchandising execution than translating the category plan to the shelf — it establishes the customer shopping experience and it also has a big impact on the ease of ordering and the level of out of stocks.
So, when I recently had the chance to talk with someone who’s actually executed several dozen category resets for one of the largest U.S. grocery chains, I jumped at it. Their experiences and honest views revealed some insider knowledge that most people haven’t been told (or don’t know) — yet. Our dialogue also generated some ideas for improving the ROI of resets, which I’ll run through below.
1. Resets take more time than most people think, and the costs add up.
Average-difficulty first-time resets — say for coffee canisters and bags in a 150-item category — takes about 20 hours of work, which translates to a labor cost of about $350 per store, but the range varies a lot depending on the level of difficulty.
- At the high end of the difficulty scale, first-time vitamin resets can cost $525 per store for a 150-item reset.
- At the low end, cans of baked beans for example, the cost is about $220 for the same size reset.
2. Resetting shelves is a complex activity, and experience helps.
There’s a learning curve for each reset. It’s usually not most efficient to take all the items off the shelf and start with an empty space, but that’s what the team typically does the first time they reset a new category. After several more resets, it becomes clear what products go and what products stay, so by the time the team gets to the tenth reset for that category, they’re able to do it twice as fast.
3. Prep and tools matter — the devil is the details.
For a reset crew to work effectively, they must have enough carts and boxes to hold the product and enough tools (screwdrivers, flashlights, knives, etc.) for every member to be able to get them when they need them. This doesn’t happen on many resets. The lack of planning in this area results in idle time and lower productivity.
4. Lots of problems on both the bottom and top shelves.
Bottom shelves are difficult because they’re typically deeper and it’s not easy to get down to see into them. The trim that holds the shelf strips is also frequently damaged, making installation slower and harder.
The top shelf is often difficult to reach and is usually full of slower-moving items with a variety of product behind the first facing on the shelf.
5. Shelf strips are a big help — except when they are not.
There’s no question that shelf strips have greatly improved both the speed and accuracy of resets, but they are the source of problems too. Issues happen if the right shelf strips aren’t available at the beginning of the reset, or if they are made of out of material that tears easily (which happens more than you might think) making them difficult to work with.
The biggest issue, however, is that it usually takes time and practice for someone to learn to handle the strips efficiently and get them into the fixtures. Most new team members find this hard to do at first, so this is one area where having an experienced person on the team really helps.
6. The reset should really happen before regular stocking — not during.
This may seem like a no brainer, but the saying “divide and conquer” is definitely true in this case. The gist is that a lot of product is handled by the reset crew, so it’s always faster and easier to do that work before the regular stocking; that way the crew has a lot less product to handle. Bottom line, leave the stocking of regular items to the regular crew.
Start improving your ROI for resets
Good news! Based on the six things above, there is some low-hanging fruit when it comes to making the process more effective:
- Use checklists to be sure everything is prepared for the start of work, and make someone responsible for that crucial list.
- Ensure that there’s experience on the team to speed up both the job and the learning curve.
Longer term, the bigger opportunity is to reinvent how the reset process can improve how product is merchandised on the shelf by:
- Removing slow-moving products by putting store-level authorization in place.
- Introducing computer assisted ordering (CAO) so deliveries can go directly to the shelf.
- Reducing the number of resets by coordinating the timing of new product introductions.
What other opportunities do you see to improve the return on investment of resets?