Reduced-to-clear shelves and stock

For some time, I have been living off the reduced to clear shelves in the local supermarkets. Sometimes rather expensive things like good cuts of meat can be surprisingly cheap, and various different kinds of food are on offer. Given how some things have become so much dearer over the recent past, it makes a big difference. Once I bought a whole chicken – and one of those free range, posh chickens – for £1.78 (the original price was over £7), and that lasted me a good few days.

When there are items reduced to clear, it is a sign that the supermarket did not get things quite right, as it indicates there was too much stock. I am no businessman, but too much stock is a bad thing, especially with something like fresh food, as it is perishable and must be sold within a relatively short period of time, and lose value completely once past the sale-by date. So while it is good news for someone like me, it is bad news for the supermarket.

However, on the other hand there is the problem of too little stock, when there are bare shelves, and nothing on the reduced to clear shelf. It’s bad news for me, and it may look more efficient, but the supermarket could have sold more, if it had more stock. Indeed I might have bought something at the regular price in addition to scavenging in the reduced to clear shelf, but because it was out of stock, the supermarket loses a sale, and I am more inclined go to a competitor the next time, so the supermarket has not only lost a sale of an item, but the whole shopping and future potential custom.

In my local context, the former – a tendency to overstock and sell at reduced prices – happens quite often at Tesco, and the latter – a tendency to understock and have more empty shelves – happens quite often at Sainsbury’s. Given supermarkets must be able to track each and every purchase, I would have thought they have some sophisticated methods of predicting the right amount of stock at all times, but perhaps this reflects a different corporate strategy and philosophy. May be I am reading too much into it. I wonder what I will find on the reduced to clear shelf today.