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Optimizing Merchandising and Replenishment in Fresh
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Optimizing Merchandising and Replenishment in Fresh

Optimizing Merchandising and Replenishment in Fresh
Andrew Isherwood, Senior Product Manager, Invafresh

Speaking with Andrew Isherwood, Senior Product Manager, Invafresh

Fresh is the department that drives customers to your store; it also is a unique department with unique challenges, including how to manage merchandising and replenishment operations to realize growth and optimize incremental savings. Progressive Grocer asked Andrew Isherwood, Senior Product Manager at Invafresh, to explain how the company’s innovative technology platform can help retailers automate processes, enhance decision-making, and engage in flexible planning to help achieve those goals.

Progressive Grocer: Why is automation such an important component of merchandising and replenishment?

Andrew Isherwood: Data is key to leveraging AI and redefining processes for automation. When managing store replenishment of fresh products, it is imperative for calculations and optimizations to be done automatically. Why? Just think about the factors influencing demand and replenishment: weekday variation, seasons, weather, promotions, delivery schedules and day-level probabilities of waste and stock-outs. It is impossible for any human to keep track of all those things! Actions such as markdowns, inventory counts, and promotions must be done in real-time, from the floor — so a solution that supports time-dependent data is key for productivity.

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PG: How can technology help enhance decision-making through added visibility?

AI: Our technology uses the power of AI to create accurate demand forecasts, while automated replenishment enables more visibility into current and future inventory. Not only does this help with merchandising your store — it also can open a window into the costs of resources. For example, how many people do you need to schedule to receive, pick and merchandise your store? For retailers — especially those struggling to adequately staff their stores — this technology is invaluable.

PG: Let’s talk about flexible planning. Why is it so important and how can the Invafresh platform enhance the process?

AI: Fresh products must be available perfectly in sync with demand. That means forecasting must be as flexible and accurate as possible. The importance of prepared food is growing. Shoppers are looking for items they can grab quickly — prepared sandwiches, for example.

Now let’s consider the steps involved in making those sandwiches. It takes multiple ingredients to make each one — bread, meat, cheese, lettuce. So, retailers must accurately predict demand for the sandwich and for the ingredients needed to produce it. Then they must manage multiple production cycles and coordinate everything between various departments to get the right number of sandwiches to the floor.

But how can they predict that number when there is such fluctuation in the way consumers shop?

In the summer, your customers might want something crisp and fresh, while in the winter they might crave something warmer, like a hot roast beef sandwich. And it is more than seasonal; something as simple as a slight change in the weather — is it sunny or rainy? — can influence what they buy. That makes it almost impossible to accurately forecast demand based on seasonality alone.

That is where AI comes in. Forecast engines leverage AI’s power to translate estimated demand for end products into estimated demand for the ingredients needed to make them. AI can help manage and co-ordinate production cycles across different departments, too. With the right system, you’ll know how many sandwiches to make, when to make them, and the ingredients needed from each department.

You’ll also be able to build out multiple production cycles that start at different times. And with solutions accessible from a mobile device such as a tablet on the store floor, employees no longer need to run back to the computer in the office, or run between departments, printing and sharing messy paper sheets.

PG: Is there anything you would like to add — something you would like grocery retailers considering a technology investment to know?

AI: A simple Google search for inventory management software will bring up dozens of vendors. However, not every product is created equally. Grocery retailers explicitly looking to optimize their fresh food inventory management need to ensure the software they choose has specialized tools for tracking and managing fresh food inventory. The world of fresh is entirely different from any other form of retail and thus requires a particular set of features and expertise.


Want to know more? Download the Invafresh Guide to Flexible Planning at

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