Booths is the UK’s leading regional supermarket. In a highly competitive market, dominated by Britain’s biggest retailers, Booths differentiates itself through a discerning assortment, quality and service. RELEX works with clients like Booths to tailor systems to their individual needs and goals. Below is a selection of the innovative solutions Booths developed while implementing RELEX systems.
Freshly Picked Goods
Booths offers its customers an impressive selection of regional produce from a strong network of local suppliers. It uses RELEX to deliver accurate preliminary order already a day in advance to supplier. Then, on the next day, producers are told early in the morning what is needed when the actual order is calculated based on most recent inventory data. “We have freshly dug potatoes,” Andrew Rafferty, eCommerce and IT Director at Booths explains. “The farmer gets an email at 5.30 a.m. he digs them out of the ground, puts them in a van and we put them in our stores the next morning.” It makes a virtue of the proximity of suppliers, keeps supply chains short, minimises food miles and ensures that customers get fruit and vegetables almost as fresh as from their own gardens. “We’re a lot more capable of forecasting at SKU level, line level and store level than we ever were before,” Rafferty says.
Bakery products used to be ordered manually by store staff. Now it’s automated with suppliers delivering direct to each individual store, rather than via the DCs. “We sell beautiful loaves of artisan bread for three or four pounds each. There are no preservatives, you don’t want them there the next day.” says Rafferty. Where product life is just 1–3 days, automated replenishment needs enhanced solutions, one option being to replenish purely on forecast and not inventory. “The biggest problem we had there wasn’t a RELEX one,” Rafferty says, “it was persuading large bakers to move onto EDI [electronic data interchange].”
Advanced Promotion Forecasting
In grocery 25–35% of sales are driven by promotions. “We know we weren’t doing promotions very well,” Rafferty says. “We were lumping everything together.” The RELEX solution helps identify similarities with previous campaigns in particular stores for similar products. That gives references for lines lacking promotional history and uses them to produce more accurate promotion forecasts . “RELEX has not just given us the ability to factor the type of promotion (i.e. three for two) into forecasts but it does so on the basis of how that type of promotion has affected similar products,” Rafferty says. “Its computational power also gave us the ability to cache history and be outlet-specific, factor in the ranges which will vary store to store, the percentage discount and, crucially, the fixture the promotion stands on.”
Weather in Forecasting
The weather in North West England, where Booths operates, is notoriously unpredictable. “You can leave it as late as a Thursday morning to guess the weekend and still get it wrong,” Rafferty says. RELEX allows Booths to react more quickly once the forecast is settled. The team simply records the effect on sales of different weather events and creates a profile to reflect that. “We can tag an event as a ‘hot weekend’ and then we can apply that logic in the future. It’s a facility that we didn’t have before.”
Presentation and Allocations
Good presentation is an important part of Booths’ ambience and RELEX allows the company to specify minimum shelf quantities for both normal and promotional periods to ensure good displays. RELEX helps optimisation for product launches, initial stock for promotions, seasonal fills, or DC rundown for discontinued items factoring in individual store criteria to ensure the split between stores.
Enhanced Failsafe Measures
RELEX has a number of failsafe features, such as calculating reserve order figures 24 hours ahead, based on the latest data, so that there’s a ‘next best’ option in the unlikely event of system issues.
Another aim was to integrate fully Booths’ internal supply chain. Stores’ stock and sales weren’t really visible for DC replenishment. Now, along with display requirements, end-consumer and promotion forecasts, they drive DC ordering. “The change to RELEX had a massive impact, culturally and organisationally, and to the timing of how the warehouse worked.” Rafferty says. The result is more accurate, more timely ordering and fresher products. “The benefit of this was that we could come up with a 7-day forecast, at least, which we could rely on with a great degree of certainty.”