One of the biggest frustrations consumers experience is not being able to find the products they want in their favorite supermarket. How many of us have found ourselves digging through the ice cream section looking for that discontinued flavor or even the item we purchased last week? Add a fantastic coupon or even a voucher for a free product, and the dissatisfaction can rise to disillusionment!

Contacting the manufacturer only adds to everyone’s frustration, as they tell you to see your store manager about it! Feel like the buck is getting passed? It’s not.

Manufacturers purchase “shelf space” in stores through slotting fees. The manufacturer can pay higher fees for shelf location, height, even that extra in-aisle display. However, the manufacturer typically does not select individual products to go into that shelf space. Instead, a buyer for the store, often located at corporate headquarters, specifies merchandise to place in the manufacturer’s allotted shelves.

The buyer selects products based on their own customer base history and market predictions. The goal is simply to fill shelves with the products that will sell: rapidly to their consumer base, and profitably for the store.

A typical grocery store holds approximately 40,000 items. There are approximately 25,000 new products trying to squeeze into that market. In such a highly competitive environment, a new product on a grocery shelf usually means that another product has left the building. That can be good and bad news for store, the manufacturer, and especially the consumer: it can put another great product on the shelf, or it can mean that one gets taken out.

So, what can the consumer do? The manufacturer is right, contact the store. The store holds the “point of decision” for what you buy. Trends and predictions may indicate you will purchase a different item. Trends may show that if they don’t carry the item you have the coupon on, you will purchase something else (and save them the cost of doubling that coupon). However, the store has made their best guess on what you do or don’t want to buy, and at what price you are willing to pay for it. If they are wrong, let them know!

Store managers and corporate buyers probably won’t notice that you personally aren’t purchasing a product. They will notice if you tell them so. Fill out the consumer satisfaction card, the comment card, and the email surveys. Write to the store manager, as well as corporate headquarters. Send emails to all the “contact us” addresses on their websites. You can make the difference.

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