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Asda removes 1.6m+ units of phantom inventory

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Big four supermarket Asda is working to improve its on-shelf availability and in-store experience, with a full store roll-out of Retail Insight’s technology following an extension of their partnership.

Asda operates over 800 locations across its UK-wide store estate – from superstores to petrol stations – and serves 18 million customers every week. To deal with the sheer number of SKUs it stocks, Asda looked to limit the impact of inaccurate inventory and wanted to improve stock accuracy across its store network.

Inventory inaccuracy is a perennial challenge for grocery retailers, with data from ECR Retail Loss suggesting that 60% of all inventory records are incorrect. Discrepancies between stock records and what inventory is actually available can cause phantom or shadow inventory, a major driver of inefficiencies, lost sales and falling margins.

Whether it’s theft, poor process compliance or mis-scanned items, the causes for inventory inaccuracy are varied and complex. However, its impact is far-reaching with recent analysis suggests it causes up to 80% of out-of-stocks if left unchecked.

Asda partnered with Retail Insight to tackle phantom inventory, conducting a pilot in July 2023. This drew foundational store data from across Asda’s estate, which enabled fast implementation by leveraging the same data sets, and combined it with Retail Insight’s cognitive technology solution, InventoryInsight.

InventoryInsight is a machine learning-driven software that identifies and corrects inaccurate retailer inventory records to drive store performance. In nine months since deploying the technology Asda has removed over 1.6million units of phantom inventory from its store estate. Following the successful pilot, Asda will now conduct a full roll-out of InventoryInsight across its store network.

Neil Fairclough, senior director of retail transformation at Asda, said: “The ability to accurately identify phantom inventory across our estate is a huge advantage for our business, and goes a long way in enabling us to deliver a better in-store experience for our shoppers.

“Given the impressive results we received at trial, we were excited to conduct a full roll out of the InventoryInsight solution. We have not been disappointed by that decision with metrics that have exceeded our expectations.”

An exclusive company profile in the recently published RetailX UK Top500 2024 report looks at how Asda uses its website to highlight value and convenience, emphasising low prices while also flagging up a variety of flexible fulfilment options.

Asda is ranked Leading in this 10th edition of the report. Download it in full for a strategic overview of the UK retail sector; analysis of the UK Top500 and why these retailers are so good; as well as an interview with Sue Harries of Elite retailer Screwfix.

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