13 December 2007 | Rebecca Ellinor
Supermarkets should improve their use of customer data when making decisions over stock purchases, according to a senior academic.
The warning to establish better food supply chains came from Dr Andrew Fearne, director of the Centre for Supply Chain Research at Kent Business School.
He was speaking at the CIPS roundtable held in London last week examining risk and resilience in food supply chains. The debate was prompted by concerns over environmental, economic and social changes affecting the price and availability of some goods - these include recent floods and increase in demand for food from Asia.
Fearne said too few stores examine the habits of shoppers in detail. "From a commercial point of view they're missing an opportunity. The strategy and supply chain need to follow what consumers want or they may have the wrong things on the shelves."
Dr Helen Peck, senior lecturer in commercial and supply chain risk at Cranfield University, said the current chains of larger traders are fairly hardy. "Big retailers have multiple suppliers, distributions centres and outlets, so one supplier won't bring them down. In terms of business continuity it's not the minority sport it used to be."