Empty shelves at Simple in England

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The shelves of the Russian discounter’s first UK store Simple remain remarkably empty. Even as Christmas approached, most daily necessities were not available.

The purchase goes wrong

The Russian discounter with Western ambitions is struggling to find suppliers. In its first British store, in Preston, not even basic products like cheese, milk and bread could be found during the Christmas period. Supplies of other everyday foods were very scarce or non-existent. In early January, customers found virtually nothing in the fresh food refrigeration area, writes The Grocer.

The problem lies in the purchasing approach, according to suppliers. Mere is extremely price oriented and only buys products when they can get them 20-30% cheaper than other discounters. Consequently, suppliers are regularly told “no”, even if they offer competitive prices. For each item, an algorithm would calculate the cost-benefit ratio for Mere and how far below the market price it should go. No exceptions are made, not even for essentials like bread.

However, finding suppliers willing to cooperate is not easy. They must deliver the products themselves to the stores and are paid only for the products sold. Suppliers must then recover any unsold stock. The result of this rigid approach seems to be empty shelves.

keep on promising

Aleksandr Chkalov, Mere’s UK business development manager, admits there have been issues the channel has yet to address and they are working hard to overcome schoolboy mistakes. Still, Chkalov is sure customers will see an updated product offering in the coming months, as well as new stores. In the spring of last year, the retailer announced that it would open four stores in the UK within months, but stores number two and three have since been postponed until March 2022.

Although Mere already has more than 3,000 stores in Russia and Eastern Europe, in Western Europe it is so far mostly a story of broken promises. The opening of the first Belgian store was delayed, when it should have been ready in September. In France, the deadline for three store openings in October was missed. It is not clear if they have received the necessary approvals from the municipalities.

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