Meadowhall Initiative Revolutionises Stock Availability for both Retailers and Consumers

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Meadowhall, one of the UK's leading shopping centres, has launched a unique initiative, which is revolutionising the availability of stock for its 270 retailers and millions of consumers. The Accelerated Response Centre (ARC) provides a package of on-site stock storage, delivery and pre-merchandising services, which a whole host of retailers, including Next, Marks and Spencer, Allders and USC, are already utilising to great benefit.

Meadowhall recognised that stock storage and replenishment is one of the biggest challenges experienced by Centre retailers, who, naturally, are keen to devote the maximum amount of unit space for sales, and the maximum amount of staff time to the most important business of selling. Meanwhile from a customer perspective, Meadowhall research* highlighted that shoppers rated "guaranteed stock availability" as the number one reason that would make them shop more at the Centre, above factors such as home delivery and improved leisure facilities

(*Source - Outhink 2003).

In the concept for The ARC, Meadowhall recognised that it could address both these challenges simultaneously.

A joint initiative between Meadowhall and leading logistics company, Exel, The ARC offers a dynamic and flexible service to retailers; from simple collection and storage of excess stock and consumables, through to full receipt, preparation and stock management of every single item that a store sells. From a retailer's perspective, this has had a number of benefits: an increase in sales area, a reduction in staff costs, as staff are not dealing with deliveries anymore, and concurrently this has also helped increase staff motivation.

Ultimately Meadowhall and its retailers' fundamental goal has to be customer satisfaction. The ARC can potentially influence this significantly, by enabling stores to stock as wide a product range as possible and guarantee far better availability of sizes.

Vanessa Hope, Meadowhall's Business Development Manager, comments, "The ARC was launched as a trial in 2002, but in less than eighteen months we have had many of the Centre's biggest retailers take advantage of the suite of logistics and warehousing facilities, from the guaranteed one hour stock delivery service, to complete stock preparation and inventory management. Particularly over the Christmas and sales period, The ARC provided an invaluable source of support to stores around the Centre."

Chris Hudson, General Manager, Exel Consolidation Services, adds, "Our core aim is to speed up the transition of stock from "back door" to "shop floor", freeing up retail staff to concentrate on customer service and driving sales. This is a concept that retailers have been quick to embrace at Meadowhall. Thousands of products are now going through The ARC every week and retailers are undeniably seeing instant benefits."

John Heath, USC Retail Operations Director, provides testament to that effect. "Since using The ARC we've reduced shrinkage by over 70%. In our recent sale my Meadowhall store beat target by 240% and all the sales stock was prepared and ready without any interference in my store's operation."

Paul Scott, Early Learning Centre Concession Manager, "We came first in the company in terms of sales per square foot in a recent one day sale and much of this success I can attribute to The ARC feeding stock into my store on a continuous basis. This allows me to keep the shelves replenished and customer needs met."

Clearly in a very short space of time, The ARC has made a big difference to many of the practical issues of retailing at Meadowhall. As Vanessa Hope adds, "The story doesn't stop here. In the near future it is anticipated that stores will be able to utilise the Centre wide retailer intranet, which they can all access through dedicated in-store PCs, to instantly view stock availability and call up stock from The ARC at the click of a button.

"The ARC has had a very strong start and with contracts now coming in from many big retail chains, we feel confident that it will go from strength to strength and continue to revolutionise stock availability at Meadowhall."

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