I was in my local Kroger Liquor store (not an aisle, like an actual store within the store, separate entrance, cashier, etc.) and noticed Speyburn 10 y/o Scotch tagged as “last call” for $11.99…marked down from a regular $30. They had five bottles, I bought two. I had had that Scotch about a decade ago, and thought it was okay, but not fantastic. I drink some that night, and changed my mind, deciding that for $12, it was great stuff. So I go back on Monday morning (Sunday blue laws) and retrieve the remaining three bottles.
Whenever I drink a Scotch that’s not on my usual rotation, I like to watch a Ralfy review as I sample, and maybe google the product, especially if it’s on clearance (maybe they are discontinuing it, and it would be wise to snap any of them up that I can find). So I notice two things about Speyburn: it’s supposedly the 9th best-selling single malt in the States, and it looks as if they are doing or have done a slight packaging redesign.
So I return to the liquor store about ten days later. I notice a fresh stock of Speyburn. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, had it still been marked last call and at $12, but it was marked $22.99, and on sale from $30. The packaging was still the same as what I had bought.
So, question is, if Kroger was trying to unload a product they weren’t going to carry any longer, why bring in more of it, and not keep it on clearance? Even if the bottles I had bought had been sitting on the shelf for years, they were in a tube, weren’t damaged by light, temperature was consistent, and even if not, a store usually wouldn’t admit it was old stock that was suspect (which I never believe old liquor is skunked unless it’s been subjected to some prolonged light or drastic temps). Some of the best blended scotch I’ve had has been regular J & B or Dewar’s from the 80s I bought off eBay when someone cleaned their parents’ house out.
Wild ass speculation: Kroger master computer sitting in its underground bunker gets data from your Kroger store: a certain whiskey has just sold 5 bottles this week; it is now a HOT SELLING ITEM! Get another dozen botts in there at out regular discount price. Stat!
It’s possible a real human never saw the sales data, but the hooch shipped. You shot yourself in the foot.
Not so wild: I took part in a massive rethink of a major business machine repair company’s logistics. Each ‘engineer’ had a stock in his van; his base had a stock to top him up; region had stock to re-supply the base and the manufacturer carried stock to ensure fast shipping.
‘Engineers’ would carry the stock they usually needed, so when one found an older machine that needed something unusual, he asked his base for one; base had no stock, so ordered the minimum quantity - ten. Region only had five, so they shipped them and ordered up twenty to enable the other five and avoid stockouts (which were a big no no). The manufacturer had no stock so had to tool up and make some - naturally they were going to make fifty while they were at it.
This part was expensive. The way the supply chain worked, meant that, because one customer with an almost obsolete machine needed one - the company bought twenty and the manufacturer was fooled into making fifty. It was likely that none of them would ever be sold. It would have been more cost-effective to give the original customer a brand new machine.
The bolded part is the issue. The big grocery chains have a final limit on how long something will sit on the shelves (typically six months), whether it can go bad or not. If the booze showed in the computer as not having moved off the shelves, they’d clearance it a couple of weeks before deadline and restock, even though the old stock was perfectly fine. They’d also tweak the next order to get whatever they’d sold in the previous five months for the next batch to avoid having to do a clearance again.
I experienced the same deal at our local Meijer. There were several wood refinishing supplies on clearance at ~1/3 of original price so I stocked up thinking they were no longer carrying the product and possibly it was obsolete and I could resell some of it.
The next week I see the same products back on the shelf at original price.
They could be ending their dealings with a particular vendor. Or the importer of that brand has stopped representing them. When you generated the two separate sales, they may have rounded up every bottle left in stock in the area since it’s the only store that sold any in a year. Great. Take the two bottles left at store c, the three at b, and now our entire stock is at store a. B and c can clear that item from their inventory logs.
My vote goes to this. Inventory that does not move is very expensive for the retailer. Grocery stores like to see a turnover ratio (cost of product sold divided by average cost of inventory) of 15-20 on an annual basis. That means, basically, an average inventory item must only be on the shelf for two or three weeks. Of course, this is an average, but if an item sits there for six months, it really brings the average down. Any well-managed store will watch their turnover ratio closely and take actions to make sure it hits their target. In all likelihood, the salary (or bonus) of the local management is based not only on the store profits (incentive to keep operating costs down), but also the number of “turns” (incentive to lower the cost of inventory).
That’s my guess; I’ve seen similar things happen when the manufacturer changed their trade dress on an item- the store sold the “old” ones at a discount, even though the size and contents of the package were identical. They just didn’t say “New and Improved!” in a 20% bigger typeface.
Are there any differences between the old and new liquor packaging? That might tell you right there.
If not, I’d guess it’s some kind of inventory rotation scheme that those bottles ran afoul of, combined with some kind of automated restocking scheme.
In other words, the inventory tracking system said “Oh! 5 bottles of Speyburn that are 12 months old! Discount them!” Then, sometime later after they sold, the system said “Oh! 0 stock-on-hand at the store in Speyburn! Let’s ship them more bottles!”
Absurd, but easy enough to have happen if your goal is to entirely automate things and you don’t put in some kind of checks against this kind of thing.
The large company I worked for had similar issues. I was in charge of 10,000 salable items and if we discontinued one, it was a pain in the ass to make sure everyone got the memo and our computers didn’t automatically requisition 100 more when we sold the last one.