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Article Archive >> Community

Daze of My Life: Aisle Be Back, Unfortunately

Daze of My Life
Aisle Be Back, Unfortunately

I wonder--not worry--about shelf space at supermarkets. Every day, heck, every hour, I imagine, new products are boxed, shipped and contracted for space. In the cookie aisle alone, an aisle with which I am most familiar, there are always, or so it seems, "new" varieties. Most recently I've noticed two chocolate covered types of Oreos that I have not seen before; different versions of Nabisco brand chocolate chip cookies: with cream filling, with peanut butter chips and with white chocolate chips; and Keebler is now making their shortbread fudge stripe cookies, cookies that I have known and loved for many years, in a new cookies 'n cream white fudge striped variety (how could I resist? I couldn't). So where is the shelf space going to come from for all these delicacies?
The supermarkets can't make the shelves any higher. Already many of us can't reach the top shelf. They can't make the shelves any deeper, if they did, they'd have to narrow the shopping lanes within the aisles--there's barely enough width for two shopping carts. They can only stack or shelf so many products at the ends of the aisles because there just isn't enough floor space between the front of the aisles and the registers and the back of the aisles and the dairy/meat/refrigeration/frozen food displays constructed along the outer walls in many of the stores.
And besides, the beltway-type route that circles the aisles is itself already narrow and crowded enough without extending the length of the aisles. In fact, I'm thinking that the stores should paint roadway-type lane markings on the floor to direct us consumers to minimize our poor cart control. Or maybe even install smart park-type technology (like that found at BWI airport) where lights--red or green--would illuminate to alert shoppers to less crowded aisles or aisles that have recently been restocked with some of this week's previously unavailable sale items.
As a practical consideration, with so many new products being added all the time (and with some old products being eliminated), isn't there limited available shelf space, especially for weekly specials? Maybe not. I realize sales are important; to clear inventory, to bait customers, to introduce new products, etc. but, ultimately the store needs you to buy lots of other groceries, not on sale, and they need--and want--you in the store as often as possible. And from the stores perspective, running out of something that was advertised in the weekly advertising circular, which then causes you, the consumer, to have to return to the store might not be so bad--for them.
In many of the supermarkets that I frequent, it seems as if there's so much of so little or so little of so much that unless you want a little of a lot or a lot of a little, you'll likely be going home empty handed and disappointed or be standing in line at customer service to get a rain check. A rain check that means you have yet another reason to return to the store to stop and shop and hopefully find your previously-on-sale items back on the shelves. However, because of all this variety, ironically, more and more I'm finding less and less. Too much of a good thing is beginning to feel like simply too much.
Variety it is often said, is the spice of life (Have you seen the variety of spices available now?) but for me, hoping to find or having to choose, is fast becoming the bane of my shopping existence. Amazingly, I may have reached that saturation point where the lack of supply is beginning to effect my demand.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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