Grocery stores use cardboard cutouts to hide shortages

  • Supply chain issues mean many grocery stores struggle to keep key items in stock.
  • Rather than leaving shelves bare, some are finding creative ways to cover shortages.
  • This includes using cardboard cutouts to cover empty spaces or sprawl out inventory items.

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Grocery stores are increasingly creative in the way they cover product shortages related to the supply chain to make shelves look well stocked.

Some of these tactics include using cardboard photo cutouts of key items to cover bare shelves or changing the store layout to fill in the gaps.

Stores in the United States and Europe are in the nightmarish position of trying to secure enough inventory to meet demand as global supply chains struggle. Lack of raw materials and labor has resulted in long delays, shortages and increased costs. As some stores started stocking, the situation only got worse.

Some of the larger chains, including Kroger, are securing additional warehouse space to store additional inventory. Others are reducing discounts to ease consumer demand.

Here are some of the sneaky ways to fill in the gaps in stores:

Move products to unlikely places

Shortages of cooperative products

This photo was taken by the buyer in September.

Stuart turner


British buyer Stuart Turner has discovered that items such as salad cream (a condiment similar to mayonnaise) or HP sauce (a brown sauce), which do not need to be refrigerated, have been transferred to refrigerators to fill the empty spaces in his local store. Operations store.

Commenting on the photo, a spokesperson for the co-op told Insider, “Stores always try to make sure they’re as attractive as possible and managers find creative ways to make sure shelves are full. “

Cardboard mannequins or cut-out photos of products

Product shortages in Tesco stores

Empty baskets are replaced with pictures of asparagus at a Tesco store in the UK. The photo was taken in August.

BE André


Another tactic used by grocery stores is to put photos of missing items in empty spaces. This photo, which was taken at a Tesco store in August, shows cardboard cutouts of vegetables that were not in stock at the time.

A Tesco spokesperson told Insider that its cardboard cutouts are used in department stores when there is additional space and are unrelated to recent supply chain challenges.

Empty product signs or displays to fill in empty spaces

Sainsbury's out of stock signs

Polished signs in a Sainsbury’s store in the UK.

Matthew Horwood / Getty Images


Rather than leaving shelves bare, some stores use polished signs to notify shoppers of shortages. A grocery store owner recently told the Wall Street Journal that he uses display racks to fill in empty spaces.

“For some things, I’m afraid people will walk in, see it’s not here and end up not coming back for it,” Matt Santarpio, owner of Walnut Food Market in Newton, Massachusetts, told The Journal. “Keeping the box out shows that I’m making an effort to get them in and not giving up on them.”

One row deep shelves

Tesco shortages

On Tuesday, deep shelves in a row at a Tesco store in south-east London.

Insider / Mary Hanbury


Some stores make good use of stock items and distribute them on the shelves, keeping them in a deep row. According to the Journal, the official term for this is: “Face up.”

Santarpio told the Journal that some items that might have had a place on a shelf in the past are now split into two or three.

If you are a trader or business owner with a story to share, please contact this reporter at mhanbury@insider.com.

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