The shelves at the first British store of Russian discounter Mere remain remarkably empty. Even in the run-up to Christmas, most of the everyday products were unavailable.
Purchasing goes wrong
The Russian discounter with western ambitions has a hard time finding suppliers. At its first British store, in Preston, not even basic products such as cheese, milk and bread could be found during the Christmas period. Supplies of other everyday foods were very scarce or non-existent. At the beginning of January, customers could find hardly anything in the fresh food refrigeration area, The Grocer writes.
The problem lies in the purchasing approach, according to the suppliers. Mere is extremely price-oriented and only buys products when they can get them 20 to 30 % cheaper than other discounters. Therefore, suppliers are regularly told 'no', even if they offer competitive prices. For each item, an algorithm would calculate the cost-benefit for Mere and how far below the market price they should go. No exceptions are made, not even for essential items such as bread.
However, finding suppliers who are willing to cooperate is not easy. They have to deliver the products to the stores themselves and are only paid for the sold products. Suppliers then have to pick up any unsold stock. The result of this rigid approach appears to be empty shelves.
Keep on promising
Aleksandr Chkalov, Mere's UK business development manager, admits that there have been issues that the chain has yet to tackle and that they are working hard to overcome schoolboy errors. Nevertheless, Chkalov is sure that customers will see an updated product offering in the coming months, as well as new stores. Back in the spring of last year, the retailer announced the opening of four UK stores in a matter of months, but stores number two and three have since been delayed until March 2022.
Although Mere already has more than 3,000 stores in Russia and Eastern Europe, in Western Europe, it has so far mainly been a tale of unfulfilled promises. The opening of the first Belgian store has been delayed, although it should have been ready by September. In France, the deadline for three store openings in October has been missed. It is not clear if they have received the necessary approvals from the municipalities.