With food costs still stubbornly high and labor shortages a constant headache, more and more retailers are streamlining their inventory and category management processes with cutting-edge technologies.

Springdale, Ark.-based Harps Food Stores will begin using Upshop’s AI-powered inventory and replenishment program, Magic, in early 2024.

The move comes at a time when Harps is undergoing huge growth, said David Ganoung, the retailer’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

Harp’s has added more than 60 new stores in the past three years, making efficient and accurate inventory management more important than ever, Ganoung said.

“As a retailer, you always think you know what you’re selling, when. But using an AI solution to track movement gives a more accurate and more timely order and allows management staff to focus on the customer experience rather than putting so much time into ordering,” he said.

With order cutoff times getting earlier and earlier, and turnover a perennial problem, finding a better solution has become even more imperative, Ganoung said.

Magic will help Harps keep fast-moving items in stock and make sure that slower-moving items aren’t being ordered to often.

“Maybe the manager thinks he has to order it (so the shelf looks full), but maybe he’s only selling one of them per month,” Ganoung said.

Old methods of doing things, he said, won’t work in today’s retail environment.

“I’m a huge believer in the idea that if you’re standing still, you’re losing ground. Magic will help us compete in a super-competitive market.”

Harps' goal is to have Magic up and running in a couple of stores on a pilot basis by January or February, Ganoung said.

Harps operates 147 stores in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. The retailer has also purchased stores in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Leveraging advanced analytics 

Harps isn’t the only food company to recently announce a new application of Upshop’s Magic system.

To consolidate its ordering systems, maintain planogram integrity and assist with merchandising reset planning in fresh produce and other departments, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based distributor and retailer SpartanNash is expanding its use of Magic.

Magic also will provide SpartanNash store associates with a real-time, comprehensive view of the store’s stock to maximize assortment for guests and streamline processes, while at the same time reducing waste. “At SpartanNash, we’re prioritizing technology to enhance our associate and store guest experience,” said Tom Swanson, the company’s executive vice president for corporate retail. “By leveraging advanced analytics to predict product demand, our associates can spend less time checking inventory and more time face-to-face helping serve our shoppers.”

Magic builds on SpartanNash’s ongoing investments in technology to reflect the company’s commitment to its merchandising and supply chain transformations, leading to a better customer experience and cost savings, according to SpartanNash, which recently announced expansion plans for the use of an autonomous inventory robot that provides real-time data intelligence.

“We’re proud to continue to demonstrate how AI technology can improve operational excellence in our stores and across our business network,” said Masiar Tayebi, SpartanNash’s executive vice president and chief strategy and information officer. “Improving our inventory control and accuracy accelerates the financial benefits we can realize from our merchandising and supply chain transformations.”

This article is an excerpt from the November 2023 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Category Management feature and more in the digital edition here.