Grocer Co-operative Group is set to improve its product availability as it rolls out a central stock management system it inherited from Somerfield.

The two grocers merged in 2009 and the Co-op now wants to roll out a revamped version of the Somerfield central replenishment system to its 3,000 stores before the end of the year.

Director of food retail information systems Mark Hale said it would increase availability of stock on shelves, reduce the amount of stock held and improve the consistency of product ranges in store.

The stock management system, which has been rolled out to nine Co-op stores so far, will also enable the grocer to make quicker decisions on its promotions.

Hale said customer feedback showed availability of products needed to improve. Previously, product ordering at the Co-op was done on a store-by-store basis, using a system that only gave information on sales history.

The new central system gives sales history as well as details on which promotions are running.

“Before the acquisition we had 2,220 stores and they all had different ways of ordering,” said Hale. “There was a consistent method, but some were really good while some found it a challenge.

“At the moment we can give a brief - such as to run a promotion on ice cream this weekend - but we have to rely on the store manager to see it will be sunny and to order in enough,” said Hale, who added that the new system would forecast demand and place orders centrally.

The original Somerfield system was built for just 1,000 stores, so the Co-op has up scaled it to handle 4,000, leaving room for future growth.

Hale said the nine stores that had it were showing improved on-shelf availability.

Hale said he wanted the overall integration of Co-op and Somerfield - which is scheduled to be complete in June - to take the best bits of both businesses. He said Co-op was keen to point out that the acquisition of Somerfield did not mean it would be “bulldozing in, switching everything off and putting Co-op systems in”.