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Powershelf

There are few things more frustrating than showing up at the grocery store to get in on a good deal, only to find that the shelves have been cleared by couponers who got there before you. Then you have to mess with rain checks, or find an employee willing to rummage around in the back room, to see if they have any more in stock.

Now, shelf-clearers may be less likely to ruin your day, thanks to new technology that can help keep those shelves full.

Panasonic officially unveiled its “Powershelf” technology at last week’s National Retail Federation trade show in New York. The key component of the system is out-of-stock sensors embedded into store shelves. “When a shopper takes the last item, Powershelf automatically alerts store employees so they can rush fresh inventory to the shelves,” Panasonic proclaims.

The sensors are actually weight-sensitive mats placed on top of existing shelves. When there’s no weight on the mats, that signals that there are no products on the shelf, so store employees are automatically alerted via text message to restock.

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So if you’re unlucky enough to shop after a shelf-clearer has done their work – and they haven’t already cleared out the store’s entire stock – at least there’s some hope that the shelves will be quickly replenished. Then again, the shelf-clearer could simply stand by and wait while an employee restocks – and then clear the shelf all over again.

It’s enough to make you wonder – have you ever seen one of those shelving units that dispense baby formula, and sound an alarm if you try to take more than one at a time? Maybe they ought to combine that technology with Powershelf to really keep shelf-clearers at bay.

But that’s another invention for another time. Even so, Panasonic says there’s much more that its Powershelf can do. The smart shelves can beam digital coupons to your phone, for example. And the technology also includes electronic shelf labels that can be easily updated when sales begin or end.

“The paper tag and manual inventory management processes that are being employed today are arguably the most antiquated processes in modern retailing,” Powershelf CEO Larry McWilliams said in a statement. In the modern age, he argues, “out-of-stock situations are unacceptable.”

Unacceptable, and more likely to make frustrated shoppers simply give up and shop somewhere else. And then the shelf-clearers are the only ones who win.

Image source: Panasonic

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