As we head towards the festive season, consumer buying behaviours change and retailers in all sectors must change their inventory habits to balance the delicate equilibrium of supply and demand. Increased demand for products means that retailers need to carry a higher inventory, or lose the potential revenue to a competitor.
By meeting the supply and demand curve, distribution centres and stockrooms fill up with products destined for the final consumer. But what does this have to do with pest control? Today’s topic is one that can be adapted for most retailer operations, so let’s dive right in and dissect the pest issues that are likely to arise as stock holdings increase - if proactive measures aren’t taken.
Where can issues arise?
The answer is simple: as your inventory fills up the holding area and space becomes even tighter (whether it be the distribution centre or the stockroom ) treating these zones for pests becomes more difficult, and in some cases down right impossible.
Let’s consider the average stockroom: whether your stock comes from the distribution centre in pallets, roller cages, or even boxes, it needs to find its place in your stockroom, and it takes up space.
Basic pest control for rodents in the stockroom area requires the use of bait stations. Without getting too technical, a bait station provides housing for rodent bait, keeping it away from non-target animals, humans, and the elements. The housing is usually made out of plastic or metal and is designed to allow rodents to enter and feed on the rodenticide that is placed within it.
Bait stations are fixed to the wall in strategic positions within the stockroom - usually in the line of the rodent’s potential runway. So the first issue that arises when a large amount of stock arrives is the lack of accessibility to the bait stations.
Why is access to bait stations important?
If the Pest Control Officer (PCO) cannot access the bait station, then they can’t complete their inspection or combat any issues that may have arisen. By accessing the bait box, the PCO can assess the activity that has occurred since their last visit. For example, if the bait has been nibbled on or completely eaten, the PCO would know what level of action is required on the site and how best to address the situation.
The second issue aligns with the first but goes a bit deeper: the bait may need to be replaced if it has been eaten, or a more effective bait may be needed to combat a higher level of infestation.
The third issue is a bit more cringe-worthy: the PCO might need to remove a dead rodent from the bait station (if the rodent has eaten bait and died inside). If the PCO cannot do this due to stock overcrowding, can you imagine the smell and the health concerns?
Bait stations are not the only treatments that need to be undertaken in distribution centres and storerooms. Based on the level of infestation, contact treatments may need to be done to combat medium to heavy infestations. Simply put, contact treatments are rodenticides that aim to come into contact with the rodent whilst on its normal daily routine.
These can include dusting treatments, gel applications and paste baits. The application will be determined by the sector in which the treatment is applied (the food industry, hospitality, etc) as regulations and compliance differ from sector to sector and require different levels of involvement from your pest control provider. The applications will be placed in what are called “runways”, which your PCO will be able to identify based on the rodent smear marks that are left behind when the rodent runs continuously through that area. (The smears are made by urine and droppings and become very evident over time.)
The application works by placing the rodenticide in that specific area with the understanding that the rodent passes there often. The rodent then runs over the area and the application sticks to their fur. The fact that rodents self-groom means that the rodenticide application that is stuck on their fur will be ingested as they groom, and thereafter they die.
So what does this have to do with your storeroom or distribution areas?
To start with, because the PCO needs to get into those dark corners of your inventory holding area to be able to see rodent runways, stacking plays a vital role in accessibility of these areas. Keep in mind that rodents will most likely be found in the areas that remain undisturbed for long periods of time. Getting access to these areas will be first prize when aiming to address ongoing rodent concerns at your sites; targeting runways and nesting areas will be a surefire way of managing infestations.
Another way to combat infestations when holding huge amounts of inventory is stock rotations. Now I know that sounds too simple to be true, but consider the behaviour of a rodent. It needs a nesting area, and it needs food and water, and with these it can survive and thrive. Now, consider an area that remains undisturbed for a period of time and we have the perfect breeding spot, especially in food inventory areas.
Other sectors - like clothing or non food retail - can also have issues arise. For example in the clothing sector storerooms provide the perfect nesting habitat for rodents due to all the material and soft items nearby. Other types of retail can have the same problems - especially if items don’t move fast, such as electronics and hardware. Nesting becomes simple, it’s just the food and water that requires some travel time for the rodent.
Stock rotations deal with these issues:
As we move items around the inventory holding areas, the opportunity for a nice quiet nesting area for a rodent diminishes, and your products and their packaging remain safe from the gnawing teeth of the pests.
Speaking of heading into the festive season, the annual retail sensation - Black Friday (a day that actually denotes the symbolic start to the US holiday shopping season) - is coming up. As you gear for Black Friday, remember to have the safety of your site in mind.
Now that you know that these simple tasks can be beneficial for your sites, ensure an aligned focus on stacking and stock rotations to allow your pest control officers to be able to treat your sites in a detailed manner, and use this information to safeguard your business, your people and your products.
What’s the solution? Here are some tips from the experts:
- Rotate stock: Depending on your sector, stock will need to be rotated in regular intervals to ensure we do not allow pests to find those perfect nesting spots, food sources and water supply near your products. Food items will need to be moved more frequently
- Housekeeping: Cleanliness is paramount in combating pest control issues. Generally speaking the more an area is cleaned and remains clean, the less likely pests are to find stagnant areas, food and water sources to support their life cycles
- Stacking: Keep areas accessible at all times, not only for cleaning and inventory operations, but for your pest control provider as well, treatment of these areas allow us to combat the issues that might be present on site or could begin on site if unaddressed in the near future
- Communication: Speak to your servicing technician about his suggestions to combat issues or even better how to avoid pest issues in the future
For the partnership in pest control to be beneficial for you, your business and your provider, action the recommendations made by your servicing technician. If something is noted on the service report, ensure to question your technician and ask about the importance of actioning that concern, and where it fits in the grand scheme of things. Allow that two way relationship to work for you, see the benefits and gain knowledge that you can carry for the rest of your life.
Contact Rentokil for more information on how the experts can help you manage the festive season rush.