Joshua DiemertJoshua Diemert helped manage inventory for Loblaw distribution centres during a co-op work term with the grocery giant.

Co-op placements provide practical education for business students

A spike in demand for a particular brand of hummus was a challenge for inventory supply at Loblaw’s grocery stores around Kitchener, says Joshua Diemert.

The fourth-year student at the Odette School of Business served a co-op work term there last semester, forecasting demand as the chain approached the crucial Christmas season. He was one of 12 students to present posters on their experiences with co-op employers, this week in the Odette Building lobby.

“Our job was to ensure the supply chain from the vendor to the distribution centres,” Diemert says. “We have to try to anticipate demand, using last year’s figures as a baseline and then factoring in external influences.”

In the case of the hummus, the key difference was an influx of 10,000 Syrian refugees.

“They saw the one brand they recognized from home and bought it en masse,” says Diemert. “Stores were constantly running out.”

That’s a problem for retailers, who lose sales when patrons can’t find what they’re looking for.

“The key is the item has to be on the shelf when the customer wants it,” he says. “If the distribution centre doesn’t have it, it’s impossible for the store to get it.”

Diemert says he enjoyed working for Loblaw, which operates Zehrs, Real Canadian Superstore and No Frills supermarkets. His supervisor guaranteed him an interview for a permanent position once he graduates.

“Co-op is valuable for helping you find what you want to do,” he says, “but it’s equally important to know what you don’t want to do.”

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