CHICAGO -- Vacuum drainage technology is providing Stop & Shop flexibility in store design and layout as it begins to roll out Dunkin' Donuts outlets and sushi bars at locations in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop has already installed the drainage system, from Evac Vacuum Systems, Rockford, Ill., in 86 stores (new stores and remodels).
"As we prepare for customer needs in the future, it's critical to have an easy way to locate and relocate cases and add products throughout the store," said Pamela Kohn, senior vice president, nonperishables, Stop & Shop, at the Food Marketing Institute's annual convention here earlier this month. Stop & Shop operates 323 stores that measure 65,000 square feet and carry pharmacy, floral and salad bars, among other departments.
"We can put refrigerated cases, fresh produce or frozens where customers expect to find those products rather than say they have to be in one place," she told SN, adding, "we've just started to make decisions like that with sushi bars and Dunkin' Donuts." Stop & Shop announced in February that it would open full-service Dunkin' Donuts outlets in 70 stores in the bakery section.
The drainage system works by lifting waste water up to the ceiling, collecting it in a tank and sending it to a single drain, according to Jim Womble, managing director, Evac. That eliminates the need for any drains on the sales floor that could restrict store design, he said.
Womble explained that while the system can cost 15% to 20% more than "gravity plumbing," in many cases it's the same or less.
Kohn said Stop & Shop realized a competitive advantage from the system. "Being able to install sushi bars and refrigerated endcaps and new departments allows us to merchandise more effectively," she said. "And since new-product rollouts may require different fixtures and cases and different locations, that flexibility enables us to be first to market."
The system, she added, allows the chain's category managers and merchandisers to "think creatively about cross-merchandising opportunities," without worrying about construction costs or impact to the consumer.
Stop & Shop is not the only division of Ahold USA to use the drainage system. It is also used by Ahold divisions Tops, Giant/Landover and Bi-Lo, according to Gary Preston, chief administrative officer for Ahold USA, Chantilly, Va., who received a Best Practices Award on behalf of Ahold from Evac at its booth at the FMI show, in honor of Ahold's 200th Evac installation.
Ahold was Evac's first customer in the supermarket sector, which Evac entered in 1997. Ahold will continue to install Evac systems in all new stores and remodels, Preston said.