FAIRFAX, Va. -- Giant Food is giving its customers a break from the drudgery of shopping for groceries.
Using a combination of music, video, lighting, signage, fixtures, displays and product assortments, Giant, Landover, Md., has created a prototype health and beauty care store-within-a-store here that seems designed to make women feel pampered as they peruse its offerings.
"We are extremely pleased with customers' reactions, exclamation point," said Barry Scher, Giant spokesman. He said the company plans to expand the concept -- possibly incorporating various experimental permutations -- to some of the chain's other stores.
Most of the products themselves are not much more upscale than those found in many supermarkets, but the way they are presented gives the section a decidedly opulent feel.
Marla Boyd, director of nonfood, told SN earlier this year that the company designed the section based on feedback from shoppers.
"Previously, basically we merchandised HBC the same way we merchandised food," she said. "We had a lot of concept labs and focus groups, and basically what we heard from our focus groups was that they don't shop HBC the same way they shop food. So, what we did is we redesigned the department based on the feedback we received."
Giant, a division of Dutch retailer Ahold, declined to provide details on the principles that guided the redesign, which was created by Giant's in-house team.
SN recently visited the store, which opened in April in an affluent, western Fairfax area in a small shopping center surrounded by new condominium developments and country clubs.
The section occupies about 2,500 square feet in the center of the supermarket, stretching from the checkout aisles in the front of the store to the pharmacy in the back. Dark purple signage ties the pharmacy in with the new HBC section, which is crowned with a large, circular placard hanging from the ceiling.
Written in white lettering on the purple sign are the words "Come and bathe your soul, heal your body, and emerge full of life." The same words are repeated on signs that stretch across the tops of the aisles. In addition, the phrase "relax. renew. revive." is repeated on signage throughout the section, along with some New Age symbols in various colors.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the section, however, is the music that is piped in through six clear, plastic speakers shaped like upside-down salad bowls that dangle just over shoppers' heads as they walk the aisles. The instrumental music that was playing on the occasion of SN's recent visit sounded like a New Age relaxation recording. It completely masked the contemporary music that could be heard throughout the rest of the store.
"We heard consumers wanted something that was kind of fun, stress-free, enjoyable," said Boyd. "That's really what we were aiming at, to create that kind of ambiance."
The music helps separate the section -- especially the cosmetics area, where the music can be heard most clearly -- from the rest of the supermarket.
"Before you could go from HBC to the canned soup section without batting an eyelash," said Scher. "Now you go to a store-within-a-store."
The flooring also sets the HBC section off. It is made of what appears to be a light-colored wood that arcs out into the granite-colored tile of the rest of the store, helping to give the whole section a circular feel.
The section is divided into three distinct areas -- personal care, beauty care and health care -- and each is separated by a space where opposing, back-lit endcaps are positioned. The entire space is four aisles wide, creating several distinct shopping areas with logical product adjacencies in each section.
The result is that rather than having a huge aisle in which toothpaste runs into soap runs into shampoo runs into hair color, each product niche has its own mini-aisle. Arc-shaped signs that stretch from the bottom shelf to the top, labeling each product category, further divide the sections.
Because each of the aisles is broken every 15 feet, it is very easy to navigate. A shopper need never feel that she has to decide immediately what to buy as she passes down the aisle, because it is always a short trip to another area within the HBC department.
The added endcaps also create additional display space, Scher explained.
"The big thing that changed is that we used to have six end fixtures in the department, and now we have 14," he said. "So, we are able to merchandise things like bonus packs, new items, a lot of beauty items, things that we weren't in business with before. That's a real traffic builder."
On one of the endcaps, for example, in between the personal care section and beauty care section, was a collection of bath-and-body gift sets, including Sarah Michaels Foaming Bath Grains for $13.99, Ginger Lily Therapy from The Healing Garden for $15.99 and a Calgon three-piece gift set for $15.99.
Another fixture featured an array of bath products, including loofahs, Dove cleansing cloths and Olay Daily Facials.
One backlit endcap was labeled "new items." It displayed a small selection of products, including Aller-Eze fast-acting nondrowsy formula for both children and adults, and Surpass antacid chewing gum.
The whole section was laid out so that the health care items like first aid, over-the-counter medications, diet remedies and other products were closest to the pharmacy. The middle section was dedicated to cosmetics and other beauty care items, and the personal care section, which was closest to the checkout aisles, included such categories as oral care, eye care, diapers and feminine hygiene.
"What we've tried to do is create a place where you can take care of the whole you," said Scher. "When they think of HBC, we want them to think of Giant."