SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Price Chopper Supermarkets here has made a big statement with produce in a new store in downtown Albany.
The statement includes mass displays, more variety and the widest produce aisles the chain has ever used.
In addition, the department employs track lighting that spotlights products and handwritten chalkboards. These elements are intended to create the impression of an immense farmers' market, and add to the store's overall emphasis on fresh foods, said Rick Smith, vice president of produce for the 80-unit chain.
"Its sheer size sets it apart from our other produce departments," Smith said of the 6,000-square-foot produce section, which is 30% larger than the chain's next largest.
"With so many European-style tables in the aisle, the whole look is different, and we have such a variety. Everything from gooseberries and prickly pears to baby lettuce," he added.
Indeed, there's a total of 45 of the 9-foot slanted wood tables in the department. They are arranged in two rows right up the center of the fresh food power aisle, which begins to the left of the store's entrance. Space between the rows is particularly wide, Smith said, so customers have enough room to move about freely as they shop.
The fresh aisle also includes a food court. It's the third such court for the chain, but the first that features all-fresh, from-scratch fare prepared onsite. The court begins with a seating area at the left front of the store, followed by "restaurant" service counters that line the 82,000-square-foot store's left wall. Produce comprises one of the court's components: a highly visible juice bar near the back of the aisle. Staffers there core and cut fresh fruit and squeeze fresh fruit juice all day long.
The juice bar is not a new feature for Price Chopper, but Smith said the bar's activity has been greatly stepped up to add more "theater."
While none of the produce elements in themselves are new to the chain, they've been expanded, fine-tuned and spotlighted at the new store.
"We've brought the best concepts from our top 20 stores together here; and we'll continue to do that as we open stores," Smith said.
At 300-plus fresh produce items, variety is the biggest yet. In other stores, the range is 200 to 275. At the new store, one slant table, divided into small compartments, offers 50 fresh tropical items.
To make a larger commitment to convenience, price Chopper also installed a high-visibility section of precut, packaged vegetables. The 16-foot, five-tiered, refrigerated case is first in line on the right of the fresh aisle.
"That's the largest display of precut we have. The nearest in size, at 12 feet long, is in our Poughkeepsie [N.Y.] store," Smith said. That section, however, is situated halfway down the aisle, while the latest precut section is the lead-off for the more traditional produce merchandising line-up.
Price Chopper had its European slant tables customized to allow for maximum merchandising and space efficiency, Smith said. The space formed by the angle at the back of the slanted tables has been equipped with built-in display shelves, which are used to show off related products such as baskets of dried fruits and nuts, chopped garlic and croutons.
"That gives us a great opportunity for impulse sales," Smith said.
Each customized table also features built-in scales and a bag rack. "That saves space and provides a convenience to the customer. In other stores, bags and scales are on separate stands, taking up more floor space."