PROVIDENCE, Utah — At the new Macey's here, Associated Food Stores has rolled out a customer-friendly format that puts the fresh departments front and center.
Built from the ground up, the 83,000-square-foot flagship store, open since Jan. 22, features revamped displays of produce, scratch-baked goods, fresh seafood, meat, deli products and cheeses.
At the center of the store, a large floral department offers everything from bouquets to dinner party centerpieces. Wedding flowers are also available by special order.
“There's a real fresh presentation when you walk into the store,” said Dave Wirthlin, vice president of Associated Retail Stores, a wholly owned subsidiary of AFS, Salt Lake City. “If you look to your right, you can see through produce, into the meat department, into the deli. There's not a lot of obstruction. It's a very open feel. On the left side, you've got this warehouse presentation in grocery and general merchandise, so it's contrasting.”
The format was designed to enhance the customer's shopping experience, he said.
“We're really trying to focus on — particularly on the perishables side — guest experience, quality and value, where a person can come in, get meal ideas and meal solutions that can range from everything that we've prepared — and all you have to do is go home and heat it — to very complex meals that you can prepare on your own,” Wirthlin said.
Officials view the Providence store as a prototype for future stores, said Dick King, vice president of Associated Food Stores.
“We don't have new growth planned, but as we remodel, replace and open new stores, we will encourage not only us as corporate stores, but also our membership stores, to use these concepts, so we're testing and trying them now,” said King.
The store is larger than other Macey's stores, which range from 60,000 to 65,000 square feet. By Wirthlin's estimate, the fresh departments take up about 20,400 square feet, including the back room.
The expanded deli department has a greater selection of signature items such as fresh-baked scones with flavored honey butters, as well as scone and panini sandwiches. Above the deli, customers can enjoy their meal purchases in a dedicated seating area. Officials said they may hook up the area for wireless Internet access.
“The deli's more of a restaurant-type atmosphere than a traditional grocery deli,” said Wirthlin.
Customers can order meals such as stuffed Cornish game hens and enchiladas, depending on the night of the week. Typically, Macey's deli and bakery areas focus on staples such as baked, rotisserie and fried chicken, but in this store, pork loin is also available, said Wirthlin.
A large seafood section offers about 20 linear feet of seafood cases, both self-serve and over-the-counter. Another 28 feet is devoted to the meat department — a service meat counter that offers everything from select to prime cuts of meat, and self-service cases that include about eight feet of ready-to-cook meals and other value-added items.
Ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat items are popular with the area's college students, King said.
Indeed, a local observer noted that the store's merchandising seems to cater to the area's diverse demographics.
“There are 25,000 college students up there year-round,” said Ted File, president of C2-It Consulting, Layton, Utah. “It's a college town, and it's also an agricultural school, so there's a lot of farming.”
In produce, customers find a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, with an expanded variety of organics. Produce is displayed on oak-looking square tables with risers. Associates also spend more time on the sales floor preparing produce instead of in a back room.
“We're getting our team out from behind the doors in the produce preparation area more often, so they're out there to answer guests' questions, to help guests find what they need and to get the guests to try a honey crisp apple or other new products,” Wirthlin said.
Because of sampling and new cross-merchandising strategies, shoppers appear to be enjoying the new store and are spending more time in the fresh departments, he noted.
“We have recipes for meal ideas out there, and when we do a demonstration, we're always trying to cross-merchandise,” Wirthlin said. “So, if we're grilling a Santa Maria tri-tip in the aisle by the meat department, we'll have the complements that go with it — a produce item, a dessert idea — so they can come in and pick it up really simply and then talk to an expert there that can make them feel comfortable with how to prepare it.”
To market the store, a 13-week grand opening promotion plan got under way with a case-lot sale. Also planned are promotions focused on seafood and meat.
“Out here in Utah, particularly in the Cache Valley area, people store their food,” Wirthlin said. “There's some farmers that come in that like to buy cases and cases of products, so that's very popular. [On Feb. 26] we'll have a grand opening with fireworks and a snowmobile giveaway and really just have a party and celebrate this store.”
File said he believes that Macey's is trying to improve its competitive position.
“When you walk in, they're making a statement that says, ‘We're going to be competitive with anyone in this marketplace,’” he said. “If it's successful in Providence, they could look into expanding into Provo and south of Salt Lake, and just make adaptations for different ethnic groups. I think they will be very successful.”