EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Shaw's Supermarkets here has revamped one of its small urban units to accommodate shoppers who buy smaller sizes in Center Store.
The Shaw's unit, between 25,000 and 30,000 square feet, on Lincoln Street in Worcester Mass., has been revamped to cater to mostly elderly shoppers.
Shaw's had planned to close the unit, which was consistently underperforming, on Oct. 14. However, the mayor of Worcester, Raymond V. Mariano, appealed to Shaw's to keep the unit open, said chain spokesman, Bernie Rogan.
Mariano, a marketing consultant who serves as mayor part time, told SN "It's critical to have a grocery store in that neighborhood. It has a huge impact on the residents' quality of life. There are a number of seniors who live there in several different high rises, along with a number of people of modest means who rely on it." The store is also a place where older citizens meet daily, Mariano said.
The chain agreed to keep the store open, but scaled back on offerings and eliminated the in-store bakery to reduce operating costs. Hours of operation were also reduced. The store opens at 8 a.m. and now closes at 6 p.m., instead of 11. The company scaled back in order to test if this store could become a replica model for other urban settings, Rogan said.
Analysis of sales receipts showed that predominantly elderly customers were buying, for example, smaller sizes of canned fruit and vegetables and baked beans.
"We diminished some items, like baby food, and filled it up with other items that they do buy," Rogan said. Mariano noted that Shaw's "really went out of its way, by reversing a number of costly decisions."
Two other Shaw's stores serve the area, including a new unit in Shrewsbury that opened Oct. 16. But both are about three and a half miles away from the Lincoln Street unit, and the layout of Worcester makes it difficult for people from the Lincoln Street neighborhood to get to other supermarkets, Rogan explained.
Nonetheless, the revamped unit may not be permanent, Rogan said. "We are studying it carefully now until the end of March or early April," he said.
J. Sainsbury, Shaw's United Kingdom-based owner, has two urban prototypes of smaller format stores in England.
"This is not unique to the United Kingdom. The Worcester store gave us the opportunity to look at it, to keep the customers and the mayor happy," Rogan said.
The move was counter to the prevailing trend to open even larger stores. Shaw's newer units are in the 60,000-square-foot range, and its largest is 65,000 square feet.
"We still have a good presentation," said David Wood, the store manager. "A lot of the items have been discontinued to save space and to save shrink, and a lot of the varieties that a normal Shaw's carries, we don't. We have a lot of older customers who are single, so we carry a lot of the small individual sizes. But we also have families shopping here, and they want anything in a multipack, like three for $1 or four for $1. Anything on sale." "The customers are happy that it's still open; it's convenient for them," Wood added.