When is a store more than a store? When it helps create a brand image for the store that lends credibility to product presentation and leads shoppers in a logical fashion toward related product and meal ideas.
That's one of the points made in this week's Page 1 news feature, "New Blueprints for Store Design," by SN reporter Jon Springer. Let's use that as a springboard to look at various imperatives now informing store design.
Perhaps the chief and broadest function of store design is to help establish the store as a brand in its own right, a situation that will ultimately build customer loyalty and lend value to both branded and private-label products. (A related peek ahead: Look for a fair amount of news coverage of private labels in next week's SN since the Private Label Manufacturers Association convened at the weekend for its annual meeting at Chicago's Rosemont Convention Center.)
Design features can be called upon to do more than just help brand a store, though. Design can actually lend credibility to in-store presentations. Consider this observation that happens to address a store's prepared-food presentation. It has wider application. "The consumer doesn't believe that supermarkets have any credibility when it comes to prepared foods," said one design expert. "You wouldn't buy furniture from a lumber store [because] the lumber store is where raw materials for furniture are. [Similarly,] the supermarket is where the raw materials for meals are."
This strikes to an important issue in food retailing today: How to move beyond the notion that supermarkets offer ingredients, not the excitement of meal solutions. This designer was able to refigure the store by making a separate space for fresh prepared, establishing a separate brand for the area and allowing shoppers to enter and exit the area without going to the remainder of the store.
It's easy enough to see how design features such as these could enhance several categories that might be considered destinations in themselves -- categories such as deli, beverage, snacks and more. The downside of not requiring a full store tour from shoppers with a single buying objective is a decline in impulse sales, but the longer-term reward of customer loyalty will make up for that.
Here's a look at several other ideas presented in the news feature:
One retailer is using a unified floor-design and graphic treatment to associate center-store products with related specialty department products. The message of value and price is conveyed in this way.
Another is using a center-store design that allows products to be displayed in the center of an aisle. Those products are displayed at an angle relative to the adjacent gondolas, which gives shoppers a better view of the products so displayed. Also, the special displays lead the eye toward related products in the adjacent gondola space.
Finally, the Internet is weighing on the minds of some store designers and a few are finding ways to reflect some of the aspects of e-commerce in the physical space of their stores. One approach is to establish an e-commerce area where items that lend themselves to home delivery are placed. The ultimate outcome is that in the future shoppers could go through such an area with a scanner, identifying products they wish to purchase, but would prefer to have delivered later. Traditional pick-up shopping would devolve to fresh areas alone.