It's not your mother's Winn-Dixie.
The remodeled stores Winn-Dixie is operating across its five-state area are clean, fresh, contemporary and neighborhood-specific — a broad contrast to the tired, generic and outdated units the chain was operating when it came out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy two years ago this month.
The changes are obvious from the moment a customer walks in “and finds herself surrounded by perishables — fresh and local,” Jim Carrado, vice president, neighborhood merchandising, told SN.
As Winn-Dixie remodels its store base, it is attempting to meet the needs of five specific customer clusters: Hispanic, urban, affluent, resort and kosher. While the product mix at all stores is almost identical, approximately 25% to 30% of the items are aimed specifically at one of the cluster groups, Carrado pointed out.
Of the 96 stores remodeled so far, 30% serve a kosher demographic; 25% serve an affluent customer base; 20% are in urban areas; 15% serve a Hispanic clientele; and 10% are in resort areas.
Remodeled stores have newly tiled floors, except in the produce department, where Winn-Dixie is installing wooden floors to give the section a warmer feel, Carrado said, “and we've re-lamped the entire store, so it's brighter.”
Customers enter through the produce department at most locations, though at some it's service floral, “but either way, it really pops,” Carrado said.
What the customer sees are colorful arrays of produce — “we try not to use too much plastic, though that's hard to avoid,” he noted — with large, hand-stacked displays up front surrounded by refrigerated items on curved racking, to make a very powerful statement about Winn-Dixie's commitment to perishables, Carrado said.
“And the entire department utilizes a lot of spotlights to focus consumers' eyes on the product.”
At stores in Hispanic areas, up-front produce displays are likely to feature items like limes, plantains or root vegetables, while urban locations might focus on broad assortments of berries, and stores in resort areas would offer more convenience-oriented products, including juices, cut fruit and packages salads, Carrado pointed out.
Moving past produce, customers enter an expanded beer and wine section, where the chain merchandises differently to different local population clusters, he said. For example, stores in affluent areas may have more specialty and chilled wines and wine stewards, while other formats may focus more on table wines or larger concentrations of reds than whites.
Winn-Dixie sells liquor at less than 10% of its store base, primarily because of local laws that require stores to have a separate entrance to offer liquor, he noted.
On the side wall at the back of the stores is a service seafood counter, with service product displayed on ice and self-service selections offered below the service case.
Winn-Dixie merchandises a lot of whole fish at Hispanic and urban stores, Carrado pointed out, while stores in affluent areas feature more value-added items and shellfish, including live lobster tanks, and those in resort areas feature more portable packaged selections for convenience, he explained.
According to Carrado, Winn-Dixie is planning to install its first open-air iced seafood case — one that is open on the clerks' side and which provides more room to display whole fish.
Packaged meats are displayed at remodeled Winn-Dixies on five-deck shelving along the back wall, with more family-size packs and thin cuts at Hispanic stores; more family packs and smoked meats at urban stores; a full line of kosher beef at kosher-area stores; more veal, ground turkey and a broader assortment of all-natural beef at affluent stores; and more value-added selections at resort stores, Carrado pointed out.
Adjacent to meat on the back walls is an expanded dairy section. While the basic mix is fairly standard, Carrado said, Winn-Dixie features more yogurts, including drinkable yogurts, at Hispanic stores; a full line of kosher dairy items at kosher stores; more whole milks than reduced-fat milks at urban stores; more reduced-fat milks than whole milks at affluent stores, plus more organic and soy milks; and more extended-shelf-life milks at resort-area stores.
The expanded self-service deli next to the dairy offers a standard selection of luncheon meats, Carrado pointed out, but adds different brands and flavors of sausages for different geographies, he said.
In the frozen food section on the stores' left side wall, Winn-Dixie has replaced its traditional coffin cases with door fixtures. “We deliberately put frozens near the end of the shopping trip, because the weather in most of our operating areas is so hot,” Carrado explained.
Frozen sections at Hispanic and urban stores feature more large-size packages of ice cream; kosher stores feature 10 to 12 doors of strictly kosher items; affluent stores merchandise more boutique ice creams; and resort stores feature more ice cream novelties and fewer frozen entrees.
In the front corner of the stores are packaged baked goods, mostly private label, offered on self-service display tables in front of the service bakery. The service bakeries, mostly bake-offs, were expanded during the remodeling process to accommodate a wider variety of products, Carrado pointed out.
Hispanic-oriented service bakeries feature a lot of colorful cakes and pan dulce, he said, while kosher stores carry a full variety of kosher items, including babkas, rugalach and black-and-whites; urban stores offer more sweets and cupcakes; affluent stores feature more expensive layer cakes; and resort stores feature more cupcakes and cookies.
For the grocery and health and beauty care aisles in the center of the store, Winn-Dixie devised separate planograms for each format, featuring a rationalized assortment with less duplication than the old stores but greater variety overall, Carrado noted.
Among some of the specialized offerings Winn-Dixie carries are large bags of rice and dry beans, along with expanded olive sections and Goya-brand canned items, at Hispanic stores; 40 to 50 feet of kosher grocery items at kosher stores; more flour, sugar, coating mixes and hot sauces at urban stores; wider selections of olive oils, balsamic vinegars and specialized crackers and cookies at affluent stores; and more smaller sizes of ketchup, mayonnaise and other basics, plus smaller snack packages, at resort stores.
Service delis at the front of the stores have been enlarged, and more display tables have been added in front of the service case, including a hot wings bar and a hot foods bar that displays rotisserie and fried chicken along with meatloaf, turkey breasts and drumsticks, Carrado said.
At Hispanic stores, the service delis feature between 16 and 24 feet of Cuban-oriented foods, including pulled pork and ropa vieja (shredded beef in tomato sauce), while urban delis feature more fried foods (like catfish and fried green tomatoes); affluent stores carry more cold salads and a wider assortment of high-end meats and cheeses; and resort stores have double the space for sandwiches, he pointed out.
In areas with a large Jewish population, Winn-Dixie operates a separate kosher service deli adjacent to the conventional service deli so that no one can enter the service area of the kosher deli without the presence of a mashgiah — an Orthodox rabbi or his representative who ensures that Jewish dietary laws are not violated.
Adjacent to the deli at most Winn-Dixies is the pharmacy, which has been expanded at remodeled stores. The checkstands are near the pharmacy at the stores' entrance.
Earlier this year, Winn-Dixie launched a new initiative called Signature Service to offer a higher level of service to customers, a chain spokesman told SN. The program focuses on developing better execution of operational responsibilities; putting more emphasis on customer interaction and engagement; and resolving customer concerns in a timely manner.
At the same time, the chain's training department is focusing on making training and development more attainable and user-friendly through computer-based programs and a learning management system, the spokesman added.