CHICAGO -- To satisfy the needs of today's customers, retailers must focus on creating innovative destination stops in Center Store, according to panelists at an FMI "Selling Solutions" seminar. The session was given at the Food Marketing Institute's Supermarket Industry Convention and Educational Exposition held here earlier this month.
"Change needs to exist on several fronts. Increasingly, supermarketers must turn their heads away from their distribution skill sets and look to change to meet the needs of the customer," said Mike Mulligan, vice president of wholesale and marketing at Supervalu, Minneapolis. "Selling and marketing must replace the distribution mentality."
Several panelists spoke about key areas where they believe change is necessary. Glenn Gintert, president of G.A. Foods, Lowell, Ind., wants to bring the "fun" back into food shopping. Gintert shared with the audience a variety of ideas that he is implementing at a new unit, called Amelia's Market, Crown Point, Ind., as well as other stores owned by G.A. Foods.
Gintert said retailers need to define their business and figure out which problems they are trying to solve. "We want to offer everything [we can], and we can be a resource for the community," said Gintert. "I propose that we rise to the challenge to make supermarkets fun again."
Gintert gave several examples of how he is putting the fun back into Center Store and making it a place where customers want to shop. For example, the stores use zoned music for particular areas, like candy and Mexican, Italian and Chinese specialty sections. The music is keyed to reflect each particular culture, for example, in the international sections.
Visual icons are also used throughout the store, especially in the center aisles. One example is a giant hot dog, complete with bun and condiments, that is displayed on top of a shelving unit that houses condiments, buns and related items.
The Mexican, Italian and Chinese sections all have displays and signage in keeping with their ethnic themes. In the Mexican section, where there is signage in the shape of a giant sombrero with hanging streamers, customers can find anything -- from 150 different kinds of hot sauce to Mexican beer and tortillas.
Bulk candy is another area that uses a variety of displays. Moreover, during seasonal periods, customers are sure to see costumed characters that are in keeping with Easter, Christmas, Halloween and other holidays.
The Wine Country is another destination at Amelia's, Gintert noted. It features real wine kegs and wine-rack shelving, and signage of red-haired Amelia, the company's fictional spokeswoman.
John Fegan, vice president of pharmacy at Stop & Shop Cos., Quincy, Mass., takes a different approach to selling solutions. What he has done is use the pharmacy as a way to extend whole-health endorsement to non-pharmacy products.
For example, Stop & Shop had a recent display and promotion of Quaker oatmeal that brought in the pharmacy. A sign above the display read, "A Smart Start to a Healthy Heart," and included a Stop & Shop pharmacy logo. Fegan said, "We sold more on that display than on the shelves."
According to Fegan, the linkage of departments was used to teach the consumer that oatmeal is a healthy, high-fiber food. It also helped the chain increase sales. Other areas that have been linked with the pharmacy include dairy, produce and even the chilled section, where orange juice was stocked so that some containers had the nutritional labeling facing outward.
"The supermarket industry is right in the middle of a tremendous opportunity," said Fegan. "We can do the things a traditional drug store can do, plus we can bring the nutraceutical, the nutritional and the do-it-yourself health approach to the marketplace."
Jim Mallister, group director for total pet care at Ralston Purina Co., St. Louis, also gave a presentation on how retailers can increase sales and enhance the visual appeal of the pet aisle.