MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — One of the questions surrounding the newest Piggly Wiggly store here is whether customers will adjust to its unfamiliar layout.
The traditional long gondolas found in typical supermarkets have in this store been chopped up and scattered, with canned peas next to the frozen peas next to the fresh peas.
“We wanted the store to feel intuitive,” said Julie Dugas, studio director and senior designer for Marco Retail Group, the Northville, Mich.-based design firm that developed the layout. “We really feel that after three or four times though the store, the shopper will really understand how the store works.”
Supermarkets have been laid out basically the same way for the past 50 or 60 years, she said.
“We have taught multiple generations, this is how you shop the grocery store: There's the perimeter, and the aisles down the middle,” Dugas explained. “Every single store is set up the same, but everybody shops it differently. So, as designers, doesn't that tell us something? Maybe there is something to being able to set it up differently.
“There will be some unlearning, to change what we have come to expect for several generations, but we really think this is pretty intuitive and people will get it pretty quickly. We have already had people tell us they get it, and they think it's cool.”
She said the company worked closely with Piggly Wiggly to try to determine what adjacencies made sense in terms of the shopping experience.
“We spent a lot of time moving pieces around a few feet at a time, recategorizing the store,” she said. “Why put refrigerated bagels in the dairy department? They are bread — put them in the bakery department. By putting frozen bagels with the fresh bagels, people can say, ‘I need fresh bagels today, but I need frozen bagels for later in the week.’”
One of the key concepts of the design was that it is geared for either a speedy in-and-out shop, with its shortened gondolas and wide-open aisles, or a more relaxing visit. It includes a cafe with seating near the prepared-foods area, across from the in-store Starbucks.
“The idea is that you can come in and do your grocery shopping quickly and easily, but we have also provided ways to linger longer,” Dugas said.
Marco Group also designed Piggly Wiggly's Newton Farms store, a single-store banner in Kiawah Island, S.C., that has strong focus on prepared foods and cross-merchandising of meal components. The store served as a template in many ways for the new Piggly Wiggly.
Dugas said David Schools, chief executive officer, Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., gave Marco Group the mandate that the store must be both innovative and practical: “He said, ‘Don't just design me a pretty store. We want you to truly design a new food store.’”