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Stylish supermarket innovation from around the world

Grocers are using merchandising, design and technology to improve their stores

Co-op Italia-0213

When I visit with grocers in Canada, they often quiz me about supermarkets in other countries: Which new formats are coolest? Whose merchandising is most innovative? I understand their curiosity. Smart grocers are sponges for good ideas.

There are certainly many impressive supermarkets around the world to learn from. I don’t have the space to mention them all here. But I will touch on a few and explain how these stores are creating excitement through superb design, merchandising and display.

Let’s look at store formats first. Globally, great supermarkets are striving to build stores that are fun, attractive and easy to shop. One of the best is Simply Market, a banner of the European chain Auchan.

In Poland, Simply Market has put in place a bold colour scheme that is more than just a paint job. Each area has its own striking shade.

In the deli, for instance, the same dark red is found on walls, the ceiling and merchandising units. Dairy, meanwhile, is bright blue. The overall effect is sensational, especially when compared to the more sterile palette of most supermarkets.

In Italy, Simply Market has gone a different route. Smartphone-like icons help shoppers navigate the store as part of an initiative called “Four steps to making your shopping easier and faster.”

Each icon represents a type of product shoppers tend to seek out. There’s “Spend Less,” “Eco/Organic,” “Taste of Home” and “Well-Being.” The icons appear on signs throughout the aisles, helping customers easily identify low-price, green, local and healthy products.

A number of retailers are breathing new life into existing concepts through design, technology and by varying in- store position.

Take, for example, how Co-op Italia in Milan revamped its cheese counter. Italia created a standalone “cheese island” that is positioned centrally and away from other counters. A black background and digital talker gives a premium feel to this hard-to- miss department. Excellent!

Grocers are also using retail theatre, such as cooking demonstrations, to inject energy into stores.

One of the best is Pick ’n Pay in South Africa. Staff prepare dishes right in front of shoppers, who can download those recipes and menus from a handy interactive recipe centre located nearby.

Morrisons in the U.K. has a similar concept: professional chefs prepare recipes using ingredients that are sold in the supermarket. Customers hoping to recreate the dishes at home should have no problem finding the ingredients in their Morrisons store.

Touch screens and tablets, meanwhile, are becoming commonplace worldwide. I especially like the practical approach of Delhaize in Belgium.

In its health and beauty department, Delhaize set up a digital screen to sell razor blades and other high-value products. Customers select their preferred razor blade by pushing a button on the screen.

A voucher is printed that can be redeemed at the checkout counter. In addition to curbing theft, the screen breaks the flow of the shopping trip, giving customers a reason to stop and browse.

Delhaize isn’t the only grocer using technology. Many are adding digital features. But the goal isn’t to dazzle for the sake of it; it’s to educate and inspire customers.

When I look around the world, I see grocers pushing the boundaries of traditional supermarket functionality. They’re developing formats and merchandising to dial up shopper engagement and loyalty. No matter what ideas you soak up from other grocers, those are always worthy goals.

Stewart Samuel is senior business analyst with IGD, an international food and grocery research firm. He is based in Vancouver. stewart.samuel@igd.com

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