Grocery Headquarters’ annual design showcase takes a tour of some outstanding store designs and explores trends in materials, color schemes, layout and more.
Like the advertising that permeates mailboxes, newspapers and television screens, store design is a powerful marketing tool. While it is subtler than a weekly sales flyer, store design sends a clear signal to shoppers about what to expect when they walk into the grocery store.
Is the store focused on value? Bright colors and large signage might reinforce that image. Is produce a big draw? The right lighting on the displays of fruits and vegetables can direct the shoppers’ attentions.
“Store design is a very critical component as retailers look to define their brand image,” says Tony Camilletti, executive vice president of D|Fab, a design firm based in Madison Heights, Mich. “The store décor really defines the role that the brand plays in the marketplace. Are you value driven? A gourmet destination? That can all be interpreted and communicated effectively through design.”
Camilletti says design is becoming more sophisticated and less complicated. “There is a trend toward simpler, more sophisticated architecture,” he says. “The idea is to scale some things back a bit in some areas and bring attention to other areas with a high level of drama.” This can be accomplished using colors, textures, materials, lighting, flooring and other strategies to grab the attention of consumers, he adds.
Design should draw attention to the food and other items rather than fit them for attention, say industry observers. “Design should complement the food product and present a fresh and vibrant image,” Camilletti says.
Facing tough competition from other channels is sparking many grocers to differentiate themselves with design. “When you can get sushi in Walgreens and do your grocery shopping in so many different places, there has to be a compelling reason to come to a particular store and great brands drive choice,” says Bruce Dybvad, CEO of Interbrand Design Forum, a retail design firm based in Dayton, Ohio.
He says private label brands are having an impact on store design. “Retailers are investing a lot in private label, particularly in packaging design and merchandising, and retailers want to tie that in to their store design to project a cohesive image.”
Mobile technology is also influencing store design. “A retailer’s mobile presence is a continuation of their brand image and they are beginning to understand how to leverage that user and bring the same experience to the store,” says Dybvad. “Shoppers have in-store navigation tools, list planning apps and other things to help them find the most efficient route through the store, so shopping has become less drudgery and more about discovery so that there is an increased amount of pressure to make the shopping experience more enjoyable.” He adds that successful retailers will find ways to direct shoppers to new products and offerings once they are in the store.
There are also some practical considerations that are driving design choices, say observers. The use of LED lighting continues to increase in all areas of the store. LED lighting not only provides high-quality color rendering to make the tomatoes look red but improves overall energy efficiency to add more green to the bottom line.
Low-maintenance materials are also high on the list of priorities for new stores as well as remodels. “We’re seeing an increased use of concrete floors, which are very easy to maintain,” says D|Fab’s Camilletti. “With reduced staffing, retailers are looking for designs and materials that will be easy to clean and look fresh. Even the bathrooms are getting more attention from a design perspective than they used.”
The move toward more local products is also spurring some design choices, Camilletti says. “The retailer wants to tell the story of the local farmer that grew the tomato, and the design has to provide an opportunity to tell that story in a compelling way.”
Project: Potash Markets, Clark Street, Chicago
Design team: Mehmert Store Services, Sussex, Wis.
With just 7,700 square feet of space, it can be a challenge to provide a full-service shopping experience for customers of the Potash Markets store on Clark Street in Chicago.
Art Potash, owner, has a vision for the next phase of the store that presented quite a design challenge—enhance customer experience, increase key departments, improve equipment efficiencies, streamline receiving functions, rework lower level preps and equipment and add retail footage. He wanted to accomplish these goals while staying within the four walls of the existing building.
“We had actually done a little bit of work on the store previously, but we wanted to take a step back and give it a good hard look to zero in on what the customer wants,” says Potash. “We reduced our traditional grocery space by one aisle to make the front and back of the store more spacious.”
Mehmert has worked extensively with Potash on a number of projects. “Art’s constantly improving and on the move,” says Steve Mehmert, owner of Mehmert Store Services. “He’s ahead of the curve and always evaluating what can be done to improve the shopping experience.”
The design team provided a greater sense of openness in the store by improving site lines at the entry and down the perishable aisle, re-aligning the produce aisle for better display. The reconfigured layout also increased grocery space and relocated the salad bar into the elevated deli/hot food area to establish an all-in-one prepared food and food service area, say officials for the Sussex, Wis.-based design firm.
In addition, open dairy cases were replaced with units from North Prairie, Wis.-based Zero Zone, which included energy-efficient doors. They also added a first floor walk-in cooler to allow rear feed dairy merchandising and refrigerated storage on the first floor for deliveries. The frozen food department was rearranged to allow for increased grocery space.
They also moved the wine cellar downstairs, where it has been originally located, and added an ACE Hardware to the downstairs space.
Project: Pathmark, Weehawken, N.J.
Design team: CBX, New York
CBX was hired to design a “simpler” version of the original 2006 design and create an overall cohesive look for the entire store. Unlike the 2006 assignment, the goal this time around was to develop a much simpler color and materials retrofit program that still engaged the public with the Pathmark brand in a meaningful and memorable way.
“We had done work for Pathmark before they were purchased by A&P, and this time they wanted to keep the design simple and colorful to communicate their position as a value brand,” says Joe Bona, retail division president of New York-based CBX.
Tailoring the offerings to the neighborhood also drove the design, say Pathmark officials.
A new 36-foot meat service offers a wide variety of fresh poultry cuts that appeal to the Weehawken neighborhood, which has a high concentration of Cubans and Dominicans. “The service meat case is about three times what we have in a typical store,” says Bob Weidner, vice president of customer experience and space management for Montvale, N.J.-based A&P, which operates the Pathmark banner.
Localized offerings extend to the deli, bakery and other areas throughout the store. “It is our intention to be the neighborhood store in the markets we serve,” Weidner says.
Pathmark officials also wanted to clearly communicate the company’s “Live Better” tag line and tie the pharmacy into the rest of the store. Throughout the store, positive and playful terms reflecting the Pathmark brand image are displayed subtly along the walls.
The walls were treated in off-white, allowing the colorful signage to pop and communicate the product offering effectively to the customer.
Beige and brown tile was used throughout. The contrasting colors were used as subtle way-finding signifiers for consumers; strips of brown throughout beige tile navigated customers down aisles, while entire areas of beige tile helped separate sections of the supermarket.
Black track lighting was installed above the fresh produce section, while recessed lighting was installed throughout the rest of the store.
A stroll down Main Street
Project: Dave’s Fresh Marketplace, East Greenwich, R.I.
Design team: CIP Retail, Fairfield, Ohio
Dave’s Fresh Marketplace has nine locations throughout Rhode Island and each of its stores is designed to blend with the local history, architecture and demography.
Throughout much of its history, East Greenwich has been a hub of commerce for the manufacture of textiles, machinery and shipbuilding. In fact, the town of East Greenwich is the birthplace of the U.S. Navy, where it was first commissioned in 1775. With all this rich history, there was a wealth of interesting architecture to inspire the designers at CIP Retail, a design firm based in Fairfield, Ohio.
While it is a few miles from the city’s Main Street, this store was designed to replicate, in scale, the main thoroughfare in East Greenwich. CIP also designed a photo collage of historic navy scenes, which celebrate the town’s maritime connections. Also, the store signage throughout replicates the city’s way of finding and building signage.
“People are absolutely wowed by the details,” says Bob Fabiano director of store development and grocery for Dave’s Fresh Marketplace, which is based in East Greenwich.
It was a time-consuming process, say CIP officials. “We had to create all of the dimensions with steel skeletons and welded them into the shapes of all the buildings,” says CIP’s CEO and creative director Tom Huff. “We then covered them with a thin material and laminated the finished printed panels over that surface. It took about six weeks.”
Flooring that looks like wood planking enhances the maritime and manufacturing themes, Fabiano says.
The ceiling was darkened to add some drama, Huff says. LED lighting from Amerlux, based in Fairfield, N.J., and ICON, based in North Kingstown, R.I.
The upgrade has had a positive impact on sales, Fabiano says. “Business is up since the remodel, which is certainly a measure of success.”
Project: Vista Central Market, El Paso, Texas
Design team: Resonantz, Lubbock, Texas
With the objective of attracting younger family-oriented Hispanic shoppers without alienating older customers, the Resonantz design team opted for a strong “shop-within-a-shop format” for its design of the Vista Central Market in El Paso, Texas.
To achieve this goal, they used color schemes and typography to differentiate the shops. Resonantz officials say they used traditional signature colors along with elements that appeal to families to communicate a playful environment.
The fiesta-style concept is reflected in the store’s overall visual appearance, including the perimeter of the store. Among the highlights is a fresh made-to-order tortilleria bar, BBQ meat shop and fruit bar, say Resonantz officials.
In the fresh meat, seafood and packaged meat departments, three-dimensional colorful graphics to add depth and highlight Hispanic-oriented offerings.
The produce department was given a farmers’ market feel with Mexican-style murals and free-hanging 3D designs that evoked a Mexican country market. The bakery was given faux windows to create the image of a corner bakeshop.
Project: Kings Food Markets, Bedminster, N.J.
Design team: api(+), Tampa, Fla.
The goal of the Kings Food Markets design is to offer unique, high-quality items to its customers while remaining convenient and welcoming, say officials for the retailer. Earlier this year, Kings completed a brand relaunch, which was marked by the grand reopening of its Bedminster, N.J. store.
“Part of the relaunch included redesigning our stores to meet the ever-changing needs of customers, both current and prospective,” says Fred Brohm, Kings’ executive vice president of marketing and chief strategy officer. “Our new stores are scaled to offer an approachable ‘neighborhood’ feel, where associates are on hand to share suggestions and tips.”
One of the innovative design elements is unusual counter-clockwise trip through the store. To maintain focus on prepared foods, Kings’ calling card, the design guides customers to prepared foods first and produce last. With this in mind, the creative team was able to garner additional prepared foods square footage by making more efficient use of vertical space in the center store, say api(+) officials.
The design of the Bedminster store has been used as inspiration for other Kings locations, say officials for the retailer. “At Kings, we pride ourselves on offering the freshest ingredients and the rarest finds,” says Brohm. “In our first-ever Connecticut store, which just opened in Old Greenwich, we offer several new features, including freshly rolled sushi, chef-inspired prepared foods, a salad bar and olive bar.”
The newly remodeled store’s layouts, graphics, finishes, flooring and lighting have been selected to help Kings stay ahead of the curve to meet the demands of its sophisticated customer base, say officials for api(+).
Brohm says the design has had a positive impact on the shopping experience. “Because of our design, shoppers now have easy access to high-quality, rare finds, while also depending on our associates for personal, attentive service,” he says.