More changes in Kirkstall

One of the biggest mistakes I made on this blog was assuming that the Kirkstall store would be finished when the final ‘blog’ post was done earlier this year.

That was only the beginning with the completion of the full scale moves that had seen the departments like Wine moved across the store and merchandised in a totally different way. Merchandising by taste rather than region saw initial sales rise massively before levelling out with Dalton reporting an increase of around 15%. Perhaps less efficient in terms of replenishment in the early days, it certainly is a key driver for sales.

I’m told there is even more to come beyond what has been done thus far, it’s a continual evolving process and even more has changed since Augusts update. The best way to keep abreast of developments I spot whilst out and about in Kirkstall and beyond is to follow me on Twitter.

With Fresh lines to feature ‘M Kitchen’ moniker ahead of the relaunch.  (c) Morrisons

One of the major changes ahead of the ready meal relaunch due next week (with phase 2 the week after) is that stores have been giving up space previously allocated to other lines such as Bacon or other historic layouts that made little sense from a customer flow point of view. Kirkstall have freed up some space but are not getting the new layouts apparently, stores of the future are exempt so whilst they get the new range, they don’t get the new layout I believe.

Wm Morrison signature to feature on own label products when relaunched (c) Morrisons

In terms of ready meals and fresh, I pondered on the blog in July whether Morrisons could do anything with ready meals from an in store point of view.

Whether Morrisons can produce ready meals such as Lasagne in store remains to be seen, there is certainly scope to take advantage of the craft skills and responsive supply chain that Morrisons have by producing more meal solutions in store. How far that goes remains to be seen as there are considerations needed around labour cost along with further complexity in the supply chain, it would give them a major selling point with ‘fresh’ ready meals for example.

It would appear that ‘fresh’ ready meals were already on the agenda as the new counter appeared in Kirkstall around 3 weeks ago, an extension to the existing butchery counter offering ‘meal solutions’ where everything is included to make the core meal with the extra ingredients enhancing the flavour. The customer can add vegetables of their choice separately to add to their meal.

Dinner made easy – strong price point – feeds 2 for £5

The lines are featured within the butchery counter with black featuring heavily on the equipment and POS to give it a premium feel despite the strong price point and ‘freshness’ angle. Each meal is on the menu (see below) and the counter has a small book with all the relevant ingredients inside so the colleague is able to make up the meal. It’s clear that there has been development chefs involved with these meals as the taste is akin to a meal from a restaurant.

There are some lines like the beef pinwheels (rolled beef with spinach and mozzarella) that are produced in store both for the counter and for the specific ready meal area, so craft skills are used within store once more.

Vegetables that are combined with the set meals as part of the meal.
A strong selection of meals available – customisation options available too!

Whilst colleagues indicate the meals have done ok, it’s not been absolutely mad busy and you can appreciate why. With the excellent Fresh 2 Go range just inside the store, should you venture further into the store it’s very much the first 1/3 of the store that is ‘fresh’ with the Bakery and Butchery completing market street but the other 2/3s of the store are dry goods.

The main issue is that customers may not even get that far up to the Butchers and if they do will have already passed ready meals, deli, pizza bar and everywhere else so will already have their fresh meals for the week. Also any impulse purchases are less likely to occur considering how hard up consumers are, admittedly Kirkstall does benefit from a sizeable student population so impulse may work with those.

Re-location of the counter is a consideration but with market street being a ‘street’ and bearing food safety in mind with meat, fish, cross contamination all having to be considered, it’s difficult. Looking towards the new concept stores, it may well be that certain departments are taken out of the street and put into the middle of the store like an ‘island’ of food to capture the ‘fresh’ shop. Existing stores have the market street format incorporated so it’s difficult to change things around when restricted by the building.

The Bakery has also benefitted from a change.

The Bakery has been another area for review recently and Morrisons have changed aspects within Kirkstall with new signage, a hanging clock from the ceiling indicating that bread is baked all day every day. The range is expanded with more scratch lines than before, real craft lines such as plaits, polish bloomer, Olive loaves and Oktoberfest bread are now made in store. The bake off lines have also been improved with more of a premium variety available.

Much better customer flow on the Bakery with lowered displays.

The bakery itself benefits from better signage which divides up the department much better, Rolls, Bagels, Continental bread and the Hand Crafted table all make it far easier to shop. With Morrisons remaining particularly competitive on price despite the increased range and also the increase in hand crafted bread which again highlights Morrisons credentials as the only supermarket to really ‘do’ Fresh whilst offering good value.

Specific handcrafted skilled bread gets featured space in the aisle.

Moving further back along the store, the Cake Shop has been the focus of some interesting developments with the last blog charting the installation of a chocolate fondue that was being used to drive new lines such as marshmallows and croissants dipped in fresh chocolate. Well, the fondue has disappeared now with staff indicating it was a real effort and not really worth the work to set it up, the new lines remain but they are finished in a far more efficient way.

Lowered counters in Kirkstall allow a greater visibility into the back areas.

The Cake Shop counter has been lowered, with there being a real window into the activity behind the scenes, a continuation of the good work that Marc Bolland started. The butchery is another department that benefits from a much lower counter unit which allows customers a great view behind to see the prep work going on.

An additional benefit to this is that it allow customers a great opportunity to interact with the staff on the counters, especially as other retailers seem to cut back on visible staff on the shop floor as they drive efficiency savings throughout the business.

New lowered counter so customers are closer to the action.

The Cake Shop has had a new prep area added where literally you are stood inches away from the preparation of cakes, cheesecakes, doughnuts and everything else with yet more lines due to arrive on top of the new range that is currently being trialed. The new cake stands and cakes have a real premium feel and finish and are available on a multibuy deal as well as individually.

Strong range of single cakes at good price points with new signage too!
Higher end cream cakes – coffee eclairs, lemon tarts.

Improving the customer flow was probably one of the main things that Dalton picked up when he did his induction, whilst bins in the aisle and shippers all over drive the sales per sq.ft metric upwards. They don’t help the customer flow and with some stores overtrading (that is taking more money than expected considering store size) it means stores can get very very busy. Kirkstall has seen a de-clutter with hanging POS removed around the store and the removal of bins and cages from aisles.

A much clearer route for customers with smaller display tables.

Naturally the new produce department with tables going across the store help as the previous units that were placed diagonally across the department made it difficult to navigate around if the store was busy. The tables remain for each counter to display their ‘wares’ as you walk around market street. The Cake Shop retains a number of tables for it’s pre packaged items as traditional stores have the Cake Shop displaying both ambient and chill items, Kirkstall retains the shelf space for all chilled products.

Ambient cake tubs are featured on the tables near the cake shop with the new signage.
With other treats divided up by category with ‘cookies’ or tea time treats here.

The Fresh 2 go offer continues to evolve and you’ll recall last time there was a mention of the freshly made wraps that were proving popular, a similar model to the Fresh meals to go on the butchery, a set menu of 6 with modifications allowed around the set choice. They continue to prove popular, as does the freshly squeezed orange juice that’s being introduced to the convenience stores to great success.

The range of in store prepared sandwiches gets stronger.

There is an ever growing range of in store prepared food in Kirkstall and the colleague skills are being utilised far more, not only does the customer benefit from fresher food, the business benefits from selling food which attracts a greater margin. The colleagues seem really empowered within Kirkstall about the products they sell, especially the exclusive ones which customer won’t have seen elsewhere and as such have questions to ask.

New range of in store prepared Fish lines.

The fish counter is also selling a wider range of prepared fish meal solutions on the fish counter, it does create an issue as the bespoke meal counter is right at the other end of the store but the ‘fresh’ Salmon En Croute and Salmon pinwheels look striking and perhaps going forward, a solution will be found with newer stores to combine the meal solutions counter into one ‘island’ or display.

Freshly prepared meat lines also in store.

There seems to be a move to make the ‘cheesemonger’ section of Kirkstall a separate counter to the ‘deli’ despite them sharing the same staff and the space. There’s been a move to stock more cheese in store and display it pre cut (eliminating the serviced element) and grading it by strength along with special displays of Parmesan (like the one below).

Parmagiano Regiano ‘Parmesan’ – featured line in Morrisons

Despite removing a lot of aisle clutter, there was a ‘cheese barrel’ with Parmagiano Regiano on display last week. Presumably this does have an element of success by featuring a selected line and driving sales. There are a number of recipe cards dotted around the counters in Kirkstall in particular near the cheesemongers where there are recipes all relating to Cheese based dishes.

Cheese themed recipes from the Cheesemonger.

Another new development (and relating to the quote from an earlier blog at the top) is the emergence of ‘fresh’ lasagne and other Italian pasta dishes that are made and cooked off site (at Farmers Boy?) and then shipped into Kirkstall for sale.

They are priced at £3 per portion and there is an absence of accompaniments compared to the butchery option, versus the butchery meal option the offer doesn’t compare well. If the deli meals were put on 2 portions for £5 for example then it would be more attractive.

‘Deli Meals’ available in Kirkstall, made and cooked off site.
There are also Risotto available.

It appears that the ‘deli’ is attempting to become a real traditional ‘deli’ with lines such as lasagne and other baked goods, rather than just the traditional ham and cheese on offer like in many supermarkets. It’s a real departure for the shopping experience with a lot of different things to look at and try at Kirkstall.

The best evidence of the different experience on offer is the fact that the coffee made by the ‘barista’ can now be placed in one of the trolleys cup holders so you can drink as you shop.

Cup holder on trolleys at Morrisons.

It would seem within Morrisons, gone are the days of mundane shopping environments with no distinct offering bar big box shops. Kirkstall encourages the trying of new lines with samples, new lines on promotion and innovative displays, can it be rolled out nationwide though? Initial plans would indicate so as there are several rumours of a real strong roll out plan for 2012.

The business isn’t standing still and the pressure continues apace with the first phase of ready meals going into store next week, the rest are the week after with Morrisons announcing the relaunch of their own label on the 11th October. Interesting times ahead…

Free Newsletter

Click here to sign up to our free newsletter