A few things we noticed whilst walking around stores last week

US Special – Week 35. This week was actually two weeks ago, confused? So am I, but read on!

The US is always a favoured retailing destination and the ability to combine a bit of family time alongside the various stores, there’s always something to see. Naurally our thoughts are with those folks about to be displaced by Irma, and hopefully everyone makes it out of there safe, even if their homes do not…

If you’ve not been to America or indeed, not spent far too much holiday time in stores…. The US market is literally state to state in many cases and as Grocery Insight grows, I will make it to more states to see the best practise. Especially as we have a new store website launching soon too…. Florida has Publix who are the main state player, although they are starting to move northwards, Winn Dixie are another state based player too.

Then you have the coast to coast retailers like Target and Wal-Mart who own vast numbers of stores around the country too. The reason Lidl frightens some retailers with a seemingly innocent blend of low cost food and non food, is that the likes of Publix are similar to Morrisons, maybe 25 years back. They literally only sell food and very, very few non food items within their assortment.

Publix are more like Waitrose in any case, employee owned and generally aim for a more premium feel to their shopping experience. But there’s always so much to see, so on with the Week 35 USA special!

  1. Super Target revamps 

I do like Target as a retailer, they do a good job for their ‘guests’ and generally offer a fair few Toys for the younger members of the tribe to get excited over. A ‘nicer’ version of Wal-Mart with higher prices but more of a department store feel, weaker on food and they’ve had a few issues of their own around future growth and plans for online, click/collect and deliveries.

A new Health/Beauty category is located near the entrance in revamped Super Target stores.
A new Health/Beauty category is located near the entrance in revamped Super Target stores.

However with their stores, it’s fair to say that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Very similar in terms of layout, the perimeter of the store generally leads you around clothing and GM before heading towards food. In Super Target stores, there are often two entrances, one near food and another leading in to the non food areas.

Target basket
Giant baskets are used for their promotional deals on the central aisle.

The refits themselves on these old Super Target battleships are impressive, but the better store was sharp in all areas. Whereas the recently refitted store had lovely surroundings on food but non-food quality was poor, levels of fill were poor and Produce saw brilliant display kit but the detail around quality on loose Produce wasn’t good enough.

Produce Refits
A refitted Produce category in a Super Target store. High impact.
Great category, but detail on loose Produce was questionable. (logo not included).
Great category, but detail on loose Produce was questionable. (logo not included).

Definite signs of progress with their new ranges on clothing and exclusive brands too, so clearly the wider strategy is coming to the fore in terms of shop floor strategy.

Target food hall
The Target ‘food hall’ refit was impressive.

Another noteworthy point was the US mentality towards space, land costs are so low in Florida and other states that they’re certainly not short of space. The U.K. is a different beast with higher land costs and a different store mentality, imagine if stores left their seasonal spaces empty as they switched events over!?

Target signage
Signage for ‘something new coming soon’
Halloween Target
Halloween was coming… The full launch was beyond my visit time sadly. It was left empty until launch.

Signs of progression from Target, but basics are crucial, however old the store may be. When a store is a new format and newly refreshed, then those basics are shown in an even greater light (LED etc).

Target
Give the ink cartridge a shake! This signage was faded, so odd in a multi million ($) refit.

2. Publix service 

The Waitrose of Florida (and beyond) continue to expand in to new states and also progress their offer in Florida too. Their stores are never anything to really bang the drum about, certainly not vs. a Super Target or refreshed Wal-Mart but their wider service offering with online orders for sandwiches and Celebration cakes alongside a decent range of fresh foods is always impressive.

Publix service
Publix set a strong service expectation in store.

Their service is a key part of the offer, we politely declined the packing / carry to car service they have to much bemusement in store. Telling us ‘you don’t have to pay for it’…. I can only assume they’d correctly picked up my Yorkshire accent and the flies exiting my wallet as I paid.. (I jest!)

The colleague told me that they get a lot of customer confused by the offer, especially tourists. It’s a fair point, we know that the UK retailers have offered this to varying degrees over the past few years, before it eventually fizzles out. I’ve seen Publix colleagues helping customers to their cars at 730am before, so it truly is a great service they aim to deliver.

Publix set a strong service expectation around the store, and particularly at the front end with signage telling customers to ‘expect great service, every time’.

Signage highlights the various components of their shelf edge labels
Signage highlights the various components of their shelf edge labels

The shelves in Publix (and indeed, US retailers) are very noisy with bits of paper flapping everywhere and lots and lots of information. With some more information then loaded on top.

Publix aim to decode this slightly by informing customers about the labels and what information they contain, and what it all means. Not a bad idea to highlight lines that are gluten free on the shelf label itself, however the concern would be around someone mis-filling and confusing the customer potentially.

Gluten free is flagged heavily on the shelf edge.
Gluten free is flagged heavily on the shelf edge.

An impressive array of information featured on the shelf edge labels; with greater flexibility on digital shelf labels as/when they appear – there is even more scope there…..

3. New stores and refits at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart have been hard at work in the US with their stores, refitting older stores and investing in front end technology (self checkouts) alongside changes and tweaks to the wider offer too. As ever, new stores offer a real insight in to the future planning from the chain with lots to see in their newest store in Florida.

Refit signage at Wal-Mart, with various counters and categories remodelled.
Refit signage at Wal-Mart, with various counters and categories remodelled.

Lots of work goes in to the refits, although the end result is different to that from Super Target (above), their work refitting some older stores has resulted in a better look/feel once the revamp is completed.

WalMart layaway
Layaway is now in stores, allowing customers to pay a deposit to reserve toys.

For the newest store in Orlando, near the airport (how convenient!) there is a lot of activity around online, click/collect (pickup) and technological solutions to sharpen the overall offer, particularly given the scale and size of Wal-Mart…. Any saving multiplied across their estate would run to millions of dollars in no time at all.

Walmart pickup
Pickup is being pushed aggressively, with Wal-Mart reaching 1000 stores recently.
WalMart Mobile Scan
Mobile Scan & Go alongside Self scan and a number of self checkouts are in the new store.

An online push seems central to the Wal-Mart strategy, with efficiency and technology always forming part of the longer term journey. With Amazon looming in the shadows, it’s vital that Wal-Mart stay ahead of the curve in these areas.

That’s it! There’ll be another update this week to catch up with events within the UK.

If you would like further insight in to the US stores alongside lots of associated imagery. Please do not hesitate to get in touch.

  • UK_Informer

    I would say that Publix’s product mix isn’t quite as upscale as Waitrose, at least based on a visit about 1.5 years ago to a location near Orlando MCO airport. Centre store still feels largely driven by the same brands that everyone carries plus a Publix own brand that is similar to anyone else’s own brand, and therefore overall Publix doesn’t feel that different to most other non-premium non-discounter supermarket. Surely an opportunity for Waitrose to co-develop and wholesale product to Publix (i.e. Duchy brand, some imported, some local).

    Waitrose style product mix tends to be seen in “boutique branded” supermarkets (e.g. Bristol Farms) run by the majors (SuperValu), alongside Wholefoods (as was) and the unique Trader Joes.

    And it is noticeable that the supermarkets in the US haven’t moved into a small store/fuel station convenience footprint (as company owned or on wholesale/franchise basis) in the same way that the major brands have done in the UK. There are big multi-state convenience/fuel specialists (e.g. Wawa) who don’t do full service, and the big pharmacy operators also have convenience style departments in their stores.

  • Informative article Steve – thanks for sharing this! I’ll tweet a link for others to see too. Cheers

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