As grocery retailers increasingly strive to reinvent their stores to offer shoppers memorable, differentiated, interactive experiences, it’s little wonder that WGB’s signature Grocertopia—which visually showcases excellence in merchandising, engagement and retail theater—has emerged as one of the trade media brand’s most popular standing print features. With a year’s worth of superb scenes of retail innovation from across the nation, we’re pleased to present a comprehensive gallery of Grocertopia profiles herein.
Wegmans Imparts Authentic Zest for Sushi Fests
Wegmans Food Markets transformed the prepared foods section of its suburban Philadelphia King of Prussia, Pa., store into an authentic Japanese fish market for its recent Sushi Fest. It featured fishmongers and chefs from Tsujiki Fish Market, the world’s largest fish market and one of Japan’s most impressive cultural landmarks. Exotic fresh fish flown in exclusively for the event were displayed on large ice tables, while a live Maguro no Kaitai, or whole tuna cutting, was artfully performed on whole farm-raised bluefin tuna with a 6-foot knife by master fish-cutters from Uoriki, Japan’s top fishmonger. Cuts were available for purchase, and an auction was held for the toro, or fatty belly portion of the tuna, which is prized for its tenderness. The daylong event also offered sashimi including octopus from Tsukij, scallops from Hokkaido and uni (sea urchin) from California, as well as other Japanese seafood specialties.
Meet Marty, Ahold's Roving Robot
While several retailers are adding robots to monitor store conditions and assist with other operational functions, Marty has been roaming the aisles of Ahold USA's stores as part of a pilot test by the Carlisle, Pa.-based division, which includes Giant, Martin's and Stop & Shop. While Marty's primary duties include scanning the floors for slip hazards, he's also equipped to detect out-of-stocks and conduct price checks. Beginning his multiple meanders daily throughout the store in the beer and wine cafe, Marty then makes his way through the produce and meat departments prior to roving the remainder of the store. The offspring of Badger Technologies, Marty has sensors that assure he doesn't bump into displays—or shoppers—while his internal cameras provide him with a nearly full scan of an entire aisle. Ahold USA envisions expanding the test with as many as a dozen robots in 2018.
The Fresh Market’s Midcentury Marvel
Drawing on inspiration from the South Florida community it serves, the sleek design of The Fresh Market’s recently opened 26,000-square-foot store in Doral, Fla., incorporates midcentury modern decor, English and Spanish signage, and integrated natural lighting, the latter of which is capped by the sleek, signature oval window adorning the produce department. “The window not only plays up the natural beauty of the fresh produce department but also makes a statement to motorist passersby and is echoed in forms, materials and colors throughout the store,” says Juan Romero, president and CEO of store design firm api(+). The Fresh Market is located in CityPlace Doral, which opened in early 2017 and houses dining, retail and entertainment destinations and luxury residences.
Meijer’s Rockford Redesign Shines
As the last of 22 store remodels completed in 2017, Meijer’sRockford, Mich., area store has emerged as the chain's newest flagship location and test bed for new concepts. Among the highlights of the 192,000-square-foot store is an expanded prepared foods area that offers Pan Asian cuisine, a pizzeria, fresh sushi and a sandwich shop, along with a spacious dining area adorned by a rustic, red brick wall evocative of Meijer’s original Thrifty Acres store that opened in its Grand Rapids hometown in 1962. “We continue to focus on updating our stores to bring the best retail experience to our customers,” said Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes. Other notable aspects of the store’s enhancements include an updated pharmacy area, expanded grocery and health and beauty sections, an updated apparel department and an all-new pet department providing a specialty, store-within-a-store feel. Key updates also include lighting, heating, refrigeration and parking lot improvements. The remodeled Rockford store also provides the Midwestern retailer another flagship location, where the company can test new innovations and programs for consideration at other stores.
Kroger Cashes In on Expedited Checkout
Amid a flurry of cashierless grocery developments, The Kroger Co.’s Scan, Bag, Go technology has been rolled out to 18 operating divisions, making the service available this year to customers at 400 stores. Developed by Kroger’s in-house team and tested during the past year in several locations in tandem with Kroger’s Restock initiative, the platform provides an expedited, hassle-free checkout process by allowing customers to scan and bag products with wireless handheld scanners or a mobile app as they shop. "With every new product, service and technology integration, Kroger is redefining the customer experience and reimagining the store of the future," said Chris Hjelm, Kroger's EVP and CIO. The technology also offers personalization for customers with the ability to download digital coupons, keep a running total of their order and view the retailer’s weekly ad. Kroger currently implements payment for Scan, Bag, Go feature at its in-store self-checkout area, though customers soon will have the ability to provide payment directly through the app. And with personalization a priority, the Cincinnati-based retailer aspires to include connecting Scan, Bag, Go to EDGE—Enhanced Display for Grocery Environments—to provide additional value. "Scan, Bag, Go is one more choice ... that Kroger provides so customers can choose when and how they want to shop with us," Hjelm said.
Lucky's Winning Streak in Springfield
Lucky’s Market's new 26,000-square-foot store in Springfield, Mo., which opened in February, sports the newest interior look for the 28-store retailer. Featuring stained floors, unpainted ceilings and its first made-to-order ramen bar, “Lucky's Market is focused on creating a unique shopping experience that customers can't get from grocery delivery or online shopping," says Matthew Mabie, president of Knoebel Construction, general contractor for Lucky's Springfield store, as well as those underway in St. Petersburg and Winter Park, Fla. Features such as the cafe and juice bar—and its first-ever ramen bar—provide shoppers “with a variety of ready-to-eat options made with the fresh and often local ingredients. What we love about the building and design,” Mabie says, “is that it’s essentially a fast-casual restaurant within a grocery store that allows patrons to take a meals home or enjoy in-store at multiple seating areas.”
SpartanNash Makes Barbeque a Family (A)Fare
Betty Kaye’s Smokehouse is one of several new standout features of SpartanNash’s recently renovated Family Fare Supermarket in Georgetown Twp., Mich. Boasting signature smoked meats prepared on-site by expert pit masters, as well as special rubs, sauces and hot sides such as cornbread and jalapeno mac and cheese, Betty Kaye’s transports shoppers to the barbecue backwoods of Tennessee. In line with consumer desires for adventurous flavors and convenient, fresh meal solutions, the eatery offers complete take-home, family-style entrees including whole chicken, pulled pork, wings, sausage or brisket, with six homemade sauces such as its renowned Sweetheart Spice, Peach Zinger and Boot Scoot Mustard varieties. As SpartanNash continues to invest in its Family Fare banner, the Georgetown location will serve as its test lab store to try out related innovations.
Gelson’s Santa Monica Raises the Bar
A contemporary craft bar is among the highlights of Gelson’s newly remodeled store in Santa Monica, Calif., which celebrated its grand reopening in late April. Designed to enhance the shopper experience, the bar serves wine, craft beer and tapas in an inviting social setting, adorned with modern light fixtures, wooden floors and sleek seating arrangements. Located at 2627 Lincoln Blvd., Gelson Santa Monica’s fresh concept also boasts a juice bar and acai bowl kiosk; a seafood and sushi sit-down bar; Gelson’s Kitchen, serving customizable Mediterranean-inspired bowls; and a Wolfgang Puck build-your-own-pizza counter. Adding to the store’s emphasis on adventurous dining occasions, Gelson’s Santa Monica also features the retailer’s first grill station, where shoppers can have their purchased meat or seafood products professionally grilled in-store.
Natural Grocers Invites Shoppers to Wine Down
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage recently unveiled its latest buzz-worthy concept, Cottage Wine and Craft Beer—a homey nook within the retailer’s new Coos Bay, Ore., store featuring an extensive collection of organic and local alcohol beverages including craft beer, biodynamic wine and hard cider. Equipped with convenient couches and reading material, the concept invites shoppers to purchase and sample about 100 different beers and ciders and nearly 150 wines—all of which are either 100% organic or locally sourced and meet the same high-quality standards the specialty grocer upholds with the rest of its products. With an emphasis on local support and sustainability, the concept also showcases Oregon’s beer and wine producers that demonstrate a commitment to minimal intervention and environmentally conscious products. The retailer plans to expand the concept to six additional Oregon stores later this year.
Giant Eagle’s Ace Move
Giant Eagle debuted the first of four store-within-a-store Ace Hardware home improvement centers in its North Huntingdon, Pa., location in late June. The move marks the first development of its kind in several years for the Pittsburgh-based multiformat retailer, which devoted approximately 8,400 square feet to showcase the home improvement products and services. “It is imperative that we at Giant Eagle continue to innovate both within and outside of our supermarkets to succeed in our increasingly competitive food retail environment,” said Dan Donovan, Giant Eagle’s director of corporate communications. Customers can find everything from hardware to lawn mowers and chainsaws to an expanded selection of items such as pest control, household cleaning supplies, batteries, light bulbs and air filters. Specialty services include paint mixing and matching, key cutting and glass and screen repairs from trained associates. Plus, shoppers will earn both fuelperks and Ace Rewards on all qualifying purchases. “Ace’s experience with store-within-a-store concepts at other retailers and shared commitment to quality, service and convenience make them a natural fit for Giant Eagle,” Donovan said.
A Dip into Hy-Vee’s Beauty Basin
Hy-Vee is dipping further into the health and wellness world with its first-ever HealthMarket, which debuted July 31 in its West Des Moines, Iowa, hometown. The 15,000-square-foot store emphasizes healthy living with new amenities such as its bubble-themed beauty and bath section, created in partnership with Orlando, Fla.-based beauty brand Basin. The new department aims to immerse shoppers in a refreshing oasis with invigorating design elements—including a bright, open-air skylight, bubble-shaped light fixtures and a meditative water tube filled with purple suds—and touts a selection of Basin bath bombs, cut soap, body butter, lip balm, shampoo bars, bath salts, body scrubs and solid perfumes. Beyond Basin products, shoppers can also find high-end cosmetics brands such as Stila, Smashbox and Bare Minerals, as well as designer fragrances including Chanel, Calvin Klein and Estee Lauder.
Raley’s Invites Shoppers to Get Comfy with eCart
Raley’s Family of Fine Stores recently kicked off a new marketing campaign to inspire consumers to get comfortable with its personal shopper service and e-commerce platform, eCart, while inspiring them to approach online shopping the same way they’d shop in-store. Featuring clips of customers ordering groceries on computers, tablets and mobile devices from locations outside the store, the campaign also plays up the retailer’s in-store personal shoppers, which handpick items based on the customer’s preferences. Raley’s tapped the Sausalito, Calif.-based ad agency Division of Labor to develop the campaign following a series of focus groups and online surveys designed to understand what customers want from their online grocery experience. Raley’s “shop online like you shop in-store” video series is running online in both organic and paid media.