Walmart, which has worked hard in recent years to turn fresh food from a weakness to a strength, believes it can make further gains behind a new fresh food merchandising initiative known as Produce 2.0.
The program will be introducing new merchandising sets to produce departments in thousands of stores over the coming months that officials said would ease congestion; better showcase assortment, quality and pricing; improve customer sight lines and save labor by making displays easier to stock and restock.
First hinted at in a presentation by Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Bratspies earlier this year, Walmart plans to convert the “majority” of its 4,750 U.S. stores to the new look by next summer. Additional stores will see conversions as part of scheduled remodels.
The new departments—which officials said would bring an “open market” feel through lower-profile bins and new pricing signs—will “further emphasize” changes the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has made to its produce sets in recent years and could provide a new boost for a fresh offering that’s already helped the chain to a new sales trajectory. The changes will be rolling out as Amazon preps to launch its own grocery store concept some time next year and competitors such as Kroger pledge to refocus behind a companywide “Fresh for Everyone” campaign.
“We’ve been focused on getting [produce] right, and our customers are noticing,” Charles Redfield, EVP of food for Walmart U.S., said in a blog post. “But with all the work we’ve done to increase quality in our produce department, we saw an opportunity to change up our in-store look and feel to even further emphasize the quality of the food we sell.”
Walmart’s fresh food makeover in recent years has seen the addition of more organic produce and locally grown foods, new relationships with farmers and supply chain enhancements that have reduced shipping times, resulting in fresh produce that lasts longer in consumer’s homes after purchase, the company said. These changes were initially showcased in “Fresh Angle” layouts that will receive enhancements as part of the 2.0 makeover.
The renovations will incorporate new lower-profile bins allowing customers to see everything available in the department when they walk into the store, Redfield said. “We’re using colorful, abundantly filled displays to highlight freshness and the quality of our items—for example, large bins of ripe red tomatoes and sizable displays of seasonal items like squash and pumpkins.”
The new bins will also allow for shoppers to pick from multiple sides, making shopper faster and easier, while more space between the fixtures could ease congestion from carts.
Other changes include consolidating organic produce into one area of the department so customers who want organic items can enjoy one-stop shopping.
New “large and bright” pricing signs will call attention to prices—and remind shoppers that the changes will not have come at a price at the register.
In addition to improving the shopping experience, the changes will make it easier for associates to work in the department, Redfield said. “Our new format simplifies workloads, making it easier for our associates to stock produce. This way, they can refocus their time on serving customers.”