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Physical Stores Offer Best Brand Experience

Despite the substantial shift towards online, the physical store is not going away. In fact, in-store will continue to be the best place for consumers to experience a brand, writes Niamh Higgins, managing director, TapCreative.

The Retail Touchpoints 2022 Benchmark Survey reports that 65% of consumers have a continued need or desire to shop in stores, however, stores now need to concentrate on creating a distinctive experience that will bring people to a physical location.

A recent conversation led to the mention of Feargal Quinn – of the Superquinn grocery chain fame – who was a true innovator in the world of retail.

This prompted memories of his important ‘boomerang principle’ – how everything you do is about getting the customer to come back again, and they will do that if they have a great experience.

Operating on the basis of wowing your customers every single time they shop with you, Quinn invested in developing a retail experience that, in turn, led to a standout customer experience.

That experience included introducing his shoppers to in-store bakeries, offering free umbrellas to protect customers on rainy days, self-scanning, and Ireland’s first retail loyalty scheme – to mention just some of his many retail innovations.

Shifting to the present day, I am taking a look at what is happening in store to surprise and delight today’s shoppers.

What follows is a snapshot of some innovative Irish food retail experiences, including some inspiration from abroad.

Culinary Grocery Experience

In crafting a differentiated store experience, a starting point has to be the store itself – how to get consumers to come in as often as possible, and how to maintain relevancy.

One way to do this is to develop new food experiences and food-to-go offerings, leveraging this as a beacon and footfall driver.

These experiences and offerings then become the reason that the shopper visits your store on a regular basis.

SuperValu Knocklyon does just that.

This store really delivers, as it has reimagined the grocery retail experience by creating an open and contemporary fresh-food market vibe.

There are lots of options around fresh: eat now, food to go, and food at home.

Applying best-in-class shopper thinking, it is obvious that consumer needs are clearly considered, and that the shopper journey has been completely revolutionised.

Across the store, a wide range of impactfully displayed solutions, along with well-designed signposting, make shopping both easier and simpler. The market area is surrounded by a cantilever canopy that frames the fresh counters, and low central fixtures give clear visibility of product offers, with pops of retail theatre adding to the space.

Changeable food concepts enable the retailer to respond to future market trends. Modest materials are used in exciting ways, with digital touchpoints seamlessly integrated throughout.

A community-focused seating area with children’s amenities and a premium in-store off-licence are the icing on the retail experience cake.

Another high-quality and differentiated store experience from the Musgrave portfolio is the Donnybrook Fair flagship store at Dundrum Shopping Centre. This high-end specialist grocery store is an exciting food adventure, with specialty counters and a wide variety of freshly prepared meals embodying the latest food trends.

Using expertise and craftsmanship to provide standout, there is something for everyone in this food market experience.

The premium experience combines striking store design with a focus on discovery, which is enhanced by in-store theatre that accentuates the food offering beautifully.

A simple material palette with lots of natural tones and textures and clean horizontal lines throughout creates a grounded, inviting feeling.

High points include a chef’s counter, craft butcher, green butcher, and barista, as well as Loft, a casual-dining restaurant upstairs, which offers a diverse array of dine-in food options and an event space.

Also in the premium food space is the Butler’s Pantry, which is expanding its footprint with the newly opened Templeogue store.

This is a charming store design punctuated with Georgian wainscotting, antique central floor fixtures, and lighting.

The mosaic porch floor, distinctive rustic bread display and branded parchment paper add to the artisanal vibe.

Renowned for its freshly prepared goods made from scratch, a gifting focus gives shoppers another reason to visit the store.

A create-your-own-hamper feature not only brings the personal touch in store, but it also shows how a local food retailer can fit into the key moments of people’s lives by providing convenient, occasion-based solutions.

The Food Hall Influence

There are definite learnings that the supermarkets of the future can take from the many food hall formats that exist around the world. With a something-for-everyone approach, the influx of these new food halls is influencing the marketplace style and what customers expect in a grocery setting.

Eataly remains a leader and a best-in-class example of food-led retail experiences.

Whether it is New York, London, Paris or Turin, it has created the most immersive food environments by combining craft food production in store, storytelling, and wonderful merchandising displays.

They remind us that tactile food experiences are still important, and that hospitality is crucial if we are to create a memorable physical retail experience.

German retailer Edeka Zurheide has looked at what Eataly has done and set out to create the German equivalent. Clever store design makes the shopper feel that they are visiting many smaller specialty stores within a supermarket space.

For instance, in the Düsseldorf store, Edeka has created a meat world concept, with a premium beef bar that doubles as an eat-in experience, allowing shoppers to sample the produce in store, in whatever form they want.

The concepts and solutions are designed around maximising the opportunity for shopper engagement.

The award-winning Fresh St. Market Vancouver takes inspiration from top markets and eateries in North America, offering a new-concept grocery and restaurant experience that is hyperlocal. The store was designed as an immersive food experience destination – not only to serve local residents, but also to draw consumers from the wider area.

The ambition for the store design was to add an urban twist to Fresh St. Market’s farm-to-market offer by tapping into the quirkiness of the site location. The store takes the area’s industrial roots into consideration, yet strongly emphasises the variety in freshly prepared options and organic and locally sourced foods, as well as specially curated foods.

The interior has a bold, playful, farm-to-city vibe, with dramatic 3D signage and experiential elements. Convenience features include click-and-collect refrigerated lockers for online shoppers and bicycle grocery delivery, capitalising on same-day delivery as an opportunity to stand out.

A firm favourite, Bridge Zurich is a flexible food market format, conceived as a meeting place for food lovers. Some 40% of the space is allocated to seating, to allow shoppers to linger and spend more time in store. The space has an urban feel that features arresting architecture, including a floating bridge to connect the various levels.

A highly adaptable and mobile environment designed with flexibility in mind, all fixtures are on wheels, to allow them to shift shape on an ongoing basis.

With areas for pop-ups, seasonal events, and leasing (in short stints) to producers and caterers, and a food lab for private functions, company events, classes, and live streaming, this is an all-encompassing and community-centred retail experience.

There are few places in the world where supermarket retailing is as innovative as it is in Ukraine.

Fozzy Group, via its Silpo premium format, uses authentic and unique store concepts to delight its shoppers. Featuring regularly in Europe’s Finest, which is a list of the European stores with the best innovative designs, these ‘designer supermarkets’ push the boundary way beyond the food market experience.

Each store interior is a celebration, and designed and themed differently to create memorable ‘guest’ experiences, from Circus World to Candy Shop and Under the Sea.

The Silpo stores have successfully made creative and inventive store design their point of difference.

Sustainable Retail – The New Normal

Sustainability has become an essential component of brand values, and a fundamental value for the Gen Z shopper. Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer found that 58% of consumers will buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values.

The conscious consumer is seeking to embrace sustainable living, and that includes seeking out accessible ‘better for you’ food choices and sustainable options.

Building on the trend in the reinvention of the food court and segueing into the world of sustainable retail, a noteworthy food market experience is Mercato Metropolitano (MM), which is located in South East London.

This is a sustainable community market, which extends beyond a food destination, as it involves reviving the locality and protecting the environment.

It integrates a multiplicity of food and beverage propositions, including a communal kitchen, deli, and several circular-economy concepts, such as a microbrewery, distillery and bakery.

This is all done in an authentic space that echoes the values of the business.

The importance of community, quality, and social responsibility are maintained throughout every touchpoint of the site, from the celebration of reclaimed and upcycled materials to the no-frills layout.

The planting and garden terrace-like feel softens the harshness of the industrial materials and warehouse structure.

This is a flexible space that also hosts events and workshops for the local community, such as cooking classes, film screenings, and yoga sessions.

A stylish packaging-free grocery store in Rathmines, the Source Bulk Foods redefines sustainable retail, making it accessible and easy to shop. This store is a great example of how ethical retail doesn’t have to be dull and functional.

What seems like effortless store design is enhanced with modern branding, storytelling, and personality-driven communication and signage. A curated sustainable accessory display, self-pour kombucha, and grind-your-own nut butter stations complement the bulk self-serve tray fixtures that are integral to the proposition.

SuperValu Knocklyon is also driving the sustainability agenda for shoppers in its store design, shopping experience, and purchasing choices. This is underpinned by energy-efficient initiatives in refrigeration, LED lighting made from recycled CDs, and electronic shelf edge labels, as well as packaging changes.

Enticing plant-based choices, such as the Happy Pear destination, a prominent Taste of Local footprint in the ambient and chilled areas, and a refill station are all part of the proposition.

Big and bold hero communications supported by educational and inspiring point-of-purchase messaging amplifies the sustainable shopping experience, giving it clear conscious-consumer appeal.

A CO2-neutral store, Lidl Almere is cited as the ‘most sustainable supermarket in the Netherlands’.

It is designed to ensure that 90% of the installations are dismountable and/or reusable, and it is built with sustainable and circular-economy materials – even old staff polo shirts as insulation in the facade and inner walls.

From the Netherlands’ most sustainable store to the world’s most sustainable convenience store – at least that is what the new Swedish PBX store from Reitan Retail is striving to become.

Created as a ‘living lab’, where new sustainability solutions can be tested in a live retail environment, every aspect of the PBX retail operation and every product for sale, right through to the materials and fixtures, has been scrupulously examined to ensure sustainability.

Certain c-store products like cigarettes do not have a place in this store.

A minimal and pared-back material palette features sustainable birch and pine board, as well as adjustable and simple steel shelving.

Solutions that hit the mark here will ultimately be gradually rolled out across Reitan’s main convenience network.

© 2022 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Niamh Higgins. For more retail news, click here. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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