So, today I come across a recent story in The Times and Democrat about a new “store concept” being tested by Piggly Wiggly (the South Carolina based grocery store chain, for those of you unfamiliar). Just for the record, I grew up in SC, but my mom was generally a Winn-Dixie shopper, and we seldom visited “The Big Pig” when I was a kid.
According to the article, the new store layout is “flowing” and “intuitive.” Uhm, yeah… well, maybe.
Apparently, one of the things they’re going to do is group what they call “like items” together. As examples, they mention things such as cereal and milk, and coffee and creamer. Not necessarily a bad thing (although I do wonder at the type of customers typically shopping The Pig if they can’t figure out where to find cereal and milk without them being located right next to each other).
They also plan to group fresh, frozen and canned versions of the same fruits and vegetables together. Again, not necessarily a stupid idea, but — speaking personally — not one that seems terribly useful. I mean, if I want frozen veggies, I want them frozen for a reason. If the frozen are out of stock, I’m not going to switch over to canned or fresh; I’m simply not going to buy. Putting all three right next to each other won’t make a difference.
Now, maybe I’m an anomaly and other shoppers are more willing to switch. Perhaps in the cutthroat, razor-thin-margin world of retail grocery marketing, they’ve discovered they can eke out a few extra sales a day by doing this. If so, bully for them. Have at it.
But here’s where I think the whole scheme starts to go off the rails: “one stop stations.” According to the article, these stations would feature items like ground beef, hamburger buns, chips and beer arranged together for “complete meal solutions.”
Now hold on just a gol’durned minute there. What if I don’t want to make hamburgers with the ground beef? What if I’m making a ground beef casserole or tacos or meatballs stroganoff? I’m a creative cook. Unless the store designer has ESP or something, those one stop stations aren’t going to do me any good in the vast majority of situations… and it’s just going to confuse me about where to go to find the ingredients I do need for whatever dish I plan to make.
They claim this is supposed to be more in line with how people intuitively shop? I’m sorry, I’ve been grocery shopping for decades now, and my intuition tells me to look for the hamburger buns in the bread aisle, the sour cream and cheese in the dairy department, the egg noodles on the pasta/macaroni aisle, and the ground beef in the meat department. It ain’t exactly rocket science, folks.
In their scenario, though, if I don’t find what I’m looking for where I think it ought to be, does that mean they don’t carry it at all? Does it mean they carry it, but it’s just temporarily out of stock? Or does it mean my intuition doesn’t work they way the store designer’s does, and I’m simply looking at the wrong “one stop shop”?
Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I don’t have a problem with the layout of existing supermarkets. Perhaps its a symptom of my logical, analytical nature. Putting all the meat in one place, all the bread in one place, all the cereal in one place, all the dairy in one place — that, to me, IS “intuitive.” Scattering them across multiple “one stop stations,” not so much.
Personally, I don’t consider it an improvement to have to search the entire store trying to figure out where the store designer has decided to “group” an ingredient I need.
Seems to me this is simply a cunning plan to make shoppers spend even more time in the store, and make them wander through even more departments… errr, that is to say “stations”… than before.
Which doesn’t exactly astonish me, given the studies that show the longer people spend in the store, the more money they spend. Gentle readers, don’t be fooled. This is not about making it easier for you to get in and get out with what you need. This is about keeping you in the store as long as humanly possible without violating laws about kidnapping.
I mean, some people may like the new softly-lit, hardwood-floored décor and the snazzy new one stop stations and food groupings and what-all. And perhaps the homey, “non commercial” ambience will get more of them to disregard the generally higher prices and shop at Piggly Wiggly instead of the Wal*Mart Supercenter down the road. But will it really make the shopping experience easier and more intuitive? Color me skeptical.
Hat-tip to Ted Mininni at MarketingProfs Daily Fix for bringing this to my attention!
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