Food Lion had one simple goal when it introduced a new grocery concept last year in the Charlotte, N.C., area - to take the hassle out of grocery shopping.
So at Bloom (a name suggesting freshness, nature and the beginning of something new), customers encounter a store designed to accommodate varying shopping needs, be it a quick stop for a single recipe item or a full-on shopping trip. But everything is made easy, aided by a variety of technological innovations.
"There are very few people that love to grocery shop," says Robin Johnson, director, concept renewal - Bloom (Salisbury, N.C.). "So we were trying to give people a reason to have an enjoyable experience and come back."
Thomas Henken, vp, director of design, for Architecture Plus Intl. Inc. (Tampa, Fla.), says that process began by defining what "convenience" means to today's shopper who barely has time to plan tonight's dinner. "We defined convenience as being adjustable to the needs of the customer," he says. "If they only need dinner tonight, let's put that up front and not drag them through the entire store."
Such convenience starts at TableTop Circle, located at the front of the store and consisting of easy meal solutions, including Boston Market prepared foods and other take-home-and-eat items. The area also has a "Recipe of the Week" cold case where items for an entire recipe are grouped together.
The other side of TableTop houses several "critical items," such as milk, eggs, bread and soft drinks, for shoppers who just need those frequently replaced items.
Johnson says efforts like these led designers to break some grocery paradigms (which do create some hassles for store operations).
For instance, by locating certain products, such as milk and soft drinks, in multiple locations throughout the store, employees must spend more time restocking. And certain product categories are displayed according to common characteristics, not by brand name. For instance, salad dressings are arranged by flavor, such as Ranch and Italian, rather than by label. "But our customers love it," says Johnson, "because it's more intuitive."
Bloom took this approach even further, eliminating vendor signage and p-o-p displays to reduce clutter; offering several shopping cart sizes to accommodate different trips; and putting less-frequently shopped items, such as laundry or pet food, in one area so as not to slow down everyday shoppers.
Topping off this experience is a variety of technological gadgets that add further convenience to a Bloom shopping trip. Customers can sign up for personal scanners at the front of the store, then scan and bag items as they shop. (Bags are located throughout the store.) To check out, shoppers simply hit an "end of trip" barcode located at any register, pay and leave.
Computer screens located in TableTop and throughout grocery departments help shoppers locate products at the touch of the screen, and kiosks in the meat and wine departments offer recipes and party-planning tips.
"It's about choices and being in control of the type of shopping experience you want to have on that particular day," says Johnson. "The technology enables an efficient shopping experience."
Client: Food Lion Inc., Salisbury, N.C.
Robin Johnson, director, concept renewal-Bloom
Design and Architect: ArchitecturePlus Intl. Inc., Tampa, Fla.
Thomas Henken, design
Ryan Martin, environmental graphics
Raoul Baralt, architecture
Outside Design Consultant: CurtisAlan Partners LLC, Winnetka, Ill. (brand identity consultant)
General Contractor: Myers & Chapman, Salisbury, N.C.
Fixtures and Graphics Fabrication: Southeastern Products Inc., Greenville, S.C.
Wall and Floor Tile: Dal-Tile, Tampa, Fla.
Flooring: Armstrong World Industries Inc., Lancaster, Pa.
Lighting: Amerlux Lighting Solutions, Appleton, Wis..
Refrigerated Cases: Kysor-Warren Columbus, Ga.
Photography: Tim Buchman Photography, Charlotte, N.C., Courtesy of Bloom, Charlotte, N.C.