Safeway wanted to differentiate itself from the conventional grocery sector by focusing on product presentations that sell solutions to shoppers, rather than just single items. The idea was that shoppers would leave with an entire salad, not just a head of lettuce.
It tapped design firm avizia (Novi, Mich.) to help deliver this effect by rethinking a number of elements within its stores, including its lighting, fixturing and merchandise presentations.
"The big boxes are coming into everybody's market and price isn't the only thing you can compete on anymore," says Liz Muller, principal, avizia. "You need to add more value."
Safeway started with its perishables department, where avizia focused on cross-merchandising items and recipe building. Ceilings and walls were painted with earthy tones and artificial plank flooring was added to create a rustic environment. New fixtures, including etageres and cube units, present related items from all areas of the store.
"We concentrated on fixtures that create a more organic feeling, getting away from that white grocery store look," says Muller.
Additionally, new feature endcaps (renamed "Beginnings" here), located throughout the store, display merchandising statements that also cross-merchandise products under one theme. For instance, a display in the meat department might feature a grilling theme, complete with cooking tools, cook books, wines and accompanying graphics.
To spotlight this solutions-based focus, Muller removed all of the general illumination inside the perishables department, replacing it with metal halide and fluorescent accent lights. "The old store's general illumination was incredibly bright," she says. "We came in and added a system that makes the product the hero. And it actually pulls you from merchandise table to merchandise table."
Although avizia didn't redesign the entire Safeway store, it nonetheless wanted the existing departments in harmony with the newly designed perishables department. So it added a warmer light in the center of the store and arranged lighting fixtures parallel to the aisles to improve illumination and readability of product labels.
"The grocery industry is quite far behind the rest of the retail industry when it comes to creating a mood in a grocery store," says Muller. "We used the new lighting design to create a mood and allow the natural colors of the products in the perishables department to jump out."
Additionally, avizia helped Safeway recognize some underutilized areas of the store where it could increase product density. Inside the floral department, Muller says, the walls and floor space weren't "utilized effectively." So she helped the retailer expand the merchandise offering, adding items such as vases and home fragrance products. In addition, a "potting bench" area was created in the middle of the department as a workstation for the florist, making staff more visible to shoppers.
"The days of putting merchandise on a shelf with an aisle marker are over," says Muller. "Now you have to look at how it touches the customer and how it adds value to her experience."
Client: Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif.
Design: avizia, Novi, Mich.
Liz Muller, number one, principal
Jeffery Rowe, number two
Architect: AIA Architects & Associates Timothy Shiel, Cool, Calif.
General Contractor: EFA/Mike Leavitt, San Leandro, Calif.
Signage: KRS, Eugene, Ore.
Fixtures: Columbus Showcase Co., Columbus, Ohio
Fixtures, Decor and Signs: PPC Design, Novi, Mich.
Diebold Inc., North Canton, Ohio
Lighting, Wheelbarrows and Sheet Metal Products: Wellmade Products, San Leandro, Calif.
Refrigeration Equipment: Traulsen & Co. Inc., Fort Worth, Texas
Bakery Equipment: LVO Mfg. Inc., Rock Rapids, Iowa
Refrigeration Display Cases: Structural Concepts Corp., Muskegon, Mich.
Restaurant Equipment: Hobart Corp., Troy, Ohio
Shelving: Metro, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Shopping Carts and Accessories: McCue Corp., Salem, Mass.
Store fixtures, Shelving: Load King Mfg. Co. Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.
Photography: Courtesy of avizia, Novi, Mich.