Today’s supermarket planning encompasses a growing roster of services
Retail food store designers, like most other supermarket specialists, are becoming more proficient at multi-tasking as they expand their range of services to offer clients more opportunities for increased profitability. In addition to their core mission of providing the proper design, store designers are venturing into allied services that enhance the bottom-line potential for that design.
“Supervalu Design Services takes great pride in working closely with retailers for nearly 40 years to help them better serve their customers,” says Harry Steen, creative director at Supervalu, based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “Supervalu Design Services designs and equips grocery stores with a full complement of integrated services: market analysis, store development, fixture planning, architectural and interior design, equipment services, and project management.”
Steen notes that the most recent addition to Supervalu Design Services is market analysis, led by a team made up of experienced professionals with backgrounds in all facets of location research: geospatial solutions, business intelligence and strategic planning.
Additionally, Supervalu Design Services has relaunched “Competitive Edge,” a program providing inexpensive interior design packages to give an updated look and feel to stores. “The Competitive Edge program offers a customized look that will fit in all sizes of retail formats, along with the opportunity for the retailer to select fonts and colors to customize their store,” Steen says.
A recent significant trend in supermarket design, Steen notes, is tying in the local relevance of the area to the store environment’s design, whether it’s a historical or present-day community reference, to area materials or cultures that are then incorporated into the design. The local relevance usage could encompass subtle references or a full-blown complete store design. According to Steen, the customer wants to feel connected in her shopping experience.
He also observes that Supervalu Design Services has been leading several initiatives within the green movement, including retrofitting and installing new cases with LED lights, open cases retrofitted with doors, and green refrigeration and secondary coolant systems. Plus, Steen says, “we offer energy audits to help our customers make more informed decisions on how to proceed with energy-saving solutions.”
Future supermarket designs, Steen predicts, will avoid trendy designs and focus more on classical environments that will stand the test of time.
Tampa, Florida-based API(+) provides strategy, planning, graphics, interior design and architecture; the company also recently added foodservice design to its services, notes Juan Romero, president and CEO.
A design trend Romero notes is that “small-format grocery is already very popular in the West and is gaining traction across the U.S., with concepts like our Fresh Thyme Farmers Market client and Whole Foods leading the way. Average grocery stores measure around 45,000 sqft, but many retailers such as Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Publix have been very successful with small stores in the 20,000-sqft range.”
These smaller stores, according to Romero, can fit in densely populated communities, including urban areas, college towns and even college campuses, all of them locations where residents prefer quick, frequent shopping trips rather than weekly stock-up trips. “The trend also helps chains defend against other smaller players coming into the market and addresses customers’ continued demand for convenience,” Romero adds.
“Deconstruction of the box” is what he sees for future supermarket design: “Supermarkets will need to spend more on design to make their customers feel better about the chore of grocery shopping.”
At King-Casey, in Westport, Connecticut, principal Tom Cook says his firm provides branding, store design, in-store merchandising, package design and consumer research. New additions include foodservice and kitchen design “so we can provide our clients with turnkey solutions for their prepared food offerings, which supermarkets are emphasizing as a means of increasing their business,” he says.
Cook envisions two design trends in particular: the “hybrid” supermarket, which is a combination supermarket and restaurant, and the stocking and use of local products — the farm-to-table concept — in that restaurant. He also sees smaller stores tailored to local regions and cultures with respect to store design and product offerings. In regard to the green movement, Cook believes that it’s gaining momentum. “We qualify our clients upfront on their desire and commitment to green design,” he notes.
Lori Quick, executive director, Design & Décor Source Group at Kansas City, Kansas-based Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. (AWG), says her group provides future planning, equipment purchasing, project coordination, interior design, construction document preparation, construction document coordination, lighting criteria plans, lighting design, light/lamp manufacturer direct purchasing, décor shop drawings, and décor manufacturing and installation.
According to Quick, the most recent additions to design services are an expanded design resource library, a lighting test lab and 3D modeling design software. “Last year, we significantly upgraded our design library to accommodate a wider variety of materials,” she notes. “This allows our designers and retailers access to prequalified building finish materials. If it is appropriate for a supermarket in North America, you can find it on the shelves in the AWG design resources center.”
Quick says that the state-of-the-art lighting lab is a place to test the effects of lighting on food sales. The lab offers “a combination of AWG-recommended fixtures/lamps, the newest lighting on the market for testing, and retailers’ requested fixtures when they want to investigate a particular type of light or lamp,” she notes. “This education center is unlike any other and is specific to supermarket design.”
Recently, AWG added several software components — Revit, 3D Max and AGI — allowing designers to work in 3D. Retailers, Quick points out, can now walk through a store that isn’t yet built and change equipment, architectural details, interior design components, décor, and lighting types and levels. “Changes cost much less when made during a virtual walk than when made during construction,” she says.
Noting that AWG has 71 supermarket design projects currently in-house, Quick affirms that energy savings are a significant design trend, and LED is becoming more affordable as a result of energy rebates and savings in refrigerated cases, on perishables, in parking lots and in exterior building lighting.
“Energy codes are forcing smarter design in retail applications,” she continues, “to gain more perceived light with less actual light. Occupancy sensors, triple-wired fixtures allowing all-on/half-on functions, and minimizing cooler heights all contribute to energy savings.”
Future supermarket designs, according to Quick, will see “competitors ramping up their games and splitting into a variety of format sizes and serving more specific trades or consumers, design being a key part of dialing in and targeting specific consumer bases. Supermarket design will continue to be a necessity for success.”