Building the Next Generation of Food Stores

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U.S. Retailers can learn from some of the pioneering fixtures and formats already established in Europe and Canada

Food retailers around the globe are facing important challenges right now: labour shortages and costs, as well as rising energy costs. As a design and shopfitting company, Interstore | Schweitzer keeps developing strategies to help retailers tackle these challenges. Following are two of our recent projects:

Gooods, Zürich, Switzerland (opened in September 2021): For the biggest Swiss retail company, Migros, we developed a new convenience format, which consists of a small convenience food store at such important nodal points as train or metro stations, and focuses on selected target groups. While the format is not a novelty in itself, the learnings we can extract from this example are how big players like Migros can create more diversity in their formats, thinking about more targeted offers, in the way that independent retailers have already been doing for years. At the same time, Migros understood the necessity of creating a dedicated brand for smaller formats to address the targeted clientele with a custom-made offer.

Bridge, Zürich, Switzerland (opened in April 2021): Bridge is an all-in-one fresh food market, catering and event location that we designed and built for Migros in the heart of Zürich, near the main train station. It offers a one-off experience,  which creates a halo effect for the whole business of Switzerland’s biggest retail company. Bridge has been conceived as a test store for Migros,  where different formats, fixtures and innovative retail solutions can be experimented with, and if successful, be implemented at other locations. It’s another perfect example of how major retailers can try unique, highly experimental formats that can be a  beacon for the brand.

The Freedom of Flexibility  

This shows the mindset of Migros, which is open to innovation and experimentation, leading to a  high level of flexibility. Indeed, flexibility is also the order of the day when it comes to a store concept itself. Bridge, for example, has been based on a  maximum amount of physical flexibility. To this end, the market has adopted the Flexstore principle invented by Interstore | Schweitzer to allow retailers to adapt their store layouts quickly,  efficiently and in a cost-effective manner. The same principle and mindset have also been adopted by Canada’s second-largest retail group, Sobeys,  whose Orangeville, Ontario, food market became the first in North America to implement Flexstore, in late 2021. With fixtures and especially refrigerated counters made modular, thanks to an elaborate plug-and-play system where all of the building services — water, electricity and more — are fed from the ceiling, retailers gain maximum flexibility.  This allows them to quickly react to changing consumer needs by adding or taking away counters and refrigerated units, something that would be more difficult with old-style fixtures.

Self-Service Advancements 

Due to high labour costs and customers increasingly seeking convenient solutions, service counters are becoming less relevant than ever. These are challenges that retailers need to find new ways of dealing with. We at Interstore | Schweitzer have  our finger on the pulse and are constantly working on innovative  and cost-effi cient solutions to find “new ways in fresh.”

Thanks to our in-house production of refrigerated counters,  apart from designing and shopfitting, we are also able to provide custom-made refrigeration solutions. Switching from service to self-service counters becomes quick and easy, allowing retailers to quickly adapt to changing situations.

We believe that, if needed, experiential self-service departments help retain the feeling of a department without the requirement of staff being present. It’s important to maintain the feeling of a staffed department by finding a way to communicate through the product and/or the fixture

The article is written by Angelika Engl, Chief Sales Officer, North America for Interstore | Schweitzer. It first appeared in the November 2022 issue of the US Edition of Progressive Grocer Magazine.

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