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Gold-winning London grocers


As London prepares to welcome visitors from around the world for the Olympics, we present our choice of five distinctive stores in and around the capital that emphasize the focus on quality products and in-store theatre.

1. M&S Stratford City: new style food hall emphasizes food specialist strengths.

M&S is one of the anchor stores in Stratford City – Europe’s largest shopping urban shopping mall and highly accessible from the Olympic Park. It is an important store to examine to understand the retailer’s current thinking on in-store design, product ranges and enhancing the customer experience.

This flagship shop includes a new look food hall that aims to highlight M&S as a food specialist, differentiating it from mainstream supermarkets. Key to communicating this shift in emphasis is a continental style delicatessen, offering a wide choice of meats and cheese cut to order. There is also a hand-operated fresh pasta machine. The deli counter is complemented by an artisan style bakery that produces an imaginative and wide choice of freshly baked loaves.

The Flavours of the World section is another distinctive feature, offering more than 100 premium international branded products that are exclusive to M&S’s UK stores. These products have been carefully selected to complement the M&S own-brand ranges, which received significant investment, resulting in more than 1,900 new products introduced last year. While the store is primarily focused on eat at home food, it also serves immediate consumption needs through a ‘food on the move’ section and in-store café.

Since opening in September 2011, more than 90 stores have now been modelled on this format, including 56 Simply Food stores. All stores are due to receive an upgrade by the end of 2013.

2. Waitrose Stratford City: eye catching counters and showcase for private label offer.

If you are in Stratford City, you can also visit the Waitrose located at the other end of the mall. The 20,000-sq.-ft. store takes the premium food retailer into new territory. Unlike other food retailers at the mall, Waitrose serves a diverse range of customers from hungry shoppers and shop workers to East Londoners buying their weekly groceries

As soon as you enter the wide fronted store, the first thing you see is a display of impressive-looking bakery and patisserie products. This is the first of several feature areas drawing customers on an arc through the store, taking them on to the deli counter, an extended food-to-go offer, wine department and a comprehensive selection of health & beauty goods – including many niche brands.

The store acts as a showcase for Waitrose’s substantial and well targeted private label products, ranging from the entry level Essential Waitrose to the partnership with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and new LOVE Life healthy eating lines.

There is a ‘Great Eastern Market’ on the approach to Waitrose. This is a collection of contemporary independent food specialists, including: a cupcake shop, tapas bar and deli, a smoked salmon specialist and Japanese food hall. This adds theatre to the overall shopping experience, while also driving footfall to Waitrose.

3. Tesco Metro Tooley Street: new look store warms up the Tesco brand.

The Tooley Street Metro, near London Bridge station, is an important step forward for Tesco delivering a more inspiring store environment. This is one of the major goals of the retailer’s £1bn plan to revive growth in its UK business.

The store features several initiatives designed to ‘warm up’ the shopper experience. People entering the shop are greeted with an unmissable ‘hello sign’, which is supported by a stronger attention to customer service. A lime green colour scheme, as pictured, has been used to emphasize Tesco’s increased focus on fresh food. A new layout and clear navigation simplifies shopper journeys through this busy store.

Tooley Street, opened in November 2011, effectively caters for local residents undertaking a full weekly shop, while also providing a range of eating options through the day for nearby office workers. The store serves fresh prepared in-store baguettes and rolls for lunch, with this space reused for displaying chilled ready meals for the evening.

A salad bar and olive bar, the first to be installed in a Metro Store, is another key innovation and is supported by an in-store bakery geared towards impulse purchases. A well maintained and brightly illuminated fresh produce section sits in the heart of the store with signage to emphasize provenance and seasonal strengths.

To connect with price sensitive customers in this highly competitive market, Tesco uses a variety of in-store value mechanics. The new Everyday Value range is promoted prominently, communicating the quality improvements alongside a commitment to maintaining the same low price as the outgoing Tesco Value range. Tesco’s Price Drop initiative continues in-store while eye-catching promotions, often on seasonal lines, and marketing support for Tesco’s Clubcard Rewards, further emphasizes the value message.

4. Sainsbury’s Greenwich: Pioneering green store showcasing fresh strengths.

Close to the Olympic site and in the shadow of the O2 arena is Sainsbury’s Greenwich store. Opened in 1999 as part of the regeneration of the area ahead of the millennium, this large format store uses up to half the energy than similar-sized conventional stores.

This has been achieved by using a number of pioneering environmentally responsible technologies. These continue to be further developed in new Sainsbury’s stores and support the retailer’s ethical positioning. Examples of energy saving devices to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, include the use of wind and solar power, natural light and passive ventilation. The refrigeration system uses water drawn from two deep boreholes, while the store itself is naturally insulated as it is partly covered by earth mounds.

In-store, the customer is greeted by a well presented fresh goods range that emphasize Sainsbury’s authority in this area and the retailer’s focus both on cooking from scratch and convenience.

This fresh focus is strengthened by a line of authoritative counters that underpin the food first approach in its larger stores. The counters offer a high level of service with staff trained through one of Sainsbury’s seven specialist training colleges. These initiatives are part of Sainsbury’s Great food program designed to enhance the retailer’s reputation for food quality and sourcing with integrity.

Sainsbury’s ‘Live Well for Less’ strategy is well communicated in-store, designed to enable shoppers to buy high quality food despite the squeeze on household budgets. Key elements of this pledge include the Brand Match price guarantee on branded products and the renewal and upgrading of the core own brand range, a process that will be completed by the end of 2012.

5. Morrisons St Albans: innovative fresh merchandising and engaging counters.

Just to the north of London is the prosperous market town of St Albans, which was selected by Morrisons for the development of a compelling new store concept designed to differentiate it from competitors and deliver higher like-for-like sales.

The store concept builds on two earlier initiatives: the reworking of its fresh produce sections at ‘Fresh Lab’ stores and ‘Project Liberate’, a scheme to rationalize ambient ranges to free up floor space for new categories.

The standout feature of the store is without doubt the new Fresh Market section, with its enticing display of loose fruit and vegetables. Most of it is displayed on low level tables providing excellent sight lines across the whole department. With produce merchandised on beds of ice it is kept in peak condition through the day, with freshness further aided by a misting system that also creates genuine retail theatre.

Adjacent to this is a new style food-to-go section that targets the lunchtime away from home trade with a salad bar, and counters serving fresh juices and freshly prepared baguettes and even made in-store sushi.

There are a full range of counters including a pizza bar, fish mongers and hot food supporting it as a food destination and helping to underpin Morrisons as the food specialist for everyone.

Look out also for Morrisons distinctive own brand products, currently mid way through a three year renewal program overhaul. Morrisons broke with its established good, better, best program, replacing this with a range of brands targeted at different shopper needs, such as the M Kitchen convenience range and recently launched NuMe healthy eating range.

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