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Which grocery stores are tops globally?

Design firm Interstore | Schweitzer names 50 best food stores worldwide

While the pandemic kicked online shopping into high gear, the in-store experience remains as important as ever. To show how brick-and-mortar is very much alive and well—and to shine a light on next-level grocery happenings around the globe—European design and shopping firm Interstore | Schweitzer has named the best 50 food stores around the world.

Called the Schweitzer Collection, the list ranks stores according to five criteria: atmosphere and space design; exceptional product presentation; expertise and craftsmanship; exciting ready-to-eat; and omnichannel and digital innovation.

“Our clients regularly ask us what’s happening [in global food retail], and usually we would take them around the world and show them the best,” says Nathan Watts, creative director at Interstore | Schweitzer. “That hasn’t been possible because of the pandemic. So, the list was a way for us to bring the world to our clients without having to step on an airplane. In addition, we really believe in physical retail and we wanted to share our passion [with the industry].”

From a luxury L.A. grocery store to a down-home Canadian favourite, these are the North American stores that made the list:

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The produce department within an Amazon Fresh grocery store

Amazon Fresh, Woodland Hills, Calif.: Amazon’s first full-size supermarket, this Amazon Fresh location offers an affordable selection of fresh and ready-to-eat options, along with technologies including Dash Cart (shop and walk-out), Alexa for smart shopping lists, and Amazon Echo hubs for voice-activated product searching. “This particular store is leading the way globally in terms of how it integrates omni-channel and brings unique technologies into the food environment,” says Watts.

Erewhon, Santa Monica, Calif.: A favourite of Hollywood stars, Erewhon is a Los Angeles-based organic grocer and café with six locations. The Santa Monica store features a wide variety of fresh food, highly professional staff, and a modern design that’s more “luxury fashion store” than supermarket. “The space and the atmosphere they create is exemplary,” says Watts.

Farm Boy's organic produce section

Farm Boy, Queen’s Quay, Toronto: Big-city dwellers can get their farm-shop fix at Farm Boy’s Harbourfront location, which opened in 2021. “They’ve created what feels like a strong homespun [shop], but in a very contemporary atmosphere,” says Watts. The design firm also calls attention to Farm Boy’s “stunning fresh range,” along with its Canadian-raised meats and private label products.

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Loblaws, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto: Located in the former famous hockey arena, Loblaws’ Maple Leaf Gardens store is a “larger than life food theatre [that] leaves no culinary desire unfilled,” notes Interstore | Schweitzer. Among the features are self-serve seafood, the grand wall of cheese, a sushi bar, and a broad variety of prepared food options. “For most retailers, the learning here is you don’t have to think about every store as a generic copy from one to the other,” says Watts. “There is something very iconic and eye-catching about this store. It doesn’t feel like any other Loblaws store... Therefore, it’s on the list even though it’s more than 10 years old.”

Sobeys, Orangeville, Ont.: Last November, Sobeys opened this newly revamped location, which incorporates the “Flexstore” system by Interstore | Schweitzer. The modular concept features mobile fixtures that can easily be rearranged, allowing the grocer to make adjustments to various departments as needed. Also noteworthy is the store’s lighting system, which is custom-designed for each area. Interstore | Schweitzer notes that for more traditional mid-range retailers, “we think this store is a fantastic example of how to do the basics well, to bring the everyday supermarket experience boldly into the modern age.”

Walmart, Springdale, Ark.: The first phase of Walmart’s store redesign focused on making the shopping experience simpler, faster and more convenient. First launched at its incubator in Springdale, Arkansas, the concept has been rolled out at nearly 1,000 Walmart stores. “Walmart is taking principles from things like airport terminals in the way they think about [navigation and wayfinding], which is a really interesting approach,” says Watts. Last month, Walmart unveiled another new concept it dubs “time well spent,” which aims to “wow” customers and get them to spend more time in store.

Artist's rendering of Wegmans Navy Yard location

Wegmans, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Wegmans’ first New York location is housed in the vast Brooklyn Navy Yard, but Interstore | Schweitzer says its cavernous size doesn’t dampen the enjoyment of a visit. “They’ve taken inspiration from European markets in the way they’ve arranged the store, so it has quite a different feeling and atmosphere,” says Watts. Among the store’s novelties are on-the-spot lobster steaming, make your own craft beer six-pack, dry cheese-misting, and a cocktail bar.

Whole Foods, Tampa, Fla.: Whole Foods’ next-gen store in Tampa has a big focus on meal solutions, including four hot and cold food bars, a dal station for Indian food lovers, a quinoa station, as well as charcuterie, pizza and sushi stations. “It’s notable how [Whole Foods] is evolving,” says Watts. “They’ve moved to more minimal decor and there is a real emphasis on foodservice that comes together very strongly.”

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