Supermarket operator Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. has opened a store designed to fit the way people intuitively shop. The 43,000-sq.-ft. store, at The Market Commons, Myrtle Beach, S.C., uses advanced technologies and updated merchandising displays to restructure the traditional grocery store format with a layout that groups food items in a way customers use them in meals.
“We felt it was time to take a creative approach that will let people shop the way they think, and have fun while doing it,” said David Schools, CEO, Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., which has more than 115 stores throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. “When you enter the Piggly Wiggly at The Market Commons, you don’t see check-out lines. You don’t have to go down five aisles to get ingredients for one meal.”
The layout puts groupings of like items—including fresh, frozen and canned vegetables; cereal and milk; coffee and creamer; seasonings and meats—in the same location.
“The layout is driven by customers’ needs as opposed to operational needs,” said Julie Dugas, studio director and senior designer, Marco Retail Group, Northville, Mich. “We think it’s a more convenient way of shopping.”
The format takes advantage of new refrigeration technology, she added, which made it easier to break up the refrigerated component of the store.
“With today’s advanced refrigeration systems, you don’t need to put all the frozen foods in one place,” Dugas explained. “We were able to integrate refrigerated cases throughout the store, allowing us, for example, to have frozen bagels close to fresh bagels in the bakery. And in the fresh-produce area, there are frozen-food doors, along with shelves for canned items.”
Other highlights include an on-site Dream Dinners franchise and one-stop stations that offer complete meal solutions. At one station, (there are five scattered throughout the store), ground beef, hamburger buns, chips and beer are grouped together for backyard barbeques.
“We developed special pods, with removable refrigeration units, that allow for the display of refrigerated products out on the open floor,” Dugas said. “The stations feature beautiful, over-thetop displays that look more like window displays. The plan is to change the displays on a regular basis.”
The focal point of the store is a large, open kitchen where shoppers put together Piggly Wiggly’s extensive lineup of prepared foods.
“It adds energy to the space,” Dugas said.
The overall look is warm and current, enhanced by vinyl wood flooring and soft lighting. In keeping with Piggly Wiggly’s Charleston, S.C., roots, the color palette emphasizes the earthy brown and green hues that are common to Low Country counties.
“The emphasis is on the product, not the decor,” Dugas said. “We brought the ambient lighting down a bit to put more focus on the product. But we took care not to have the store feel dark or theatrical, which generally conveys a more upscale message.”
The design team took a minimalist approach to graphics and signage, using relatively thin (a couple of inches thick) backlit graphics that resemble flat-screen panels. The graphic palette is simple and straightforward, with a small amount of photo imagery sprinkled throughout the space. The aisle directories or wayfinding information also is simple, with the signs attached to the end of the gondolas.
“We didn’t want there to be a lot of visual distraction from the product,” Dugas said. “So we tried to keep everything clean and simple, and at human scale.”
Piggly Wiggly plans to monitor customer reaction to the new store, which opened in April, before making any decisions as to future duplication. The initial reaction has been encouraging.
“We’ll be gauging consumer response in the coming months, but so far we’ve heard some very positive feedback from our guests,” said Rita Postell, manager of community and employee relations. Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. “They seem to really enjoy the new experience.”