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Designed for Convenience

BY Marianne Wilson

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.”

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Michaels comps down for the quarter

BY CSA STAFF

IRVING, Texas Michaels Stores reported that total sales for the quarter were $847 million, a 1% increase from fiscal 2007 first quarter sales of $839 million. Same-store sales for the comparable 13-week period decreased 2.9%.

Ceo, Brian Cornell, said, “While our overall comps for the first quarter declined 2.9%, we were very encouraged with the sales of our kids and specialty craft categories, scrapbooking and frame and art supplies. Sales in April showed a reversal of trend with same-store sales up 3.1% on a strong increase in transactions. This positive sales and transaction performance gives us confidence that our new marketing and merchandising programs are connecting with our Michaels customers.”

For fiscal 2008, the company expects same-store sales growth  to be approximately flat given the current economic environment.

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Kirkland’s 1Q sales up 2.1%

BY CSA STAFF

JACKSON, Tenn. Kirkland’s reported that net sales for the first quarter ended May 3 increased 2.1% to $84.1 million from $82.3 million for the first quarter ended May 5, 2007. Comparable-store sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2008 increased 4.3% compared with an 18.8% comparable-stores sales decrease in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.

The company reported a net loss of $2.6 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, for the 13-week period ended May 3, 2008, compared with a net loss of $7.5 million, or 38 cents per diluted share, in the 13-week period ended May 5, 2007.

Robert Alderson, Kirkland’s president and ceo, said, “The first quarter results reflect strong merchandising execution and the benefits of aggressive financial initiatives that have reduced our operating costs, improved cash flow and strengthened our liquidity. During the quarter, we experienced improved customer conversions as shoppers have reacted very favorably to our merchandise mix. The positive comparable-store sales and trimming of unproductive stores led to leveraging of occupancy and distribution costs. Combined with an improvement in merchandise margin and a year-over-year reduction in operating costs of almost $5 million, we were able to post a significant improvement in our pre-tax results.

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