2020 Supermarket Store Concepts: Unpacked

Article by Martyn Jones | 17th March 2020

It’s hard not to have noticed the market gains Lidl and Aldi have made over the past few years—developments that haven’t gone unnoticed by some of ‘big four’ traditional supermarket brands.

Supermarket old-schoolers like Sainsbury’s and ASDA haven’t held back in recent months unveiling new store concepts designed with store performance, efficiency and sustainability in mind, while offering customers something that’s beginning to feel more like an actual experience than a ‘box-tick’ chore.

Consumer appetites for ethical products, green incentives and retail with a social conscience have been increasing since the days when household recycling started becoming second nature to us. More recently, with signs coming from mother nature that climate change is really going up the gears on us, those appetites and concerns are becoming yet more acute—and ASDA aren’t naive to this having rolled out some smart incentives into select trial stores—let’s take a look.

ASDA’s ‘Sustainability Store’

In Mid January, ASDA unveiled plans for a new ‘sustainability store‘ created in partnership with on-board suppliers like Unilever and Kellogg’s aimed at reducing plastic waste, while empowering customers to custom measure servings, feeling better about themselves and the brands they interact with.

Three-month trials are to begin from May, before a potential full rollout across all stores.

  •  Plastic-free flowers: via ASDA’s ‘Naked florist’.
  • ‘unwrapped’ fresh foods: plastic-free, fresh produce.
  • ‘Reverse vending machines’: for smart in-store recycling.
  • Refill stations: For self-serve coffee, shampoo, pasta and grains refills.

Not bad for a traditional UK supermarket brand not often prone to major store overhauls. Until now, market forces haven’t required ASDA to reinvent any wheels, but they’ve done well to act quickly and smartly against changing market factors like consumer conscience, online shopping and the customer demand for something beyond the regular when they set foot in store.

Sainsbury’s ‘On the go’ city convenience store

In February—just a month after ASDA’s store concept unveiling—Sainsbury’s followed suit declaring their intentions to bring big innovations set to benefit time-poor city dwellers.

First to get the ‘on the go’ treatment is Sainsbury’s Mansion House store, in London’s Square Mile. Using consumer data and store analytics collected over time, shoppers can look forward to asymmetric ‘themed’ displays, with clever product groupings, a juice & coffee bar and food and drink freshly made or prepped in-store, with 90% of items specifically tailored for the tastes and needs of local Mansion House residents.

  • Fresh made: bakery goods, squeezed juice, hot porridge, sushi.
  • ‘Eat in’ and take a break at Sainsbury’s ‘perch tables’ dotted around the store.
  • Til-free app shopping: with Sainsbury’s SmartShop mobile app.
  • Dynamic stock rotation: changed three times a day for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

As the only traditional ‘big 4’ UK supermarket to announce growth going into 2020, this new store incentive is surely set to springboard yet further growth from an astute strategy of customer experience localisation that recognises how well shoppers respond to signs that a brand has ‘gotten to know them’ and wants to deliver refined, hand-in-glove experiences.

Sainsbury’s have planned a further nine On the Go stores across Edinburgh, Bristol, Glasgow and London over the coming months and with over 130 ‘Sainsbury’s local’ stores, there’s every change shoppers up and down the country will be enjoying the same tailor-made convenience.

We’re really excited to bring local shoppers our new Mansion House store. By focussing on fresh ‘On The Go’ food and drink and making it even easier for customers to shop quickly and conveniently, we’re well-placed to bring busy city workers everything they need under one roof.

– Donna Emerton, Sainsbury’s Mansion House Store Manager:

Moves being made by food retail giants like Sainsbury’s and ASDA represent a very clear departure from the decades-old ‘shelves, isles and trollies’ model of supermarket shopping that remained unchanged for so many decades.

Before tech-assisted ‘future of retail’ narratives came on the scene, the priority was ‘choice’ and ‘value’.

This simply isn’t enough anymore—since production and supply chains have become lean enough to offer both very efficiently—look at the discounter supermarkets, for example. Those that can’t leverage that model have to now transcend the ‘choice’ and ‘value’ models that customers now have baked-in as standard. There’s almost ‘too much’ choice, some might say.

Supermarkets need to lean into shifting customer habits—not by waiting for customers to arrive in stores—but rather by going to the customers and showing them that years of data-collection on their purchases and habits is finally delivering something back.

Customers will no longer want to walk into stores that feel like a chore.

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