After visiting Marketplace Foods in Minot, N.D., I left with many ideas. But, one idea really stuck with me because it can apply to bakeries, both in-store and retail, in so many ways. That idea is providing shoppers with a "thrill of the hunt."
Ralph Towery, Marketplace Foods' assistant store director, offered this idea in reference to Marketplace's efforts to cross-merchandise products and create an exciting shopping experience for supermarket customers. "People enjoy the thrill of the hunt," he said.
Marketplace Foods uses this concept, for example, by displaying bakerymade banana bread in the produce department next to the bananas. It also merchandises its crusty breads and dipping oils in its liquor department.
Both examples offer customers something unexpected, but logical. Customers leave the store with something they did not originally intend to buy. And, they leave with an impulse purchase they can share with friends and family.
Towery says that people enjoy going to the shopping mall because they go with the idea that they will find something unexpected. People do not like shopping in supermarkets, he argues, because they are boring and too predictable.
I certainly found something unexpected in Marketplace Foods' Minot store. Admittedly, I didn't know what to expect traveling to this town, 100 miles north of Bismarck, one of the only cities in North Dakota I was vaguely familiar with. But Marketplace, after a major remodel in 2000, is a truly unique supermarket. Towery said the company modeled the store after some of the best supermarkets in the country. Wegman's Food Market, Rochester, N.Y.; Lunds and Byerly's in Minneapolis; H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, Texas; and even Seattle's Pike Place Market were among them.
One thing these food retailers have in common is that they are fun places to shop. Creating a more exciting shopping experience can be implemented on a large scale, such as Marketplace Foods' store redesign. Or, on a smaller scale, Tom Halepaska's tonguein-cheek "redneck gingerbread house" certainly sparked unexpected laughs from his customers. (See page 94.)
Most consumers do enjoy shopping. What they don't enjoy are the crowds, poor service, bad products, etc. that are too often associated with shopping. It is a challenge to maintain the balance between convenience and excitement in food retailing. But, fostering a better "thrill of the hunt" can make bakeries more memorable and keep customers interested in returning for more.
One thing these food retailers have in common is that they are fun places to shop.