Alberstons takes the KISS approach (keep it simple, stupid) with its Premium Fresh & Healthy concept. Every wall color and light fixture brings focus to the food. The newest supermarket with the design opened this fall in Summerlin, Nev., a suburb of Las Vegas.
Albertsons, like many traditional supermarket chains, is attempting to differentiate itself through its fresh departments, including bakery. Modern Baking visited the Summerlin store last month to uncover in-store baking’s role in the much-anticipated new prototype. Supervalu, Albertsons’ parent company, declined to participate in the article. Albertsons began developing its fresh food-focused Premium Fresh & Healthy concept before Minneapolis-based Supervalu acquired the company more than a year ago. Shaw’s in East Hampton, Conn. and ACME in Doylestown, Pa. (both chains previously owned by Albertsons) feature the Premium Fresh & Healthy design. Now, Supervalu is incorporating the customized remodeling and new store program in its plans. The Las Vegas Albertsons and another store in San Diego are the two newest stores with the Premium Fresh & Healthy interior design.
The new format “is the backbone of our retail capital investment this year,” said Jeff Noddle, chairman and C.E.O. of Supervalu in a statement to investors forecasting 2007 plans. Any new stores under the Supervalu umbrella will incorporate the Premium Fresh & Healthy module in a $1 billion remodeling and new store campaign, the company says.
Supervalu ranks as the nation’s largest supermarket bakery operator with in-store bakeries in more than 2,300 locations.
“Supervalu’s Premium Fresh & Healthy program is all about surprising and delighting the customer,” said Duncan MacNaughton, Supervalu executive vice president, merchandising and marketing, in a company release. “Our extensive research tells us that grocery retailing today should provide consumers with products that allow them to ‘turn the dining room lights back on.’”
Located in the foothills of the Spring Mountains, the Summerlin store anchors Vista Commons, a brand new shopping center in an upscale subdivision. During Modern Baking’s visit, traffic lights were still being installed and other businesses had only begun to occupy available retail spaces. Tony Prey, group store director for Albertson’s, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that plans for the store were based on extensive consumer focus groups and feedback.
“Our premium fresh offerings are a direct result of that research,” said Prey in the Review Journal
| The Summerlin Albertsons is located in a new shopping center near Las Vegas’ Spring Mountains. |
interview. “We expect residents in the area will truly appreciate the extras featured here. When a neighborhood store meets the needs of the surrounding area, it becomes an integral piece of the community. We fully expect this store to be just that–a place where neighbors can shop in a relaxed and friendly environment.”
The in-store bakery department is positioned prominently in the 100,000-sq.-ft. store. Customers walk into an open-plan produce department with service departments, such as bakery, among the first departments seen.
With ample space, the bakery retail area allows room for six nesting tables, three 6-ft. long refrigerated cases and two self-service wall cabinets for pastries, donuts and bagels. All displays are self-service, including the open-front refrigerated cake case positioned as the centerpiece of the open-production bakery.
Making decorated cakes and specialty desserts the focal point of the bakery was a conscious design decision, according to Tom Ertler, creative director for WD Partners, Columbus, Ohio. The WD Partners design team worked with Albertsons’ management to develop a store environment that stands apart from other traditional supermarket chains.
“The first step [in a remodel] is to determine the language that defines your brand,” he says. “We feel retail environments can be like people. Just as you use language to define people, you can use language to describe your retail environment.” The key words that began the Premium Fresh & Healthy design were: warm, friendly, clean, easy and inviting.
Define brand language
The redesign then revolved around the key words with certain goals specific to the Albertsons’ prototype: Develop the departments that make Premium Fresh & Healthy best. Focus on the food. Recognize Albertsons first.
| The Premium Fresh & Healthy design incorporates neutral colors, lower light fixtures and menu boards positioned in front of each department. |
With bakery an integral department to design goals, the new store features clear, uncluttered signage and neutral lighting and colors to bring more attention to the products.
“Bakery is one of the few places any more where you can actually have contact with someone in the grocery store. The last thing you want to do is have a bunch of signs in between the customer and the associate,” Ertler says.
A supermarket bringing focus to its food may seem obvious, but Ertler argues that too many chains look like they belong to the brands being sold in the store, rather than the store brand itself. “A lot of grocery stores look like they belong to Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, CocaCola, FritoLay. Close your eyes and open them, and you can’t tell which grocery store you’re in,” he says.
In the bakery, the designer simplified signage to bring more focus on the products. The ceiling in the bakery is lower than the rest of the store, creating a space of interest. Menu boards are brought forward over the service counter as opposed to the back wall, and flat screen monitors are positioned in each fresh department promoting new products or special items.
“The first thing many designers do is create a big mural with a huge croissant, muffin and cookie on it and position it high above the bakery or along the perimeter back walls. What does that do? It takes the customers eyes away from the food,” he says. “We don’t want your eyes back there; we want them on the showcase or the associate.”
Signage and branded merchandising displays are kept to a minimum throughout the store to avoid clutter. A few cross-merchandised displays from the in-store bakery are strategically positioned in key areas, such as a large display of 20-count Halloween cupcakes for $8.99 at the store entrance and Italian bread loaves positioned near the cash registers. The breads were displayed with a sign that said, “Hot at 4 p.m.”
Despite the well-planned store design, it does not appear that any more in-store bakery production is occurring in the Premium Fresh & Healthy stores compared to other traditional Alberstons stores located in the area. The Premium stores offer a broader line of organic bakery products and artisan breads, however. Most additional items are finished, packaged bakery products.
Staying true to the design
Albertsons’ stores in the area offer a fairly extensive variety of pastries, including several croissant and Danish flavors beyond a typical selection. The Premium Fresh & Healthy versions are finished with a fruit glaze as opposed to white string icing used in other stores. The glazes provide a more upscale appearance and let the pastry show through the topping, but the pastries are essentially the same.
Supervalu incorporating Alberstons into its mix is a massive undertaking. To put it into perspective, Supervalu’s sales more than doubled (to $13.3 billion) in the first quarter of fiscal 2008 ended on June 16, compared to the same quarter the year before the acquisition. And, its $1 billion remodel and new store plans are aggressive, particularly while taking on the once-struggling Albertsons chain.
Establishing and maintaining quality in-store bakery programs under the Albertsons banner could easily get lost in the wake. But, Supervalu’s Premium Fresh & Healthy concept sets a solid framework for Albertsons if the company focuses on the food in bakery as much as the rest of the store.