Tracy Mendonca at Aldi, North Kellyville, enjoying its Grand Opening last year. Picture: David Swift/AAP Adelaide's new look supermarkets
Tracy Mendonca at Aldi, North Kellyville, enjoying its Grand Opening last year. Picture: David Swift/AAP Adelaide's new look supermarkets

SHOPPING SECRETS: Why supermarkets are being transformed

WE spend a lot of time visiting them so it makes sense supermarkets are set out specifically for us.

But have you ever thought about the reasons why grocery aisles are designed the way they are?

Aldi has revealed the secrets behind why their stores are laid out, and Coles and Woolworths do much the same, incorporating softer colours to make aisles feel bigger, grouping the "heroes" of the meals together or using vertical freezers and shallow shelves.

All of Aldi's 500 stories are due to by upgraded by 2020 in a move to be more in line with customers' expectations, with 100 undergoing renovations this year.

They say one of the reasons for this has been the fact that "fresh quality" is now the number one driving factor leading shoppers to stores.

But other major chains such as Coles and Woolworths have long been implementing changes focused on that driver.

Woolworths is set to open another outlet at Kiaora Lane in Double Bay as judgment prevents Harris Farm from setting up shop.
Woolworths is set to open another outlet at Kiaora Lane in Double Bay as judgment prevents Harris Farm from setting up shop.

It's Aldi's first major store transformation in 17 years and based on store trials and a format that was rolled out in South Australia and Western Australia.

It says the transformation is a reflection of the shifting expectations of Aussie shoppers, who are now more focused on the in-store experience and finding a supermarket that caters to changing food preferences.

Woolworths says its changes are also in line with the needs of time-poor people who visit stores more frequently for shorter visits.

Its responded with ready meals and quick cooking kits near the front of the store so customers can get in and out in a few minutes.

For those who choose to shop online and pick up their order in-store, Marrickville Metro has refrigerated pick-up lockers located at the customer service desk.

Some of the biggest supermarket changes over the past few decades have been in the areas of fresh produce, meat, poultry, seafood and dairy.

From the rise in organic and free-range options to wider selections of fresh local fruit and vegetables, the perimeters of supermarkets have evolved to cater to our desire for healthier food choices.

The quality of a supermarket's fresh produce and protein are now deciding factors in determining where they choose to shop.

Aldi's Ben Lawlor and his team have been working on Aldi's new store format and said when they started design and planning in 2014 they had to think not just about what customers wanted then, but what they would want in 2020.

He said the rise of online shopping alternatives meant that when customers made the decision to visit a supermarket, they did so for the experience and wanted their grocery shopping to be as enjoyable as possible.

"Just because you want to save money it doesn't mean you shouldn't expect a great shopping experience," Mr Lawlor said.

Woolworths’ latest flagship store format has an emphasis on fresh food, convenience meals and organic produce. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Woolworths’ latest flagship store format has an emphasis on fresh food, convenience meals and organic produce. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

"So many customers ask us how we have been able to make our stores bigger.

"We haven't increased the floor space at all, we have just been smarter about the layout."

Aldi's yellow tiles, peacock blue walls and brown panelling are gone and the stores will now feature soft lighting, neutral tones, quirky captions and more space to navigate the aisles.

The increase in space has been made possible by shallower shelving that can be easily rearranged and upright freezers that allow customers to see products more easily.

The fruit and veg section is one of the major changes with much of Aldi's produce previously stocked in Special Buys bays, but these have been replaced with produce shelving.

One of the biggest reasons for the redesign was to create more space for fresh produce, meat, seafood and dairy as well as other healthy food options.

Changes to product merchandising throughout the store have also made it easier for customers to find what they want and need.

"Feedback from customers has been that they think we have introduced many new products," Mr Lawlor said.

"The fact is, we've just made them easier to find."

Mr Lawlor said customers would now find dried fruit and nuts near cereal, baking goods in one spot instead of several and meat and produce at the front of all refurbished stores.

"We know that customers often plan their meals around protein, so we felt it made sense to position meat and produce next to each other at the front of the store, followed by other complementary ingredients like sauces, pastas and grains, once those hero items had been chosen," he said.

Earlier this year Woolworths unveiled its new-look flagship store featuring 'living' lettuce, meal kits and $14 chooks at Marrickville Metro in Sydney's inner-west.

It features expanded fresh food, ready-to-go meals and health offerings, overhauled bakery, deli, butcher and seafood areas, and a dedicated front-of-store pick-up area for online shopping orders.

Woolworths director of format development Rob McCartney said they were keeping a close eye on customer feedback at the Marrickville Metro store and would be looking for opportunities to bring popular elements and features to other stores across the country.

"We're proud to be investing in our stores to create better shopping experiences for our customers, with a strong emphasis on fresh food and increased convenience," he said.

"In the last year we've renewed more than 70 stores for the benefit of our customers and we have plans for another 80 over the next 12 months."

A Coles spokeswoman said it was continually investing in new and refurbished supermarkets because it wants to enhance customers' shopping experience.

She said this was done by providing the latest in fresh food technology, a range which was suited to their needs and a market-style layout that made grocery shopping more enjoyable and convenient.

SECRETS OF SUPERMARKET LAYOUTS

Meat and produce at the front of stores

With shoppers usually planning their meals around a "hero item" such as protein, Aldi has positioned meat and produce next to each other at the front of the store, followed by other complementary ingredients like sauces, pastas and grains.

Grab and go

People who are more time poor and aren't planning out a whole meal now also have the luxury of a ready meal section at the front of stores so they can get in and out in a matter of minutes.

Complementary items

Supermarkets are making more of a conscious effort to group items together so you're now likely to find dried fruit and nuts near cereal, baking goods in one spot instead of several, and sauce offerings to pair with your seafoods.

Overall design

Stores such as Aldi's have done away with their traditional colour schemes and features and are opting for soft lighting, neutral tones and more space to navigate the aisles, making the store feel bigger. Aldi realised it would take too long to replace tiles so just floored over the top.

Practical displays

Customers will now feel they are seeing new products but they've actually always been there - the change has been made possible with shallower shelving that can be easily rearranged and upright freezers that allow customers to see products more easily.


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