Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.
At industry conferences lately as well as within his own company, David Milka, consumer insights manager at S.C. Johnson & Co., is advocating nothing less than a "reinvention" of the struggling center store based on shopper insights.
Mr. Milka points to the stark contrast between what has been going on at the perimeter of the supermarket with what hasn't been happening in the center store. Thanks to initiatives such as deli expansion, produce-department enhancement, and the addition of sushi bars, the real estate along the outer rim of supermarkets has been buzzing with improvement and excitement for several years. "Stores perimeters have become warm, inviting, exciting, genuine and diverse," Mr. Milka says.
But the center store, where S.C. Johnson brands reside, has remained "cold, obscure, boring and non-differentiated," he adds. And it is "really cluttered."
In addition to retailers' lack of focus on the center store, he says, there are at least two other reasons it is struggling. For one thing, consumers can buy packaged goods at so many other outlets, ranging from drug stores to dollar stores to mass-merchant discounters. And, says Mr. Milka, consumers don't have time to browse the center store on a brief shopping trip.
What's needed, he adds, is a good understanding of category management and its evolution, with an eye toward converting consumer and shopper insights into effective "reinvention" of the center store.
One tactic that embraces aspects of all three pieces of a center-store reinvention strategy is a layout that alters the straight aisles of the area in exchange for a sort of zig-zag layout like that found in many boutiques. Products would be merchandised more clearly in highly related categories using pods and interactive kiosks and creating many aisle adjacencies to tangential products and categories.
In general, design principles for a "reinvented" center store should include broadening the shopping experience by challenging norms, by rationalizing SKUs and by establishing solutions-based merchandising, Milka says. He offers an example of effective execution of this kind of design from the perimeter of a store: a display that says, "Warm up" with some French-onion soup. All the ingredients are right there, along with a recipe - making everything easy for the shopper.
Milka says that retailers and suppliers can "improve the shopping experience with visibility, traffic flow and adjacencies." Visibility concerns "the comprehensive overview" of an area, while better traffic flow can improve shoppers' ability to shop. "And adjacencies integrate the experience so you have everything in one easy location." Breaking up the shopping pattern, he says, can stimulate incremental spending.
Discussion Question: What solutions do you have for improving the center aisles for supermarkets? What do you think of Mr. Milka's "zig-zag" layout concept? What's causing the struggles in the center store?
Of those mentioned by S.C. Johnson's David Milka in the article, which do you think is most to blame for the struggles in grocer's center aisles?