CPGmatters: S.C. Johnson Promotes ‘Reinventing’ Center Store of Supermarkets
By Dale Buss
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.
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.
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?