How should retailers reinvent the center store?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Mark Heckman Consulting blog.
For the past decade or more, supermarkets and their brand partners have frantically worked to devise new incentives to lure the shopper from their current behavior of remaining on the perimeter to venture down the long and arduous aisles of center store. But any transformation of the center store has to begin with an honest assessment of the factors that diminish the area’s relevance.
From the shopper’s view, negative issues include:
- Configuration: Shoppers become visually overwhelmed looking down the long aisles;
- Item Count: Too many SKUs makes it difficult to find items;
- Visual Clutter: Overuse of large signs, shelf tags and other POS materials clutter the shopper’s view;
- Size: Too much floor space consumes shoppers’ precious time.
The entire physical concept of “center store” has become “unnatural” for consumers when compared to their experiences either online or in smaller specialty stores.
A logical first step to rethinking the entire concept of center store involves re-categorization.
Retailers need to provide easy access to the top “immediate use” selling items. At the same time, operators should look to reduce SKUs of “scheduled use” items (paper towels, pet food, diapers, etc.) and instead encourage shoppers to use home delivery or in-store pickup (BOPIS). Many slower moving items — unfortunately the vast majority of inventory — could be removed from the store and made only available online. Infrequent sellers that have high affinity with top-selling, immediate-use items could remain on the shelves.
Within the trend toward smaller stores, the process of re-thinking which items are kept and discarded becomes critical.
After the re-categorization of items, the layout must be re-organized to provide multiple opportunities for shoppers to pre-order in-store for immediate consumption or simply pick up to take home.
Retailers could position top selling-immediate use items where shoppers can more easily access them while top-selling scheduled use items would be made available closer to kiosks. While reducing inventory and clutter, the shopper gains easy and practical means to access additional items via kiosks for either same trip pickup or delivery to the home or office.
While very basic, this configuration of center store categories facilitates a quick trip when one is warranted, but also efficiently accommodates larger trip sizes when shoppers’ needs change. Any approach must recognize the convenient alternatives now available to shoppers.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How do you think the center store should be reinvented to cater to the behavior of today’s shoppers? What do you think of the suggestions offered in the article around SKU-rationalization, in-store kiosks and linking online to the in-store experience?