Jungle Jim’s delivers a foodie adventure

Discussion
Photo: Jungle Jim's International Market
Oct 21, 2019
Denise Leathers

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.

Part traditional supermarket, part theme park and part United Nations, a visit to Cincinnati-based Jungle Jim’s International Market is truly an event.

From the life-size giraffe lounging by the pool in the parking lot and the singing animatronics inside to the S.S. Minnow replica and 800-pound tube of provolone hanging in an endcap, there’s a lot to see. Scads of festivals, tastings and cooking classes further make Jungle Jim’s a popular destination for out-of-town visitors.

And did we mention the working monorail that ferries visitors to and from the nearby Oscar Event Center?

When Jungle Jim Bonaminio founded the business in 1971, the concept of “retailtainment” hadn’t yet been conceived, but his ahead-of-its-time solution was to make shopping fun. In fact, that’s one of the reasons Jungle Jim’s still doesn’t offer online ordering. “Our stores are an adventure,” says senior buyer and category manager Chris Vollat. “They’re meant to be shopped, not picked like a warehouse.”

Jungle Jim’s delivers a foodie adventure
Photo: Jungle Jim’s International Market

He adds, “We believe food brings people together, and that can’t happen when the consumer is sitting behind a computer screen.”

Shoppers can find 180,000 different items — more than a third of which are international — within literally hundreds of categories across the two massive stores (more than 500,000 square feet of combined floor space). The generous space provides a unique ability to continually try new things to stay ahead or create new trends.

Jungle Jim’s delivers a foodie adventure
Photo: Jungle Jim’s International Market

Compared to typical grocers, the stores also avoid private labels because management frowns on me-too products. “Jungle Jim’s is all about selection and variety, finding specific brands for a specific taste or need,” Mr. Vollat explains.

Another difference are minimally prepared foods. Mr. Vollat said, “We tried a few concepts but soon realized that people shop at Jungle Jim’s because they like to cook. They’re food lovers who want to explore and read labels, who seek inspiration for their own creativity in the kitchen.”

He adds, “Prepared food is all about convenience, but convenience is not the focus at Jungle Jim’s. We see our stores as more of a giant pantry for foodies.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is retailtainment easier or harder for a supermarket versus other retail channels? Which retailers stand out for entertaining their customers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"That’s the quandary for grocers today: how to create an engaging atmosphere without giving the impression of spending money that is reflected in higher prices."
"Retailtainment is not more difficult for supermarkets vs other retail channels. Supermarkets are full of retailtainment."
"It’s hard to retrofit fun. So the right — scalable — model is to find more ways to engage supermarket customers in ways that make shopping, if not fun, less tedious."

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Jungle Jim’s delivers a foodie adventure"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Jungle Jim’s is a great example of what can be achieved with a little imagination and flair – qualities that are all too often lacking at traditional grocers. Of course, not every supermarket will go to these lengths but they can still create engaging environments with displays and interesting products. Stew Leonard’s is great at this. Wegmans is pretty good too.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

Retailtainment is not more difficult for supermarkets vs other retail channels. Supermarkets are full of retailtainment. Standouts in the category: In the south-central region, Kroger, Lowe’s, and H-E-B have all upped the ante when it comes to in-store food demos. They now have miniature demo arenas where chefs are mic’d, actively demo, and host Q&A sessions. Hosting in-store culinary tours is also on the rise. For the kids, H-E-B stands out with their “Buddy Bucks” program – free carnival-like entertainment for kiddos while their parents shop or check out.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

I believe engaging in retailtainment is harder for supermarkets than it is for other retailers. Jungle Jim’s has been successful, but I don’t think this success could be repeated in other cities by other retailers. The tough part for retailers is the overwhelming focus on price; decades of “low price leader” claims have made shoppers wary of any change in stores, which leads to claims that prices could be lower if the store wouldn’t add unnecessary expenses. That’s the quandary for grocers today: how to create an engaging atmosphere without giving the impression of spending money that is reflected in higher prices.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Retailtainment certainly captures attention. In addition to Jungle Jim’s there is Stew Leonard’s, and Wegmans on a smaller, more customer-focused scale. I also remember a toy store that looked like an ark and a furniture store that had a rollercoaster inside. There are plenty of such stores out there if you look for them.

Stores like this are great fun, and it’s certainly easier to get the kids to want to go grocery shopping. After a while, shoppers tune out the singing animatronics – that’s not why they are there. It’s a testament to Jungle Jim’s that its local business is so strong. Shoppers come for the assortment of quality items backed up by equally good service.

Other retailers do shoppertainment by holding monthly events like pet adoptions, open houses, Santa Paws, Parking Lot Olympics and more. Entertaining shoppers doesn’t always require an over-the-top facility.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
It all depends on how you define “retailtainment” or the new version — experiential retailing. If you are talking about demos, no problem. They have been happening since open air markets first became popular at the dawn of civilization. That’s not entertainment, it’s merchandising 101. If you mean something like Jungle Jim’s, precious few. Jungle Jim’s has been doing this for just short of 50 years. Stew Leonard’s was another early entry into the animatronics arena. But this isn’t really a scalable model, at least in a mass marketing sense. Every supermarket can’t have wild animals grazing in the parking lot and, if they did, animal rights activists and the Health Department would be all over them. Now, can the supermarket experience be more pleasant? It’s hard to understand how this couldn’t be the case. It all depends on what an operator sees as her or his basic mission. Jungle Jim’s has been making it for for 48 years because entertainment has always been part of their vision. It’s hard to retrofit fun. So the… Read more »
Anne Howe
BrainTrust

An authentic shopping adventure for foodies is something every major city should have! Kudos to the regional operators that are working hard to provide some fun. Lowes Foods is my go to in the Lake Norman, NC area.
I recall feeling excited about foodie adventure in the early days of Whole Foods, but that magic didn’t last. I’m sad I didn’t get to visit Jungle Jim’s while in Cincinnati last week. It’s on my list now for a December trip!

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

I have visited Jungle Jim’s twice, and both times came away very impressed. It is a Disneyland of food stores — very engaging, lots of variety, and a fun store to shop in.

Retailtainment is easier for supermarkets compared to other classes of trade. They can present samplings, cooking demos, food tours, dinners, and so on. And shoppers love it. Another grocer that stands out for an engaging atmosphere and retailtainment is Stew Leonard’s, which I have visited several times.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Interestingly, we did a study to find out what would increase visitation at retail, and it was all about food. Food halls, farmers markets, new/local restaurants — and grocers have the ability (as HEB has shown) to do all of that. Who knows? Given the slow demise of shopping malls, perhaps a trend will be for grocers to introduce some retailers into their mix. Why not?

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

This is an interesting and excellent one-off. I’m a bit put off by the description of “ahead of its time.” This exploratory approach was not unusual in the 1970s (Casa Bonita in Denver is a restaurant which followed the same path). And through the intervening years, we’ve had many, many individual successes and a few chains either in shopping or eating which followed this path.

However, this is not a model anyone should follow. Kitsch (which seems the term of the day at this store) is fascinating, but not readily replicable to other locations.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

A food pantry for foodies is a great description. It is always an event to visit Jungle Jim’s. I would not do regular grocery shopping there because it takes too long, but I used to love to go for the adventure. The store definitely has a unique niche and has had it for many years.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"That’s the quandary for grocers today: how to create an engaging atmosphere without giving the impression of spending money that is reflected in higher prices."
"Retailtainment is not more difficult for supermarkets vs other retail channels. Supermarkets are full of retailtainment."
"It’s hard to retrofit fun. So the right — scalable — model is to find more ways to engage supermarket customers in ways that make shopping, if not fun, less tedious."

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