Publix Opens Laboratory

Jul 14, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson

There’s nothing in the new Publix flagship store in Mandarin, Florida that is so different than other stores operated by the chain. What’s different about it is that the new
store combines features found in the chain’s various formats and brings them together under one roof to create something truly unique.

The chain describes the new store as a laboratory for it to test and refine new approaches to business.

Dwaine Stevens, a spokesperson for Publix, told The Florida Times-Union, “In this type of store, we develop concepts, execute them and then just study.”

The 62,000 square-foot unit is decked out in the lime green and tangerine colors found in the chain’s Sabor stores targeted to a Hispanic consumer base. It also includes the
largest store-within-a-store Greenwise (Publix’ natural and organics food concept) section in Northeast Florida. A large kosher foods area, liquor department and natural wood
displays in the bakery and produce sections are also featured within the store. Also included in the new unit is a cooking school affiliated with Apron’s, Publix’ party-planning

The fact that the new test store is located in Northeast Florida is not seen as a coincidence by industry experts.

David Livingston, principal with DJL Research and a member of the RetailWire BrainTrust panel, said Publix is looking to gain advantage by putting pressure on Winn-Dixie
in its own backyard.

“Winn-Dixie has been making a lot of noise about getting better,” he said. “If I were Publix, I would want to stick it to Winn-Dixie right in their hometown.”

Publix’ Stevens didn’t single out Winn-Dixie as a target but did say, “Everyone, including our competitors, is trying to find a niche. This market is up for grabs.”

Discussion Question: What are your thoughts on the new Publix flagship from an internal learning perspective as well as the message it sends to consumers
in Winn-Dixie’s home territory?

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6 Comments on "Publix Opens Laboratory"

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Bill Robinson
Bill Robinson
14 years 7 months ago

Congratulations to Publix for setting up “testing central.” Testing is one of the most important core competencies for retailers because it’s the best way to gather empirical data about competitive advantage. Do your customers like your innovation? Do you they see it as your competitive advantage?

But be forewarned, Publix. Most of your best technology innovations will be matched quickly by your competitors. With technology your advantage cannot be sustained because the competitors can implement the technology, too.

What is sustainable is the skill and care that goes into testing and the “business intelligence” that you can gain from testing itself. The better you test, the more you’ll know. Soon, you’ll separate from the “me too” competitors who only know how to copy and don’t know how to test.

Odonna Mathews
Odonna Mathews
14 years 7 months ago

Publix has a great idea in this new test store. They are doing what more supermarkets should be doing — daring to be different, experimenting and then asking for customer feedback. Their expanded produce, bakery and perishable sections, Greenwise organic/natural departments, and kosher section, have lots of appeal along with the Apron’s concept.

Publix has one of best executions I have seen of in store meal solutions with their end of aisle Apron’s meal stations with all the ingredients in one location, recipe cards and a staffer demonstrating the recipe several times during the day. The cooking school is an extension of their meal solutions and offers customers ways to enjoy foods and have fun, too. Apron’s party planning service is differentiating and appealing to many consumers and businesses.

It sounds like a winner to me for this market and others. After all, competition is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Laura Davis-Taylor
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 7 months ago
I worked on the Publix account in my past and see this as a very positive move. Publix is a stellar organization and they have very little competitive concerns with Winn-Dixie. The two have very different store experiences, brands and shoppers. It’s much more likely that they are ready to explore new efforts against people like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other cataclysmic stores such as Bloom. Interesting, however, is the announcement yesterday in DDI that IBN has just completed a storewide digital signage installation in all Winn-Dixie stores. It was a stealth move that surprised even the most connected players in the retail digital signage arena. Publix is indeed going about testing new concepts the right way with this idea. As Best Buy has vocally proclaimed, they believe that by testing — and failing — often, they learn the most about what they need to be doing in their stores. In fact, at last year’s RAMA convention, they claimed that 60% of their efforts are a dismal flop but 40% are “golden learnings”. I… Read more »
David Livingston
14 years 7 months ago

Publix is out to prove two points. First, they can take a failed Albertsons and make the location a success. Second, they are not going to stand still and allow Winn-Dixie to increase their market share. The best place to get sales is by targeting the best stores of the weakest competitors. Smart move by Publix.

Bernice Hurst
14 years 7 months ago

An area with a failing store seems an ideal location to test a range of new concepts. Captive audience, ripe for plucking and all those similar cliches. More power to them.

Mark Lilien
14 years 7 months ago

Certainly any chain retailer benefits from having test stores, test categories, test departments, etc. Testing reduces risk, improves implementation, provides windows to the future and keeps the organization thinking. I doubt that Publix is concerned about a possible Winn-Dixie resurgence overwhelming the market. It pays to have the tests near a variety of competitors.


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