10.052011

central market – a retail experience

(Today’s post is the last in a mini-series of reviews of retail concepts that have caught my eye.  I’ve already covered 77kids in Times Square and new Starbucks stores in Seattle.  Hope you’ve enjoyed my takes on what makes a store more than a store – a real experience.)

Central Market defies convention.  The Texas-based chain of eight food stores actually breaks the rules.  Its stores are too big (each store is approx. 75,000 square feet – nearly twice the size of an average grocery store) and they carry too many SKUs (a single store features over 700 choices of hand-cut cheeses alone.)

Here’s a shot of the chocolate bar aisle (yes, they have whole aisle devoted to chocolate bars!!)

The experience should be confusing and overwhelming.  After all, I’ve written and featured pieces on this very blog that promote a “less is more” approach when it comes to retail selection.

And yet, shopping at the Dallas Central Market was one of the most delightful shopping experiences I’ve ever had.  How did the store make its enormous size and selection a treat instead of a turnoff?  A strong editorial voice.

That a store would have a voice might seem confusing.  Stores are inanimate, physical spaces, not people or brands, right?!  But like a good museum, the wares in a good store are presented through a voice.  Here’s what I mean:

The store signage was strategic.

signs explained choices:

signs encouraged shoppers to ask for help:

signs described a featured item:

The store’s editorial voice also came through in their promotion. When I visited, the store was in the midst of its annual hatch chile fest (featuring chiles from Hatch, New Mexico, apparently the chile capital of the world.)  Every area of the store offered a special “hatch” item:

Yes, even the bakery.

The result?  A cohesive message that highlighted items throughout the store, instead of the usual random selection of items on sale in a grocer’s weekly flyer.

The theater-like experience also contributed an editorial voice that positioned choice as an asset.  In open areas like the bakery, the products seemed more accessible – as did the employees.

The wide selection became an invitation to discover and experiment.

Central Market’s website declares, “Shopping isn’t a chore — it’s a joy.”  Its strong editorial voice is one way it makes this so.

(If you’re looking for an injection of fresh thinking, sign your team up for a Brand Experience Day.  We’ll head out into the field to experience concepts like this one, and then regroup to identify and apply the new insights to your business.  Learn more.)

, , , , , ,