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    Expert Column: Building Blocks of Successful Supermarket Design

    Exploring the design team's composition, process management, scheduling

    By Steven Duffy

    The cornerstone of winning food retail store design is a proficient store planning team. An adept, motivated team understands brand, collaborates well throughout an organization, and holds expertise for the challenges posed. Delivering superior sales results and projects on schedule necessitates a well-honed design function. Quality design work is a structured, deliberate process and takes time. With the advent of a new year, now is a good time to assess how your planning team is assembled and how to maximize the benefit of this valued resource. We will examine the team’s composition, process management and scheduling to optimize results.

    Design is an essential tool for a retailer’s success and does not need to be cost-prohibitive. Supermarkets’ needs vary from small capital projects to complex remodel expansions. The design collaborative is typically organized by project size and complexity; an internally managed team is most effective but not essential. While larger retailers have in-house planners or even registered architects on staff to facilitate schedules, smaller merchants may not hold this resource. Should your company not have design support, consider an “outsource” partnership with an experienced design firm that specializes in food retail programs. Selecting a specialized firm with strong experience is an invaluable asset.   

    Store planners or designers serve as “point persons,” managing spatial relationships of equipment, display cases, production and support areas such as coolers and freezers. They distill significant amounts of program information -– referred to as “the store experience” – including the look and feel, finishes, décor and lighting. They perform the magic act to assure everyone’s needs are addressed and balanced. 

    The planning team’s composition is generally proportionate to a retailer’s sales volume and includes diverse staff members. CAD planners prepare fixture plans and 3-D modeling. Specialized designers are skilled in finishes, lighting and brand work. Department oversight members include managers, directors and VPs of design, who together provide a higher level of experience. These managers act as a buffer to improve workflow and review project quality. Design function also manages the store’s brand or DNA, deploying it consistently throughout the shopping experience.

    As design leads the process, merchants are the store’s “retail engine” and the primary client. Each departmental area provides detailed product needs derived from sales programs. Collaborating with merchandising is an iterative process that begins with a checklist such as "I need 32 linear 5 deck feet of wet produce rack." The physical "how" and "what" department composition are  “retail basics”; however, displaying and romancing product is a merchant’s essential art.

    Store sales teams are the partners who manage daily operations and are an excellent source of consumer insights. The design plan must align the in-store team with product and sales programs. The store operations team also includes the disciplines of health, sanitation, safety and security. Integral to the process, their input assures department work areas are planned to the smallest detail. Today, more than ever, customer food safety and security is paramount; these team members keep these elements in focus.

    By Steven Duffy
    • About Steven Duffy Steven Duffy is an architect and design professional with 30 years of national retail-focused experience, spanning big box to boutiques. His significant corporate development accomplishments include design of Golub Corp.'s Next Gen stores (Phase 1), the Market Bistro flagship, and additionally helping to lead the design for "Market 32" (2nd phase) brand reinvention of stores now in construction.

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