Breaking Out of the Big Box

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Breaking Out of the Big Box

By Susie McManus - 07/06/2009
Grocery shoppers have grown tired of oversized, overstuffed stores offering more brands of tortilla chips than there are letters in the alphabet. As foodies trend away from large superstores, the lure—and creation—of intimate, smaller-scaled grocery markets is on the rise. After seeing the average supermarket size rise from 2002 through 2006, the median average store size is now on a two-year decline. The Food Marketing Institute reports that in 2006, the average store size was 48,750 sq. ft., compared to only 46,755 sq. ft. in 2008.

No community understands the appeal of minimized markets better than The Pinehills, a planned development in Plymouth, Mass., which has conserved 2,000 of its 3,174 acres as open space. Recently, The Pinehills added The Market, an upscale food store that offers both gourmet and everyday grocery items in a 13,500-sq.-ft. space dwarfed by the average mega market.

The Market was conceptualized by Newton, Mass.-based New England Development with the help of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Store Design Services (formerly Design Services Group), which is a subsidiary of SUPERVALU. “Our goal [for The Market] was to create a small-format store, but with full service, so it has everyday items and gourmet foods,” says Harry Steen, creative director for Store Design Services. “Most stores are boring square boxes,” adds Michael Szathmary, managing director of The Market. “We wanted to design a footprint store that is exciting and out of the norm, that doesn’t make you feel like you’re just walking up and down aisles.”

New England Development worked with Store Design Services for approximately nine months designing The Market, which opened in October 2008. “Elkus Manfredi Architects designed the barn-shaped outer shell,” Steen explains. “[The exterior] is actually built out of steel, and has a unique, vintage appeal to it.”

In fact, vintage, turn-of-the-century New England charm is precisely what the design group was shooting for. Store Design Services added plenty of vintage touches to The Market—from sandblasted wood signs and the dyed concrete floor that looks like rich leather to custom-designed, acid-etched metal fixtures, Steen says. Additional hints of the dawn-of-the-century look include old mining carts placed around the store, a hayloft-style bakery and cheese island, aisle end-caps modeled after old farmhouse bureaus, and a custom, 16-ft. farm ceiling fan.

Although all of the décor elements play into the store’s shoppable, rustic charm, the design team was careful to keep them understated, so that the main focus of The Market remains on the food products. “The interior is not overemphasized,” Szathmary says. “It’s not about the décor, and though the fixturing and lighting [elements] are important, they’re there to highlight the product.”

To make The Market’s products stand out as much as possible, Store Design Services selected merchandisers with exceptional sight lines and display lighting. Due to the market’s small size, product is displayed vertically. Black display shelves allow colorful, bright product labels to stand out. Steen adds that the lighting is intentionally very dramatic and theatrical. “There’s a lot of spot lighting, and all the gondolas are self-lit,” he says. “It creates a very warm and inviting feel.”

Future additional locations of The Market are a possibility, Szathmary says, depending on when the economy begins to change. “We’re testing this store for a full-year cycle, and then we’ll review where we want to go from there,” he adds.

“Being of this small a size, we could really take it anywhere. Size doesn’t hold us back at all like it does for larger supermarkets.”

- Nielsen Business Media