Details Enhance Experience at Lowes Foods

Every morning, the team that runs Lowes Foods in Simpsonville, S.C., huddles for 15 minutes to discuss how the previous day went and how they’re going to deliver another exciting shopping experience to their guests.

They assemble at the store’s Community Table, a meeting place not only for the store team, but also for anyone in the community needing a place to gather. It’s an important part of how Lowes stays engaged with the folks it serves, as PG learned during a recent visit to the store.

Use of the space, near the bakery in the store’s perimeter, is administered by the community table manager. “Their role is not just for things in store, but in the community,” explains Tim Lowe, president of the 100-store Winston-Salem, N.C.-based grocery chain.

The table itself, and those at Lowes’ other stores, are made from wood reclaimed from old tobacco barns in the region, just one of the many “hidden in plain sight” details that Lowe says go a long way to making the retailer a part of the community.

Look around the store and try to spot them: The windmill in the wine section that catches the sun’s rays and reflects an image of the logo for Sunmill Wines, the grocer’s house brand, on the wall beyond. The boxcar-shaped sitting area outside of the Boxcar Coffee & Chocolate shop. The canopy above the cheese shop with randomly placed recessed lights meant to resemble the holes in Swiss cheese.

“We try to make our brand live,” Lowe declares.

Indeed, Lowes makes its brand a symbol of community, fun, quality and convenience. There’s something for everyone: While parents purchase house-smoked meats and sausages (54 types, made to unique recipes), baked goods and fresh-cut produce, kids can play at a panel of gadgets pretending they’re making the sausage; play a musical cakewalk game, sample frosting and make a wish on the sample spoons; and munch on a free piece of organic fruit.

On any given day, shoppers can sample new local products, custom-blended spices, and wine-and-cheese pairings.

Mom and Dad can sample wine and beer in the Beer Den, at the bar or in a comfy booth, and watch the brewing process behind the glass of the store’s on-site microbrewery.

And folks of all ages can join in the shouts of  “Yee-ha!” when a new batch of ribs, bacon or pulled pork comes out of the smokehouse, or the chicken dance under the animated chandelier when a new batch of bird comes out of the Chicken Kitchen.

It’s all done to help store hosts engage with guests more meaningfully and instill a deeper sense of community -- right down to the checklanes that aren't numbered, but named for streets in town.

“It’s about the community,” Lowe says. “Our store announcements will be, ‘Attention, Lowes community.’ We take the Carolinas personally. We look at this as a way to grow with the community.”

The Lowes team continues to refine its message and its methods, all focused on making folks feel more at home.

“During our peak sales times, even with our expanded seating both inside and out, we simply need more seating for our guests,” says Chris Van Parys, Lowes’ VP of fresh sales and merchandising. “This is all part of the evolution of guests seeing our stores as a restaurant alternative. Where else can you find such a variety of local, authentic products, produced fresh every day, from hardwood-smoked ribs to local beers? We really do have it all.”

Lowes Foods' Simpsonville, S.C., supermarket is Progressive Grocer's August 2017 Store of the Month.