Floors, Ceilings Enhance Supermarket Experience

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Floors, Ceilings Enhance Supermarket Experience

By Bob Ingram - 05/08/2016

Food retailers are growing more aware that the store environment can be a competitive advantage, and this awareness is extending to two of the most basic store elements: floors and ceilings.

“In order to compete with other retailers, creating a heightened shopping experience is key, and this starts with the visual design,” says Elizabeth Sullivan, marketing manager at Parterre Flooring Systems, in Wilmington, Mass. “Creating an inviting environment for shoppers helps to enhance not only the current experience, but invites shoppers to return time and time again.”

Sullivan says Parterre’s vast selection of luxury vinyl flooring designs helps retailers to create an overall aesthetic unique to their brand by using the look of wood-, stone-, concrete- or metal-like options.

“Currently,” she notes, “wood-look designs are a popular choice, especially when creating various design aesthetics for different departments such as a specialty wine section or a floral department.”

Sullivan emphasizes that the product is “installed seamlessly from departments to aisles, making it easy for shoppers and employees to navigate with shopping carts or stocking equipment.” She further points out that the material is 100 percent recyclable and requires minimal maintenance, eliminating the use of harsh chemicals or cleaning solutions.

According to Tom Ricciardelli, president and CEO of Avon, Mass.-based SelecTech Inc., “Supermarkets are trending toward using more decorative styles, such as wood grains and natural stone styles. While most of the floors are still the standard VCT [vinyl composition tile] styles, the more decorative styles can accentuate a part of the store and help to create a more welcoming environment.”

SelecTech’s entire product line consists of these more decorative items, including a variety of wood and stone styles, and the company can easily create custom styles based on a store’s design needs.

“Supermarkets also struggle with repairing and changing flooring,” he notes. “Currently, there aren’t many options for addressing this problem. Some will use ‘click’ [interlocking] vinyl flooring in spot areas of the store to accentuate that section. Click vinyl isn’t that durable and doesn’t hold up well in the high-traffic environment of a supermarket.”

In contrast, SelecTech offers a robust, extremely durable interlocking tile that’s easy to install and can be placed directly on top of existing flooring, making a renovation project a snap for a supermarket, with little disruption of operations.

“Our most popular product for supermarket use is our Freestyle interlocking resilient flooring, mostly in our stone styles,” observes Ricciardelli. “Our Freestyle is made with 70 percent recycled content and is 100 percent recyclable. We have a take-back program to recycle our product at the end of its life.”

He concludes, “I see the future of supermarket flooring trending more to the decorative styles and away from the plain VCT looks of the past.”

On the Upside

Moving upward, Scott Fischer, VP of operations and merchandise at Bakersfield, Calif.-based Proceilingtiles Inc. says: “The trend in supermarket ceilings seems to be both ease of care as well as design with flair. Smaller, select stores are opting for a more decorative look with colored tiles with an embossed appearance, while big-box brand stores are opting for the simple white plain tiles.”

Both types of tiles offer ease of care, are waterproof, mold- and mildew- resistant, and have a Class A fire rating, the highest for commercial use, he notes.

According to Fischer, Proceilingtiles’ most popular supermarket ceiling products, based on sales, are the Stratford, from the ProLite Collection, and DuraClean tiles, from the Pro Series Collection.

The benefits of vinyl tiles are becoming more and more apparent, as is their popularity, he asserts, adding that “the future of supermarket ceilings — if left to us — is in vinyl tiles!”

Cindy O’Neill, who handles marketing communications at Armstrong Ceiling Solutions, in Lancaster, Pa., sees the current trends in supermarket ceilings as open-structure spaces with spot acoustical treatments to highlight featured areas, and ceiling clouds in conjunction with signage to help customers navigate to specific areas of the store. She explains that flat ceiling clouds and curved ceiling canopies aren’t wall-to-wall ceilings and can be designed with wood, metal or a wide variety of colors on acoustical panels.

“Specialty areas like produce, floral and wine tend to use more upscale ceiling visuals,” she notes, while “high-margin areas might use colored ceilings or wood ceilings to add warmth to select spaces.”

Additionally, Armstrong’s Ultima Create ceiling panels can be customized to enhance a space and provide acoustics, as well as customizing key store areas, according to O’Neill.

“Our ceiling solutions have high recycled content in mineral fiber, soft fiber and wood,” she points out. “We also offer a ceiling recycling program that to date has recycled over 173 million square feet of ceiling tiles back into brand-new ceilings.”

All the Light Moves

Supermarket ceiling lighting has taken several steps forward. Current, powered by General Electric (GE), is intelligent lighting that provides an integration point for data from all types of smart devices such as mobile phones, video cameras, sensors, beacons and other devices, explains Jerri Traflet, senior retail marketing manager at GE’s global headquarters, in Boston.

Current delivers innovation in intelligent lighting through visible-light communications (VLC), which allows grocers to communicate with customers and store associates, and to gather information from smart technology within the store.

“In addition,” notes Traflet, “our indoor positioning capability allows supermarkets to gain important insights on shopping patterns, effectiveness of merchandise presentation, and store flow, product selection and conversion, as well as effective energy management and control.”

The product can be coupled with Predix, GE’s cloud-based operating system, to deliver real-time analytics and a platform capable of supporting the grocery industry’s drive to unified commerce.

Jake Summers, director, specialty markets at Northbrook, Ill.-based ConTech Lighting, says his company has plans to introduce a family of linear LED fixtures in late 2016.

“This family of products will be low-profile in design and appearance, available in three different lumen packages, with each surpassing 100 lumens per watt, and three different optical distributions,” he explains. “This combination of high performance and beam control makes it an ideal LED linear fixture option for supermarket ceiling applications.”