When it comes to inspiration for the new format, Bertram says that his team visited chains such as H-E-B’s Central Market, Mariano’s, Publix, and even the flagship Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas, for ideas. The team also looked at its own customers and teams through various research groups and weekly visits. Giant borrowed from some of its strongest formats in the suburbs and rural areas as well.
“We brought those elements in, but then added innovation on the format side, on the technology side, on the operational efficiency side, on the product side,” Bertram explains. “And then we really just wanted this to be a space to be, to dwell; it’s a spot now. Somebody’s going to get married out on the terrace one day.”
Finally, the grocer leveraged the resources available to it from it from Ahold Delhaize.
“We look to our sister companies in Ahold Delhaize USA, to our sister brands in Europe and Indonesia, and, of course, stay abreast of emerging technology and innovation through industry share groups like FMI,” Betram notes.
He believes that the format will work well in urban areas, but there are elements from this store that he can see being implemented in non-urban stores. For example, the store features a one-way checkout lane similar to those seen at off-price stores. It also offers self-scanning, mobile checkout, electric vehicle charging, a VIP elevator for residents who live in apartments above the store, and a 450-SKU plant-based set.
“First time we ever did that was at our first Giant Heirloom Market,” Bertram recounts. “We were overwhelmed with the response. So we took that and we applied it across dozens, if not 100, stores in our company, as we did remodels. And now that particular department is growing. This set is the biggest that we’ve ever done.”
The Giant team spent a lot of time mulling the perfect spot in the store for plant-based SKUs. That department is now on the perimeter, where it flows naturally from produce to the meat department.
The new format also boasts one of the largest produce departments in the chain, according to David Lessard, VP of fresh merchandising for Giant.
“We’re labeling them Garden,” Lessard observes, “and obviously, we have a focus on local. Even when we’re not in season, we still have over 60 local items because of our relationships with local farms and growers.”
Lessard points out that Giant’s new Garden department is set up by zone.
“This is our local zone,” Lessard notes as he leads a tour of the store’s departments. “We have an organic zone, with more than 170 items. And local is not seasonal: It is year-long, or a 52-week program. You’ll see it in produce, in floral -- throughout the store.”
At Giant, product is the hero, Lessard emphasizes, and that’s what the grocer tries to highlight. At the new Philly store, the merchandising team, made up of Lessard; John Ruane, SVP of omnichannel merchandising; and Rebecca Lupfer, VP of center store merchandising, detail the company’s “discovery program.”
“It's really creating that treasure hunt for our customers,” Ruane says. “So you see the Sumo oranges over there, pink pineapples here.” The pink pineapples are from Del Monte and come in a pink gift box with a bow; Giant was the first grocer on the East Coast to stock these.
“You’ll see white strawberries here, Aloha peppers over there,” Ruane continues. The Florida-grown white strawberries taste like a cross between a strawberry and a pineapple.
“Our teams really, really work hard with our suppliers and growers to try to find the best varieties out there, the most unique items for discovery,” Lessard adds. “We want people to see things that they haven't seen.”
The produce department also offers a value-added program with fruit cut in-store, a gelato bar, store-made guacamole and a kombucha tap. Finally, sustainability is always top of mind when it comes to produce.
“What we have done is where we have packaged produce, we’ve looked for ways to eliminate a lot of the packaging,” Lessard says. “Biodegradable trays, less plastic. We’re always looking, as part of the category teams working with the suppliers, to stretch it to the next step.”