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Incorporating Form and Function Into Store Layouts

A global design firm offers creative ways to tackle some of grocers’ biggest challenges
Plug-in fixtures
Plug-in fixtures in food stores benefit customers and retailers alike.

Today, grocers all over the world are facing similar challenges: rising energy costs, a labor shortage and supply bottlenecks, to name just a few. Consequently, they need to adjust to the current situation and find solutions for these pressing matters. 

Fast-changing consumer needs and external conditions force retailers to adapt their spaces and product offering quickly and easily. In the past three years, the world experienced both a pandemic and a war that have changed consumer behaviors irrevocably. One of the keywords therefore remains flexibility — conceptionally and effectively.

[Read more: "Flexstores: The Next Trend in Store Design"]

Flexibility in store concepts boils down to a flexible layout with mobile fixtures that allow the retailer to reconfigure the product offering at any chosen occasion. Plug-in fixtures benefit not only consumers in addressing their changing needs, but also retailers, which save money and conserve energy over the long term, due to the savings associated with renovations as needed throughout the lifecycle of a store. With the trend toward smaller stores, the implementation of plug-in fixtures for the whole store or for single department renovations is the easiest and smartest option available right now.

Plug and Play

When a retailer changes or adds more refrigeration, which has been the case for most retailers over recent years, a central CO2 plant is no longer optimized for the increased supply requirement. Long runs of CO2 copper pipes are also fundamentally inefficient, having a huge effect over the refrigeration system’s lifetime. With integrated cooling, proximity guarantees efficiency throughout the system’s entire life.

Refrigerated counters in combination with waterloop systems make the use of plug-in furniture a genuine alternative to achieve smaller footprints. The waterloop requires no plant, just a small unit that cools the water before running it through flexible pipes. By carrying the heat that it generates away from the store, the waterloop helps to alleviate stressed AC systems in the summer while providing the option to use the generated hot water for heating in the winter. It’s a win-win regardless of the climatic conditions of the store site. Further, the pipes are easy to install, move and maintain, adding a huge amount of flexibility to the installation.

If you take a typical store with a 10-year lifecycle, you can be sure that there will be countless alterations to the layout, each time resulting in the need to bring in specialist plumbers at great expense and material cost. Plug-in systems can be moved or maintained by non-engineers, however, resulting in no damage to floor surfaces, and layout changes managed in a far quicker timeframe. 

Next-Level Presentation

Apart from flexibility in their positioning, counters have to be easily adaptable from service to self-service to address the acute labor shortage in supermarket service departments. This adds another dynamic layer to the store and helps bypass staff shortfalls. 

An efficient product presentation can also help tackle this issue by developing a targeted storytelling strategy that can convey the expertise of a specialist and communicate product information without a constant physical presence on the floor. “Talking fixtures,” as we call them at Schweitzer, can deliver the most important information to consumers through clever communication and contribute to an engaging atmosphere. The product is king, and the fixtures should be invisible where possible. Right from the beginning, the importance given to the product forms the basis for furniture design and installations within the entirety of the store concept. 

Another approach that adds to a partly staffed department’s efficiency is to integrate specially developed brands within the department. These create trust, involve the consumer in the history and identity of the brand, and elevate the entire product presentation, which then speaks for itself. 

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About the Author

Bernhard Schweitzer

Bernhard Schweitzer is CEO and owner of Schweitzer, a European shopfitting and design firm. Since he took the helm in 2006, the company has expanded to operational sites in North America, as well as throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
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