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Wild Oats Places 2nd Health Center in Stop & Shop; Plans 3 More

BOULDER, Co. -- Natural and organic foods retailer Wild Oats Markets, Inc. here yesterday opened its second store-within-a-store boutique in a store operated by Ahold's Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop chain. The Wild Oats branded shop, in a store in Fairfield, Conn., is the second of five planned Holistic Health test stores in Stop & Shop units in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The first store-within-a-store boutique, opened in late May in a remodeled Stop & Shop, in Plymouth, Mass., "progressing well," Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele told Progressive Grocer. Tuitele said that at first the shop had a soft opening associated with the remodel, and thus Wild Oats did not apply "our full marketing plan, in an area where we have very little brand awareness. Now that we have been marketing the department, we are experiencing week-over-week improvement, and are pleased with the progress."

"Fairfield is close enough to our Westport location that we are opening that store with a greater level of brand awareness," Tuitele added.

The new Wild Oats boutique is a holistic health center offering a full line of nutritional vitamins and supplements, homeopathic remedies, and natural and organic body care products. The boutique also makes available a wealth of information about health and wellness, and is staffed by Wild Oats associates.

Stop & Shop and Wild Oats kicked off the opening at the Fairfield Stop & Shop, by offering 25 percent off all products in the department through Sept. 24.

"We believe that each of these test stores will provide a diversified view of the potential success of this concept, as we are going into markets with varying levels of knowledge about Wild Oats," Tuitele added. "The response at Fairfield in just the first day has been overwhelmingly positive, with a lot of customers knowing and loving Wild Oats."

"This store-within-a-store concept will provide an avenue for us to bring products and information that support health and well-being to people in Connecticut and Massachusetts," said Bruce Bowman, s.v.p. of new business development for Wild Oats. "With more people seeking out natural health solutions, we believe our concept will complement the existing traditional healthcare and pharmaceutical products offered at the grocery store."

Stop & Shop's customer-base is primed for such a strategy, according to Don Sussman, Stop & Shop's e.v.p. for merchandising and marketing. "More and more of our customers are clamoring for these products, and wellness information," he said. "With Wild Oats Markets' credibility and expertise in the natural health industry, we believe Fairfield area shoppers will benefit greatly from this unique offering inside our store."

Wild Oats will roll out the remaining three test stores over the next 9-12 months, and expect that once each store has been opened for several months, it will be able to determine whether this is a viable concept for the company. "However, going into additional locations is dependent on Stop & Shop's remodel or new store opening program in these markets, so we cannot open all of the test stores at once, but have to stagger them," said Tuitele.

-- Joseph Tarnowski
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