Sainsbury’s to “revolutionise” shopping with new store format

SmartShop: Sainsbury's is trialling new supermarket design to make shopping quicker
SmartShop: Sainsbury's is trialling new supermarket design to make shopping quicker
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Sainsbury’s is hoping to revolutionise grocery shopping by making it easier for customers to find their groceries and get out fast.

The grocer is trialling a new store format with easy access to “food to go” so shoppers can buy their lunch or supper within minutes rather than traipse around searching for products.

For decades supermarkets have deliberately sited destination areas such as the bakery at the back of the store so people browse past other aisles on their way to buy bread. This is designed to increase the basket size, but has irritated shoppers and led to frustration when they can’t find what they want.

Other innovations include new till formats and an app that guides you round the store to find every item on your shopping list.

Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe led journalists on a tour around a store in North London, one of six trial store formats, to explain the changes.

“Our main focus is being there for our customers. We need to make our stores more convenient and more appealing,” he said.

“We’ve taken bakery items, food to go and ready meals and brought them nearer to the front of the store.”

Kantar Retail analyst Bryan Roberts welcomed the changes.

“I’m very impressed. This store is much more mindful of the shopper mission. Sainsbury’s has a genuine desire to make shopping trips easier and quicker,” he said.

The changes come as the big four grocers battle to win back customers who have switched to discounters Aldi and Lidl. Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are now refocusing their efforts on their big stores and trying to make them more attractive to customers. The big stores provide the bulk of their profits and they need to re-engage with disillusioned shoppers.

The North London store has been trialling the changes for four weeks. Mr Coupe declined to say what the sales increase has been, but said he was “very happy” with the store’s takings.

Other changes include a new patisserie counter for a revamped range of fresh cream cakes, which resemble the cakes sold at upmarket chain Patisserie Valerie but at a third of the price. The bakery manager at the North London stores said cream cake sales have shot up by 600 per cent since the changes were introduced.

Sainsbury’s said it has also listened to customers and changed the store format so that frozen goods are no longer at the very end of the shopping trip.

The group’s digital and technology director Jon Rudoe said: “The theory was that frozen should come last, but actually shoppers want to compare between fresh and frozen and that’s more important than keeping things frozen for a few more minutes. So frozen pizza is far nearer fresh pizza than it has been.”

In order to stop products from thawing, Sainsbury’s has placed freezer bags at the frozen section.

Mr Rudoe said that another big change is the expansion of health and beauty and an increase in the premium end of the range.

“Customers want a more complete shop in health and beauty. This gives it more of a Boots feel - a one stop shop,” he said.

​Sainsbury’s ​r​anges have been downsized to create more space, but the grocer said it has removed duplication rather than brands.

The newly created space has been given over to fresh food at the heart of the store and a separate area for clothing and homeware which can easily be bypassed. The far end of the store, traditionally the freezer area, is now dedicated to mobile phones, tablets, electronics and DVDs. Beer, wine and spirits have been moved from the back of the shop to nearer the tills as part of the “food for now/food for tonight” mission.

Sainsbury’s has also introduced trolley aisles for self scanning, which have proved very popular, and special tills for people who have scanned their goods using the app as they shop.

The grocer is also trialling mini convenience stores to steal market share from the likes of Pret A Manger. It has removed tobacco and lottery tickets to speed up paying.