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Britain’s grocery market number two Sainsbury, perhaps better known in the
US as the parent company of Shaw’s Supermarkets, has unveiled its latest concept, a so-called Sainsbury’s Market at Bluebird.

The Bluebird Gastrodome is a bar/restaurant/retail development headed up by well-known designer and restaurateur Sir Terence Conran, and the new Sainsbury’s store sits alongside the restaurant in a pleasant courtyard on the popular upmarket shopping street the King’s Road in Chelsea. The store trades from around 10,000 square feet of sales area, and features a comprehensive variety of fresh and prepared foods and service counters including a deli, cheese counter, butchers, fishmongers, charcuterie and bakery. The only non-food areas of note include a small selection of health & beauty products and modest array of kitchen equipment and cookery books.

In an age when the talk in grocery retailing seems to be almost entirely focused on buying power, low prices, vendor allowances, bankruptcies and so on, it was a welcome breath of fresh air to visit this store, a veritable celebration of food and drink in its finest forms. The store was awash with sights and smells of impressively merchandised fresh produces, cheeses, meats and freshly baked bread and was staffed by smartly presented, attentive and well-trained staff who seemed to have a genuine interest in the products they were selling and the shoppers they were selling them to. Instore marketing materials did not mention price, instead focusing on the attributes and qualities of the products; demand was not being driven by the affordability of the goods, but by their desirability.

While we should not shy away from the basic purpose of grocery retailing ˆ selling commodities to consumers in order to generate profits, this new Sainsbury’s outlet reaffirms the fact that food retailing can (perhaps should) be a pleasant, interesting and stimulating experience for shoppers and staff alike. Sainsbury’s is unlikely to become as big or as powerful as the likes of Wal-Mart or Tesco, but in this new store it has proven that it can be better.
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