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The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Supervalu plans to spend some $1.2 billion revamping old stores and building new ones during the coming year – but that it is doing so by relying “on census data, sales records and a grocer's knowledge that we don't all shop the same way.

“It's not just new shelves and shining up the meat counter. There's little left to chance in the layout of a grocery store. Aisle widths, product placement, wall colors and lighting all play a role in sales.” And Duncan MacNaughton, Supervalu’s executive vice president of merchandising and marketing, tells the paper that there’s one central goal: “We want the food to pop … We want the store to disappear.”

The Star Tribune writes: “Remodels certainly aren't new at Supervalu. But they have become increasingly sophisticated.

“The company has nearly completed construction of a test store a mile from its Eden Prairie headquarters to experiment with store layout, lighting and design, the first such venture in company history. The test store also houses a kitchen for development of Supervalu private label foods.

“To know their customer, the folks at Supervalu use everything they can get their hands on. Surveys they conduct themselves, data they collect through loyalty cards (which give discounts to those enrolled and have become popular in other markets but not so much in the Twin Cities), census data that show ethnicity, income levels and education in the surrounding community, and records that show what's selling.

“This is what it knows. Supervalu's primary customers are women, 25 to 54 years old, with children. And shoppers generally fall into one of seven types, according to Supervalu, including the convenience shopper, the luxury shopper who looks for gourmet products, the cooks, the healthy shopper, the aspiring shopper who wants to cook but doesn't know how, the deal-seekers and the one-stop shopper who does everything all at once.”

And here’s another key insight: “Instead of just building bigger stores, the company has begun a new focus on the food, with signs explaining the nutritional values of peppers, for example, and butchers coming out from the back of the store to stand behind meat counters and interact with customers.”
KC's View:
Good piece, and good for Supervalu doing what is necessary to try to reinvent the shopping experience.

I would only make one observation. Supervalu’s primary customers may be women, aged 25-54, with children. But I’d be spending an awful lot of my time talking to people between the ages of 14 and 20 to find out about their shopping habits…which certainly are dramatically different than those of older generations. Some of these habits will change as they become adults, but some of them will not – they could have wildly different expectations about the food shopping experience, and we all have to figure out how the industry has to change to meet them.

This is a generation that does not remember a world before, before 500 channels, before cell phones, before TiVo. It is probably fitting, especially today, to suggest that they don't really remember a world before 9-11.

I don't necessarily think they are going to come to us. We have to go to them.