As part of its strategy to boost sales now that its new financial structure is about to kick in, CreekSide Co-op is busy reorganizing shelf space and gradually introducing new products. They call it a store “reset,” and it means that after a systematic analysis of the essential real estate of retail sales – shelf space – management is moving ahead with changes to improve and rationalize the food shopping experience.
But if you think this endeavor has a familiar ring to it, you have a point. In addition to some tinkering now and then, space was reorganized and reduced substantially for grocery items more than a year ago. “Sales just didn’t warrant the shelf space and we cut down on the variety of products,” explained Mike Richards, the co-op’s interim operations manager. Take salsa, for instance. At one point, there was a four foot section with some 20 varieties of the Mexican hot sauce. It was, well, a little much, especially considering you’re not going to find a tortilla bakery in Elkins Park.
Even with a significant reduction in product variety and the elimination of whole categories of products, sales were not affected, said Richards. Organics were pared down and such things as vitamins, shampoos and conditioners were swept from the shelves. “We don’t have the buying power of the big chains,” noted Richards, so items, for example, Dove soap, were not moving because prices were not sufficiently competitive.
But neither did grocery sales pick up very much. A decision was made to add back shelf space but this time to work with industry pros to put together a plan for an improved product mix.
This week specialists from Bozzuto’s, one of the co-op’s two grocery suppliers, will be in the market for eight hours per day swapping out products and repositioning them throughout the store. Management sat down with the supplier about a month ago to map out an initial plan. Large suppliers like Bozzuto’s generally have a grounded understanding of buying patterns that can be invaluable for smaller stores like CreekSide’s 9,000-plus square feet. By the end of next week new products should be evident across the store. (A list was unavailable.)
While shopping may require additional attention until the new layout becomes familiar, the changes should be easy to spot. Cleaning supplies, for example, will be better segregated from food. With four feet of additional space made available, there will be a wider variety of waters and juices. Bulk items (grains, nuts, etc.) are moved from the far wall in the back to just opposite their former location on new mobile shelves. Soft drinks are moved to the far wall in the back, where bulk used to be. Cookies and crackers will be taking up a bit less space in Aisle 4 than they had previously in Aisle 2. Baked goods were consolidated in Aisle 7 between the checkout and the deli areas some months ago. Peanut butter, which has done its share of traveling, has moved back to near the bread area.
Along with location and product changes, there will be some creative pricing benefiting CreekSide customers based on “negotiated price zones” arranged through suppliers, rather than standard mark-ups. (Seltzer lovers will be effervescing with a new deal bringing the price down from 99 to 75 cents per bottle.)