BUSINESS: Sainsbury’s trial ground-breaking store layouts


In an effort to continue it’s pioneering approach to UK supermarket shopping, Sainsbury’s is trialling new shop layouts to help improve the shopping experience for time-pressed consumers.

It’s revealed this week, details of trials it is carrying out at six supermarkets across the UK to respond to new and emerging shopping trends. The changes being tested, including a radically different supermarket layout and an increased range of checkout options, are designed to make the stores quicker and easier to shop and to offer customers more choice where they most want it.

  • New ‘mission-based’ store layout.
  • Greater focus on popular own-label clothing and homeware.
  • New till formats and technology enable quicker checkout.

The majority of people still do their food shopping in supermarkets, but are increasingly doing smaller shops, more often. In addition to having a successful and growing convenience store estate, Sainsbury’s is also trialling how it can cater to specific shopping missions in its supermarkets, including a new ‘Food to Go’ section at the front of the store next to the checkouts. The retailer has also moved its fresh bakery products to this section making it more convenient for people wanting to buy fresh products quickly.

Sainsbury’s is also dedicating more space in these stores to its popular Tu clothing range along with kitchen and homeware items. For people who want to spend time browsing, items such as clothing, homeware, mobile phones and tablets are situated along the walls of the store. The amount of space given to non-food in these trial stores has increased by around 30%.

Smartshop Clothing

As well as making shopping easier, Sainsbury’s is also trying to help customers check out as quickly as possible and is piloting two new types of checkout in the trial stores, giving customers four different checkout options to choose from. In addition to manned checkouts and self checkouts used for basket shops, Sainsbury’s is offering customers a larger self checkout option for people with small trollies, which is already proving popular with customers. In the two stores that are piloting Sainsbury’s new shopping app, ‘SmartShop’, people can also checkout via the innovative new SmartShop handset.

When fully tested and ready to roll out, SmartShop will enable customers to scan in their shopping lists at home. Once they get to store, the app will show a map locating their chosen items around the store and they will pay via their mobile phone, which will be the quickest checkout option of all.

Smartshop Checkouts

Launching the project, Mike Coupe, Chief Executive Officer, Sainsbury’s, said: “The majority of people still do most of their shopping in supermarkets and that’s a trend that will continue, but we need to make our supermarkets more convenient for people who visit often to do a smaller shop. This trial is about seeing how far we can go in catering for every shopping mission, whether someone wants to pop in quickly to buy a sandwich for lunch, or whether they have more time and want inspiration for the home, or advice on tech and gadgets. No matter what customers are buying, we know that everyone wants to check out as quickly as possible and giving customers more checkout options to suit them is key to the trial. The pilot stores will act as a barometer for feedback and we’re listening to what customers tell us along the way. This is very much a trial and we know that not everything will work, but certain elements are already proving very popular and we would hope to roll those out more widely where feedback is consistently positive.”

The six stores involved in the trial are: Alperton in London; Devizes in Wiltshire; Emersons Green in Bristol; Harpenden in Hertfordshire; Morecambe in Lancashire and Tamworth in Staffordshire. Different elements are being trialled in each of these stores.

Smartshop Counter

Key elements of the trial:

Layout changes to cater for specific shopping missions

  • The stores have been rearranged to bring all fresh products together in one place, including moving bakery to the front of store and creating a larger ‘Food to Go’ area closer to the checkouts.
  • Moving the frozen aisle closer to fresh to help customers choose between similar products.
  • Revamped counters, with a greater range and more choice including new-look delis, butchers and a bigger selection of hand-finished cakes in the patisserie counter.
  • Where people are shopping for longer-term purchases such as clothing, kitchen and homeware, health and beauty, pharmacy and tech, products are now clearly positioned in the outer aisles of the store for people who have more time to shop.
  • Customer service desks and kiosks are at the front of the store and are no longer next to the ‘Food to Go’ are. This splits the queues for customer service and for customers wanting to pay for small items, which should result in better service for both groups overall.

Changes to space and range

  • Each of the six trial stores has an average of 30% more clothing, kitchen and homeware; this is a growing part of the business and for customers who have said they want a greater selection of these products.
  • More space dedicated to fresh food to give customers more choice where they want it.
  • Simplified ranges in e.g. canned and packaged and household remove duplication while helping customers make decisions more quickly in areas choice matters less to them.

Faster checkout options

  • There are two new types of checkout, giving customers four options to choose from: traditional manned checkouts, basket self checkouts, new trolley self checkouts and SmartShop checkouts, for customers who are comfortable with technology (in testing phase and trialling for customers on handsets in Alperton and Harpenden stores only).
  • Once fully developed, shoppers will be able to build a digital shopping list at home; will see their products on a store map on their phone when they get to their local store; will scan their items on their mobile phones as they go round, with a rolling tally to show how much they are spending and they will then checkout quickly at a dedicated SmartShop checkout.

Convenience store format trial

Sainsbury’s is also trialling a new format convenience store opposite the company’s London Store Support Centre in Holborn. The store, which is just under 1,000 sq ft, is the smallest Sainsbury’s Local to date and is designed to meet the needs of people working in the area who want to buy food for breakfast, lunchtime or get something on the way home for dinner. Sainsbury’s opened 98 convenience stores last year and will open one to two per week this year. Finding the right stores in the right locations is a challenge and this new format will open up more property opportunities if it proves successful.

Sainsbury’s Store Format Milestones:

  • Self-service (1950): Introduced self-service at London Road store in Croydon
  • First supermarket (1954): Opened first supermarket, in Southampton
  • First delicatessen counter (1971):  Opened first deli counter, in Wandsworth
  • Bakery (1973): Opened its first in-store bakery, in Telford
  • First convenience store (1988): Opened first convenience store, in Hammersmith

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