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Grocery Store Makes You Walk The Aisle

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Stew Leonard’s took a page from the Ikea playbook and designed each store as one long, snaking aisle.

Beyond that, it’s hard to describe how it’s organized. Yes, the fish counter is contained, and the cleaning products are all at the end. But A.1 and sea salt are shelved next to steaks. Ketchup and mustard are stacked between hot dogs and paper plates. And flowers face orange juice.

The occasion-based merchandising (as opposed to category-based) is part of what makes it work. Another factor is the sense of discovery you have wandering the aisle; there’s something interesting around each bend.

The store even provides entertainment and refreshments along the way: animatronic farm animals kids can play with, flat screens showing live feeds of their own dairy cows, and generous sampling stations.

As at Ikea, there’s one shortcut about half-way through that takes you to the registers.

Is it working? Called the “Disneyland of Dairy Stores”, they have a loyal following, a strong brand, a massive private label offering, and sales of over $300MM in their four New England stores.

The entire concept might be hard to replicate at scale, but what could other retailers borrow from them? The snaking layout? The games along the way? The occasion-based merchandising?

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