Recently a new breed of supermarket, termed boutique, has grabbed my attention. Take Ole for example, its outlets are set up in several tier-one and tier-two cities nationwide including a new store in Shanghai that opened for business a couple of months ago. Located at Grand Gateway in downtown Xujiahui, it covers a small area, drives relatively small-time traffic (targeting the elite customer), and sells more than 70% import-oriented commodities. Items like organic food, cheese and meat products, fresh seafood and sushi, pastries, wines and spirits, chocolate, and more. The aesthetics of the store environment are high-end and fashionable and can be seen from the moment you step in, with its eye-catching entrance, ornamented by chandeliers and flowers. The feature that impressed me the most was a triangular wine area where various bottles of wines from all over the world are displayed atop shelves along the wall of a huge transparent wine cellar that sits in the middle. Walking through the store, you notice the absence of POS merchandisingor promotions, and instead there are friendly shop assistants with nice smiles there to help you navigate the store.It’s like shopping in a wine paradise, a snack wonderland, and a really fantastic place to feel happy looking around. Getting myself a bar of imported chocolate or a box of sushi is the perfect treat after a hectic day of work. And during the weekends, a lecture on wine culture or flower arrangement or cooking taught live by experts delivers a brilliant experience I would have never expected in an ordinary supermarket.
This new brand of boutique supermarkets seamlessly integrates luxury shopping, catering, and recreation into a category traditionally designed for form and function. Can this hybrid of function and fashion, necessity and exploration become the supermarket of the future, a place of fulfillment and lifestyle experiences in the supermarket channel?Or will the premium price that comes along with the high-end experience detract from the idea of shopping the supermarket for day-to-day needs, making it a secondary choice for everyday needs, and become more of an occasional indulgence? Boutique supermarkets may not become the store of the future for the everyday shopper; however, retailers like Ole have certainly made an impact on the culture of shopping in Shanghai. It’s deeply embedded into the minds, hearts, and wallets of the younger and more affluent generations.
-Contributed by Annie Wang, Integer Shanghai