When The Unexpected Is Not a Good Thing
Mary Ellen Kuhn
Recently I set out for my local Safeway-owned Dominick’s supermarket to pick up a few items. The store is beautiful and only few years old, so I was surprised to see that it was slated for a remodel, apparently a conversion to the Safeway “lifestyle” store format. “Grand re-opening,” read a banner on the store’s façade, and then in slightly smaller print, “Experience the unexpected.”
The use of “unexpected” and “grocery shopping” in the same breath, as it were, made me wary, and rightfully so, it turned out. The remodeled Dominick’s boasts a Starbuck’s kiosk, a beautiful floral section and some other attractive amenities. And I’ve read that the lifestyle format is performing well for Safeway/Dominick’s. But for me, it was off-putting to head down the canned goods aisle, only to abruptly find myself in the midst of an aisle-interrupting display of exotic olive oils, trendy cook books (think, “Naked Chef”), colorful dinnerware, and fancy culinary tools like pepper grinders.
I get that this sort of set-up is supposed to add ambiance to the store — and maybe spark a few higher-margin impulse purchases. But the bottom line is, it got in the way of my objective — scooping up items on the grocery list and purchasing them as quickly and efficiently as possible. My Dominick’s (pre-remodeling) was delivering what I wanted and had come to expect from it — an ample assortment of the brands I favored, great deli items and baked goods, a well-stocked meat department, nice seasonal candy presentations, and aisles that proceeded prosaically and reliably from the front of the store to the back.
The heck with the unexpected! Like most regular folks with a job, a family and a few outside interests, I’ve already got that covered. Why only hours before my shopping trip the cat had thrown up several times, the powder room sink pipe spontaneously disintegrated, and my seventh grader informed me she was ready to begin dating! So on any given day, I’m simply not seeking more of the unexpected — and most especially not when I am in hot pursuit of the sliced black olives or creamy chicken ramen.
Not every shopping trip needs to be an adventure in experiential retailing. That’s what Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and the local farmer’s market are for. My suburban Dominick’s already had a meaningful niche — a great product assortment, pricing that was not over the top, excellent, friendly service, and beautiful décor.
To my way of thinking, that was plenty.