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09. January 2017, Editorial

...and have been for 100 years!

Supermarkets are part of our daily lives, like the morning newsfeed, finger food at parties or champagne on New Year’s Eve. They satisfy every customer’s heart and tempt us daily with food from their extensive product range and various promotions. But a look back in history shows that this ever-present selection of delicacies was not always a given.

Thema:

pos concept
Retail
supermarket
transition

When Saunders discovered shopping

The first supermarket as we know it today was opened about 100 years ago by self-made American businessman Clarence Saunders in the US state of Tennessee on 6 September 1916. He introduced self-service and a complete range of food for the first time. He also introduced modern supermarket standards: Shopping baskets at the entrance, aisles to guide customers past every single product, placement of the most profitable products at eye level, reserve stock right above the respective spot on the shelf and a narrow exit area so that no one could slip by without buying. Whimsically named the “Piggly Wiggly Store”, it was the start of modern product marketing and the motto “The goal is to stay in people’s minds, no matter with what.”

Here to stay

Development of such stores was rapid – soon supermarkets were popping up like mushrooms. The pioneer in Europe was the Migros Cooperative in Zurich in 1948, followed by the self-service store KONSUM in Austria and the low-priced food retailer BILLA (‘cheap store’) founded by Karl Wlaschek in 1961. No longer simply places to shop, supermarkets today have become trend incubators, oracles and temples of pleasure for consumer experience and variety.

Retail in transition

Both the number of places to shop as well as the number of articles sold in supermarkets has risen since 1960. Over a period of just ten years in Austria and Germany, the number of articles has increased 130% and the product variations by almost 420%, while product life cycles have dropped by about 80%. This goes hand-in-hand with the changed shopping behaviour of consumers: Shopping has become a recreational activity. To name just a few common sales measures used in supermarkets, there are now ceiling banners, shelf stoppers, in-store TV, supermarket radio, shopping basket advertising, product samples, and discount codes and coupons.

halved cheese wheels pose rank and file on wooden beams whilst hams and salamis sway overhead like an image right out of an Italian holiday

Shopping as an event

Real ‘events’ – in the sense of special happenings – are a platform for companies to present products and services in an experiential way. Trend researcher Dr. Miriam Hauser labels the future ideals of customers as ease, familiarity and proximity to source. Supermarkets of today tempt with visuals of countryside origin, such as colourful vegetables in woven baskets sporting miniature chalkboards. Fruit becomes an island of wooden boxes piled with straw and halved cheese wheels pose rank and file on wooden beams whilst hams and salamis sway overhead like an image right out of an Italian holiday. The Swiss department store chain Manor has invested in a completely new store with an integrated supermarket of the “latest generation”, with integrated snack bars where consumers can get their food directly prepared to take away with them. The New York company Perch presents digitally enhanced product presentations with an interactive display technology. Even as the buyer takes the food product in hand, his smartphone has begun customer interaction by showing him pictures, videos and other interesting information about the product and its brand.
But it is not only international food retailers who are coming up with futuristic concepts. Future store designs will also need to let go of established ideas and stand out in areas where the customers are in their daily routine, where they relax, where they feel at home.
BILLA, Austria’s number one supermarket, recently introduced a completely new POS concept that focuses precisely on this approach. Inspiration, information, culinary arts and a distinctly higher level of service are in the foreground. A central aspect of the POS concept is thus communication through images, product information and the style of presenting the goods.

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