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Daring to be different.

Three independent yet interdependent developments will greatly affect the future of store design: (1) more extensive use of the computer, the computer monitor and video as a sales tool; (2) the concept of supermarket shopping as recreational and entertaining; and (3) sales floor departmental flexibility. With this in mind, let's examine some fresh approaches to food retailing.

The Grocerteria is a concept that utilizes computers, scanners, assembly line movement of merchandise, automat type grocery selection and departmental grocery drop-off. It is cart-free, unemcumbered shopping. Here is how it works:

Merchandise is fed from stock and prep rooms to refrigeration or shelving by chain drive conveyors. In the display, weight sensitive devices detect goods being removed, and move backup merchandise forward, keeping displays constantly stocked. Stock and prep rooms could be below ground or on a second level, which is particularly advantageous to stores with a space crunch. The biggest benefit: Excess handling of merchandise is cut down, reducing labor hours.

After the shopper chooses her groceries, she moves them in baskets along roller equipped shelves mounted on the case fronts to Scan Check Points in each department. She then places them onto the scanner bed which identifies items and prices to her on a monitor screen. By inserting her personal credit card, her account is automatically billed. The benefits are numerous:

* Both the store and the customer are relieved of the necessity of having cash on hand.

* Bulky carts and wasted space are eliminated.

* "Squash damage" to items on the bottom of the cart is eliminated. So is the "shopping slowdown syndrome" which occurs as groceries overflow the cart.

* The Grocerteria would be easier shopping for handicapped customers.

* Digital pricing bands located throughout each department and tied into the store computer and Scan Checks provide current prices, unit costs, weights, comparatives, nutritional information and cooking hints. Besides eliminating the labor hours needed for merchandise pricing, these computer monitors open up a whole new area of customer service through product information, as well as a brand new format for suggestive selling.

After leaving Scan Check, the items travel by belt to sorting and bagging stations. There they are prepared for pickup at drive-through or walk-through pickup points. Here's what this accomplishes:

* Checkout waiting is eliminated.

* Not having to hassle with bags is a plus for handicapped or older customers.

* All in all, not having to push or drag a cart would create an easier atmosphere where a customer would relax and browse. The longer shoppers browse, the longer they stay in the store and the more they buy.

Lighting is the visual element which most greatly affects the success of the Grocerteria's displays. Lighting must be totally task oriented, with critical beam direction.

On one hand, because most of the merchandise feeder belts and merchandise displays are behind glass, controlling the angle of light incidence is important in keeping reflected glare from customers' eyes.

On the other hand, accidental spill lighting onto a monitor screen will affect its readability. Much of the lighting would be accomplished by fluorescents within the cases, the point of purchase being 30% brighter than surrounding areas. Accenting is accomplished with low voltage quartz halogen spots. Ambient areas are dimly lighted. The Open Space Plan

Large corporations have long realized the benefits of planning offices and other necessary work areas using systems which allow change and reallocation of space.

Fashion, furniture and department store retailers are beginning to use these concepts to plan flexible stores, which can be changed and redepartmentalized. This presents the customer with the idea that a store is fresh and changing rather than static, and keeps shopper interest consistently high. The concept uses movable walls and access flooring for a totally flexible sales floor area. Here is how the walls work:

All nonbearing interior walls on the sales floor are movable panels. They can vary in height; lower, 6 feet to 8 feet for shelving backups; or higher, 9 feet to 12 feet for departmental delineation. They are independent of the ceiling.

Current existing movable panel systems work on locking retractable wheels, or on base supports, similar to present supermarket shelving. They are available in a huge range of finishes from steel, to plastic laminate, to sound soaking fabrics. All are fire rated.

Panel systems integrate means of hanging shelving, work stations, closets and storage units up to 500 pounds onto the panels themselves. And they can be internally wired. These "power panels" provide automatic electrical rewiring as panel configurations change.

Here is how the floors work:

Electrical, mechanical refrigeration, HVAC, and communications are run beneath an elevated access floor. The elevated floor is a series of silicate modular slabs, lighter than concrete and more sound absorbent. Each slab is supported and interconnected by steel plate connector/Pedestals. Completed, the access floor becomes a monolithic slab floor with a plenum below.

Current existing access floor systems sustain uniform loads of 250 pounds per square foot and concentrated loads of 750 pounds per square inch. They consist of noncombustible materials.

Moreover, the floor systems have accessory ramps, steps, handrails, electrical outlets, and HVAC vents.

All lighting is task ambient and fixtures are mounted onto the top of the panels. There are no fixtures in the ceiling. The ceiling itself becomes a luminous surface by the reflectance of indirect Metal Halide HID's. Task lighting is achieved with fluorescents mounted above the fixtures, or by low voltage quartz halogen tracks cantilevered off of the top of the panels. Occasional large high-tech lighting units could be used at department focal points.

The possibilities of a flexible workable environment are endless. Departments can be planned, expanded, reduced or eliminated depending upon their profitability. Areas can be boutiqued, departments can be moved, and more creativity can be allowed into the traffic flow plans without the risk of expensive failures.

Supermarket operators could profit substantially by stimulating customers and turning them on to the products they sell. Mental limitations created by the misconception that we can't be too different are the retailer's worst enemy.
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Title Annotation:store design
Author:Barker, Barbara G.
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Jan 1, 1984
Previous Article:Store of the future.
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