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Woolworths: Spot the differences
March 2, 2009, 11:17 am
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According to the Weekend Australian, Woolies has been recording excellent revenues these last couple of months, due in part to the $1 billion which has been spent on new store layouts over the last 6 months.

So when I had my first opportunity to visit the new Woolies store that opened up here a month ago, I decided to have a little game of ‘spot the difference’ to see what the big deal was.

These are just my impressions – if you’ve spotted something extra, give me a yell.

So what’s new?

As some of you know I was a little skeptical with the new designs, but I’d have to say congratulations to Hulsbosch for the new store layouts.

In short:

  • ‘Fresher’ – less clutter
  • Strategic presentation
  • Products placed by thought process

That ‘fresh’ feel

We’d already seen elements of this in the design of the logo; cleaner lines and minimalist elements.

They’ve continued this with everything from store layout down to font choice.

Aisles are finally wider, and the displays are almost regimented – your groceries are now in definite rectangular islands. Even the bin next to the lettuce has its own custom-fit niche…or the bin itself is custom made.

There’s large boards with close-ups of fresh produce, which seem a little like the new QANTAS menu covers (wonder why that is).

Signage also looks a lot cleaner. Handwriting is out and sans-serif is in. Even the pricing labels seem to be in a slightly different font (think bold Berlin Sans FB Demi), although they’ve retained the ‘fresh’ sign next to everything in the grocery section…just in case you didn’t get the message.

The only writing that isn’t following the new font families is the huge range of shopping bags now being sold. Go figure.


For some reason, everything is lower. Aisles now have space on top of them so you can actually see the signs for the next aisle. It’s like stepping into a well-stocked pantry of a perfectly-organised neighbour. Produce displays are also lower, made easier by the fact that the unsightly wooden-crate-stuffed-with-green look has been replaced by stackable black plastic.

Black and dark grey are new additions to the Woolies palette, particularly in fresh produce where they make the natural colours of the food ‘pop’ (special soft spotlights help here too). You’ll also note red tiles behind the deli section to signify meat, and blue tiles behind the seafood. Slightly puzzled by the large boards talking about the company’s more PR-friendly activities – light grey on dark? – but then again nobody likes a boaster.

It goes deeper than that, though. With red mostly gone from the store the feel is much more neutral. Floor colour is blander, lighting is bright but not harsh. It puts your focus firmly on the products.

They’re giving suppliers extra value with a cleaner look too. Colourful display boxes stand out much more both physically and visually. The ugly cardboard bins for bread are gone – I think there must be a .5m x .5m restriction.

Meds/shampoo section was particularly well done – vitamins section felt a lot more like a chemist due to shelving and display height (though I’ve seen that in Coles also), and the lighting for medical/chemical products had that clinical feel they strive so hard for in ads.

Product layout

You can almost follow a logical thought progression through the store. It’s easy to find everything – but they wave a lot of related products your way.

Classically, the milk is at the back. It’s quite clearly discernible from the entrance point…if you can get past the mounds of gleaming fresh produce. These are only avoidable by taking the bread aisle. You’ll be just turning away from the bread thinking you don’t have anything to eat it with when you’ll be confronted by the spreads section in the same aisle. Just a few metres away lurks the cheese, with strategically placed Jatz stacked neatly above.

Of course, when you do get to the back of the store there’s a whole wall of frozen goods, which leads up to another household staple; toilet paper. This will take you on a journey from the fresh to the dry/preserved, which quickly leads into inedible/chemical/nasty-smelling.

Even the counters are strategically placed… I note that there’s now a ‘confectionery-free’ check-out, which was placed next to the goldmine that is the easter eggs section – you have to walk past more specials and magazine displays. Incidentally they’ve finally realised that even if it takes up more space, they need to show the whole magazine cover at eye level.

The one disappointment was the Store Guide, which had pointers for Dutch Foods, Mouse Traps and Home Brew, but no clues about cheese. However, if you do happen to find the cheese it now has a handy poster telling you about the different types.

[Kudos also to whoever placed this store – they managed to get a great location between a fresh food market and a chemist.]

The conclusion?

I’m generally impressed. Supermarkets have the difficult balance of trying to appeal to a broad sector of society. The new design feels elegant but not exclusive. It showcases the products well. There might be a couple of things to iron out, and we all know that stores get dirty, but overall the customer experience is much better and should improve company performance once it’s fully rolled out.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Seems to me it’s a little like an anti Gruen Transfer approach. =P

Comment by Zac Martin

Theirs? Or mine?

Is it just me or is it ironic that the Gruen Transfer dissects ads when the term it’s name after isn’t about ads at all?

Comment by katherineliew

Theirs! Seems to me like they’re moving away from the white corridor, everything seems the same, bland look.

Digging the new layout here though!

Comment by Zac Martin

Haha it’s still very neutral but it’s more of a strategic bland as opposed to…bland bland. đŸ˜›

Comment by katherineliew

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