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Copycat Coles
October 18, 2009, 5:49 pm
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It’s becoming a game of ‘spot the difference’.

There’s some mentality that the moment your main competitor does something, you’ve got to do what they did.

When that something is ‘make lots of money and use it to completely change the layout of their stores’, it’s a bit more difficult.

One, it’s expensive. Two, they’re going to have a massive headstart on you.

So sometime when Woolworths was having their consultation with Hans Hulsbosch and started rolling out their new corporate identity, Coles was having a chat (with McKinsey, if the rumours are true) about its own identity crisis.

Lo and behold, a new store layout!

This humble observer would like to present to you what’s new, what looks suspiciously similar and where Coles might be breaking from the mould.

Could have come straight from Woolworths:

  • wider aisles
  • lower shelving, especially for health/cosmetics
  • brighter (white) lighting
  • dark backings for produce, more spaced out
  • red tiling behind the deli section, blue behind the fish section
  • clearer signs (although Woolies doesn’t have an ‘I’m here!’ sign for ice-cream)
  • huge cards with the store’s manifesto
  • actual aisle order is very similar

A bit different:

  • not using the ‘milk at the back’ strategy…but the milk aisle does lead you straight to a wall of chocolate.
  • lots of produce on ice. Actual ice. Fun for kids, but potentially messy (and is that actually good for veggies?)e
  • price tags are below produce, which makes them harder to see but also keeps you there just *looking* at it for longer.
  • produce is on those wood and stainless steel trays du jour that you just KNOW are going to look tacky in ten years.
  • more of a ‘local produce’ vibe
  • smaller trolleys for kids (not a big strategy thing, but they’re CUTE)

It might just be that there’s one unifying truth of supermarket layouts floating around in academia, but to me this copying smells like Coles is reaffirming themselves in second place. Like Pepsi. The subtle differences are there, but to your average shopper the only real difference in design is that Coles isn’t going to get sued by Apple.

Of course, this might be the point – to make the supermarkets as similar as possible so that the differentiation comes from other factors like range, price and location. But I don’t know if Coles is in the position to play that game…


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