CANADIAN CAPER

Fresh and local are among the most important buzzwords in natural food retailing, and the new Capers store in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, uses them to great advantage.The first thing shoppers see when they walk down the stairs of the store's entrance, on the ground level of a residential building, is an expansive local and organic produce section. More than 1,000 square feet of wooden bins

Fresh and local are among the most important buzzwords in natural food retailing, and the new Capers store in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, uses them to great advantage.

The first thing shoppers see when they walk down the stairs of the store's entrance, on the ground level of a residential building, is an expansive local and organic produce section. More than 1,000 square feet of wooden bins overflow with about 80% locally grown products this time of year, including British Columbia apples.

In fact, Capers, headquartered in Vancouver and owned by Wild Oats Markets, buys from a network of about 50 local growers. Capers executives develop a crop plan with a majority of them, based on products they would like to see in their stores, said Aron Bjornson, marketing manager for the store, officially known as Capers Community Market.

The locally bought concept extends to Center Store, where Capers includes information on province-grown products on point-of-purchase materials.

"We're giving more information about products, from produce to grocery," Bjornson said. Foods prepared in front of customers are also a main focus, the same as with Wild Oats' new-prototype stores in the United States.

At the front of the store, a coffee, tea and smoothie bar is housed in combination with the store's scratch bakery, where staff bakes bread and other goods in front of customers. Fresh baked goods and local artisan breads are featured on freestanding wooden display cases near the scratch bakery.

In addition to fresh food, natural HBC products and supplements receive prominent attention in a separate, 1,085-square-foot Natural Living store-within-a-store. The department is located a floor above the shopping area, with different flooring, light tan fixtures and blue signage, rather than the green and black tones that predominate in the main store.

The department is also differentiated by reclaimed hardwood flooring, instead of the rest of the store's black concrete surface.

Education is a main focus of the department, and the store. A nutritionist is located on-site, though not directly employed by Capers. She consults individually with shoppers on their daily diet needs and works with them in the Natural Living section. With store personnel, the nutritionist has developed brochures, as well as a "Super Foods, Super You" meal plan for customers, outlining a month's worth of healthful recipes.

The store also developed a line of free educational brochures on general health topics such as Men's Health and Women's Health that consumers can retrieve in-store or from Caper's website.