FOOD LION DEBUTS NEW NEIGHBORHOOD PROTOTYPE STORE

RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. - Customers are responding positively to a new Food Lion that opened here this past December with a new neighborhood-style theme, according to the company. This is the first of its kind for the retailer.Customer response has been "overwhelmingly positive," said Jeff Lowrance, spokesman for Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C. "We've been pleased thus far and are getting positive customer

RUTHERFORDTON, N.C. - Customers are responding positively to a new Food Lion that opened here this past December with a new neighborhood-style theme, according to the company. This is the first of its kind for the retailer.

Customer response has been "overwhelmingly positive," said Jeff Lowrance, spokesman for Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C. "We've been pleased thus far and are getting positive customer feedback."

The newly constructed, 38,000-square-foot store is designed to make customers feel as though they are in a street of the small neighborhood shops of generations past instead of a large supermarket.

"The design was based on interviews with Food Lion customers to draw from them what they felt about Food Lion," said Tom Henken, vice president and director of design, API(+), Tampa, Fla., the design firm with which Food Lion partnered for the project. "Three words consistently came up - neighborly, practical and dependable - so everything we did tried to emphasize that."

Lowrance said each department is clearly defined with different colors, textures and graphics. The grocery aisles are a little wider and the shelves a little lower to make shopping easier. Wine and natural and organic foods are grouped together and given more space compared to older Food Lion stores, and the store has an expanded beer selection. An exposed ceiling gives the entire store an open, airy feeling, and natural light accents the produce and deli-bakery departments.

"Since 9/11, people have been expressing a love of when things were so much simpler," Henken said. API(+) weaved that theme throughout the store, with hand-painted signage and backgrounds, to give the store an authentic touch. The company used digital wallpaper for the different departments from photographs of old buildings in various parts of the Carolinas. For example, the bakery is covered in digital wallpaper of a stucco building in Greer, S.C., and the dairy department has a digital background texture of a grist mill off the Cherokee Trail in South Carolina.

The exterior of the building is made of brick to complement many of the brick homes and other buildings in the area, and also reflects its timelessness; a blue roof resembles Southern home architecture; and it features old-fashioned-looking signage and lighting. The store has a gabled roof that visually cuts the elevation, giving it more of a residential feel, Henken said. This style is consistent with residential architecture, giving the customer a more friendly feeling as opposed to a big-box store.

At some point in the future, Lowrance said, this format will become Food Lion's standard store design. Four more stores with this design will open in 2006, but all other construction this year will be Food Lion's previous design, he said. The next store is set to open in Lyman, S.C., on June 14.

Henken said Food Lion's new prototype is unique, but it's also a trend evolving across the industry. "People are much more stringent on what they are willing to allow to be built in their communities," he said.