A PIGGLY WIGGLY UNIT ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF MEMPHIS, OWNED BY THE SEWELL ALLEN GROUP, EXEMPLIFIES SOME OF THE MERCHANDISING STANDARDS THE ORGANIZATION IS AIMING FOR, PARTICULARLY IN PERISHABLES.

Fashioning Models-- As Agenda 2000 continues to evolve, Piggly Wiggly Co. intends to develop more specific guidelines concerning standards and requirements for each department in its members' supermarkets, Larry Wright, Piggly Wiggly president, told SN. Agenda 2000 is Piggly Wiggly's store upgrade program, which sets guidelines for merchandising and other efforts.One group of departments that will

Fashioning Models

-- As Agenda 2000 continues to evolve, Piggly Wiggly Co. intends to develop more specific guidelines concerning standards and requirements for each department in its members' supermarkets, Larry Wright, Piggly Wiggly president, told SN. Agenda 2000 is Piggly Wiggly's store upgrade program, which sets guidelines for merchandising and other efforts.

One group of departments that will get special attention, he said, is perishables.

"Although a number of our members have already upgraded their operations, the requirements outlined in Agenda 2000 are very general, relating more to overall cleanliness and sanitation," Wright said.

"But we want the requirements to be more focused, to help operators improve the perishables area and have specific operating standards to follow. So we are developing guidelines that relate directly to product offerings and the number of items stores should have and information on whether or not certain departments are needed for particular stores."

He said he expects specific objectives to be available for franchisees at the Piggly Wiggly Operators Association convention, scheduled for July 20 to 22 in Nashville. Wright told SN that in an organization the size of Piggly Wiggly, with the number of different ownerships, there are really no typical stores; however, he noted a franchised store near the company's headquarters here that was remodeled last year is an example of the kind of perishables operations Piggly Wiggly is striving to achieve.

The store is a Piggly Wiggly in an urban area on the outskirts of Memphis owned by the Sewell-Allen group -- one of 10 Piggly Wigglys operated by the franchisee in the area.

The remodeled store, on Madison Avenue, is in an older section of the city that's been restored over the past few years through gentrification, Rick James, president of Sewell-Allen, said.

According to James, the store serves an eclectic clientele of elderly patrons who have lived in the area their whole lives, young married couples who live downtown and professionals from nearby schools and hospitals.

Lex Sewell and Dan Allen have operated the 48,000-square-foot Piggly Wiggly since 1984. Last June, the company completed a $1.6 million upgrade that expanded several sections within the store, but did not expand the overall physical space, James said.

Produce is the first section customers enter.

"We spent a lot of time and money in the produce department, demolishing some walls to change the grid patterns within the grocery section to give consumers a better view of produce," James said.

"Our goal was to make a strong impact on customers once they stepped through the doors, so that, instead of filtering out through the store, they would move right into the produce department.

"We didn't increase the size of the department. But prior to the remodeling, there was a large 'wall of values' that took attention away from the produce department. So we removed that, installed vertical multideck cases and built the department out into the lobby area where customers pick up their shopping carts."

The store also increased itemization by 20% to give the store "the largest produce variety in the city," James said, and lowered the ceiling in the department by 6 to 8 feet to allow fluorescent lights to focus attention on the merchandise tables.

Piggly Wiggly installed a dark-and-light checkerboard pattern on the floor and installed 10 replicas of old-fashioned lampposts to create a sidewalk ambience "that would serve as quiet directional signals to lead customers through the produce section and into the cafe and coffee bar at the rear," James said.

The floor pattern and lampposts were also intended to create an outdoor ambience for an indoor cafe, he added.

The store added the Fresh Daily Bakery Cafe, and the adjacent coffee bar, "because this particular store attracts a lot of walk-in traffic where customers are not always in a big hurry."

The store also hired Chester Wallace -- Chef Chester -- as the company's executive chef to create a series of signature items in the home-meal replacement category, James said. "It's a pilot program that will expand as we grow, in which we'll try to tailor his creations to the needs of each store," James said.

The chef's purpose, he added, is "to create an atmosphere of quality of preparation in our deli-bakery area."

Chef Chester has already brought one of the signature items to Piggly Wiggly for which he's famous locally -- lasagna -- and the company hopes he will be able to create additional entrees that can be packaged and ready to go, "which will be our first move into HMR," James said.

Chef Chester has been making his presence felt with in-store demonstrations on the sales floor, and he's also offering advice on the store's steam-table foods, training the store's cooks, working with the store's bakers to add some signature touches in the bakery and helping to introduce a catering program, James said.

As part of the remodel, floral was moved from a center-store location separate from produce to the edge of the produce department, accompanied by installation of new floral fixtures, including a five-door walk-in cooler.

By moving the section, James said Piggly Wiggly doubled the space allocation for floral, which enabled it to add more variety in cut flowers.

The store also replaced existing cases in its service seafood department with European-style cases, plus a low-profile multideck case for self-service that added to the store's capacity, James said.

Although the store does not have a service meat counter, "we've brought the preparation area for special cuts into the front of the meat department, with the employee doing the special cuts visible to customers in a glass-enclosed cubicle just behind the self-service case, so he's available to talk with customers and do custom cutting on request," James said.