PUTTING UNUSED RETAIL SPACE TO MORE PRODUCTIVE USES

In at least some supermarkets, there's space that isn't being utilized as fully as it might be. In others, there's unused space in the parking lot, if not inside the structure. So why not put that space to more productive use?And, while we're thinking of it, why not put that space to some use that would challenge other retailing formats, along with producing incremental sales?After all, other formats

In at least some supermarkets, there's space that isn't being utilized as fully as it might be. In others, there's unused space in the parking lot, if not inside the structure. So why not put that space to more productive use?

And, while we're thinking of it, why not put that space to some use that would challenge other retailing formats, along with producing incremental sales?

After all, other formats exhibit no reluctance to offer product categories that have traditionally been owned by supermarkets. So why shouldn't supermarkets find ways to offer product that has traditionally been owned by mass, drug or other channels of trade? It was with such things in mind that the news feature you'll find referenced on the front page of this week's SN was compiled. The news feature, written by SN Home & Health section editor Mark Hamstra, takes a look at some of the products and departments many supermarket operators have utilized to expand their retail offer.

Let's take a look at two of the numerous expansion opportunities that are mentioned in this week's news feature:

Pharmacy: One of the more obvious ways to add incremental sales to a supermarket is to add a pharmacy department. Pharmacy is worthy of consideration if only because health-care service is one of the few components of the economy showing growth at the moment.

The department can be expanded well beyond filling prescriptions, though. As you'll read, some supermarkets have been able to partner with nearby medical facilities to offer health-oriented training sessions and the like in-store.

Moreover, the presence of a pharmacy in a supermarket tends to fix the supermarket in shoppers' minds as the best destination for various nonprescription items, along with a wide variety of nonfood goods.

Fuel: Suppose there's a vacant corner in the parking lot of the store. Could it hold a fuel center? In many instances, that's what's happening. Indeed, although this trend has gained momentum only in recent times, there are already an estimated 720 supermarkets that offer fuel, including those of such big operators as Kroger, Safeway and Albertson's. Many smaller operators have done the same and may have sparked this trend.

The added dimension of fuel centers is that they also can contain a convenience center. The factor to consider is whether a convenience center in the parking lot will add traffic to the supermarket or subtract from it. Many have decided a net benefit accrues to the business.

There are a number of other departments and store categories that can be added to a supermarket to enhance its value to shoppers as a destination for a wider variety of product needs.

Others mentioned in this week's news feature include photo finishing and in-store banking. There are more, such as liquor stores, video, shoe repair, dry cleaning and so on.

Take a look at this week's news feature to see what many companies are doing. Incidentally, this week's feature is another element in SN's 50th year commemoration, mentioned in this space last week.