WILD TIMES AT STOP & SHOP

Stop & Shop's first in-store Wild Oats Holistic Health boutique has paved the way for the second of five test locations.From the time of its opening on Memorial Day weekend in a Plymouth, Mass., Stop & Shop, the Wild Oats-branded, store-within-a-store has garnered positive feedback from both customers and Stop & Shop employees."Since the boutique is staffed with Wild Oats Holistic Health employees,

Stop & Shop's first in-store Wild Oats Holistic Health boutique has paved the way for the second of five test locations.

From the time of its opening on Memorial Day weekend in a Plymouth, Mass., Stop & Shop, the Wild Oats-branded, store-within-a-store has garnered positive feedback from both customers and Stop & Shop employees.

"Since the boutique is staffed with Wild Oats Holistic Health employees, other employees in Stop & Shop have begun to use us as a resource to help answer customers' health and wellness questions," said Sonja Tuitele, the natural food retailer's director of corporate communications.

Meanwhile, customers like the fact that they can go to one store for all their shopping needs, which include buying food and natural wellness products and going to the pharmacy, Tuitele said. "We have received a lot of positive feedback about our high level of customer service in the department and knowledgeable employees."

Although it's still too early to determine hard sales results, a second test boutique opened inside a new Fairfield, Conn., Stop & Shop on Aug. 25. "We are still going through the test phase with the first store, so there is a lot we can't comment on, but a second test store [opened] inside an entirely new Stop & Shop," said Rob Keane, media relations manager for Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop. Three more test stores are scheduled to open over the next year.

"Since we opened the first test store in late June with a soft opening and haven't started advertising until recently, our early data is not complete," Tuitele said. "We would like to get the summer season, which is generally the slowest for any food retailer, behind us and have some fall months in the data before we draw any determinations about this first store. Additionally, once the second store is open, we will be able to combine and compare the two stores' results."

The first boutique will undergo increased advertising and some seasonal changes as the second test is under way. "We will change some of the displays and advertising messages to be seasonal, including a push around immune support for the winter cold season, which will kick off in October," Tuitele said. Current displays, sale items and advertising support "sun and bug" season.

The second test boutique opened with a 25%-off sale to encourage trial and introduce consumers to the Wild Oats brand. No changes were planned for the product selection or size of the Fairfield unit.