There’s been a lot of news  over the past year about supermarkets creating new stores to fit unique footprints. Lately, the emphasis has been on smaller, more efficient units. The customer sees that there’s an even tighter focus on fresh foods, while the retailer finds he has more flexibility with the new compact design.
Changes of a different kind are lurking around the corner, however. It’s not just about money. Social scientists tracking the aging boomer population are talking about the need for wider aisles and lower shelves so the cresting senior wave — active as they are — will be able to better negotiate their shopping.
And then there’s the ongoing obligation for supermarkets to provide not just what shoppers want, but to actively steer them to what’s good for them. More produce and whole grains, less packaged foods and processed meats. Retailers aren’t meant to play Mother (except for, maybe, the actual chain called MOM’s ), but there is a definite vibe coming from public health officials, Washington and the industry itself that stores need to improve they way they market their wares.
To that end, there are a couple of intriguing developments involving store design. The folks at GOOD, a multi-platform media company that includes a live events, community-building, a website and magazine, are asking their readers to design  their ideal supermarket.
“You’re pretty sure you didn’t go to grocery store to buy whiskey and Snickers bars but somehow they made their way into your canvas tote. Don’t feel too badly. Supermarkets are designed to make you buy more than you want,” the challenge reads. “GOOD wants you to design a better grocery store—one that encourages nutritious eating and corporate transparency.”
GOOD is urging participants to redesign the entire layout of the store so that it reflects “your food values.”
Meanwhile, a store  under consideration in Austin, Texas, is billing itself as “the first package-free, zero-waste grocery store in the United States.” Called in.gredients, the store is built on the concept of “pre-cycling” where customers bring in clean (ideally, already recycled) containers of whatever type that suits their needs, fill them with product and then take them home.
In.gredients will focus extensively on all-natural and organic foods, local items from central Texas and a merchandising scheme that creates as little environmental impact as possible. The store’s creators are currently enlisting support from investors.
From Wal-Mart on down through in.gredients, the common thread is the customer. What do they want? How do they shop? Where are they going?...
Sure, these formats are vastly different, but all retailers are on the same page when it comes to the most basic question: How can we do right by our shoppers?
[Photo credit: GOOD ]