VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Wild Oats Markets said it plans to import some design learnings from the chain's first new Capers store in 11 years, which opened here this summer.
The 20,000-square-foot, urban-looking store is in the first floor of an upscale residential condominium building. Its European market-style layout signals a drastic shift in the placement of perishables for the four-store Capers banner in Canada and for Wild Oats.
"What makes the store unique overall is that all of the perishable departments - what Capers is really known for in the Vancouver market - are in the center of the store, clustered together," said Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele.
"Future Wild Oats stores will reflect this learning," she said. In fact, the new Capers store is an "inspiration" for the planned Wild Oats flagship store, which is scheduled to open in Boulder early next year.
The first visual that greets customers when they walk down the stairs of the main entrance is a massive organic and local produce department. Dropped brushed silver lighting and colorful produce photos highlight the section, which measures 1,025 square feet.
Wild Oats stepped up the modern feel of this store, which utilizes "lots of natural light, concrete beams and brushed metal finishes," Tuitele said. Cases are low, so shoppers can have a better view across the store, she said.
Behind produce is an open prepared food section with a working kitchen. Thirty-two feet of glass cases highlight prepared foods such as tomato boccocini and panini sandwiches. About 20 feet are devoted to seafood, along with a local sustainable labeling program, Oceanwise.
While other Capers stores also have prepared food sections, they are not as prominent as they are here.
"[The new store] is larger, so it allows for the store to bring a better merchandised and more comprehensive offering to customers than the other stores, with some new menu items and additions like rotisserie chicken," Tuitele said.
The coffee and juice bar is also larger than those in other Capers stores, which tend to have more space restrictions. The coffee, juice and smoothie section includes a scratch bakery where staff bakes in front of shoppers.
Specialty items added to this new store include an olive bar with organic olives, and local artisan and imported cheeses displays, staffed with trained cheese experts, similar to Wild Oats' new prototype stores.
Although this is the first new Capers in more than a decade, Wild Oats said it plans to open more stores under the banner, including one in Calgary, Alberta.
Wild Oats acquired Alfalfa's in 1996, which had previously acquired Capers. New development was delayed by "changing ownership and shifting priorities," Tuitele said. Then, Wild Oats put a halt to new-store development five years ago.
Since then, Wild Oats' performance has been on the upswing and the chain has been more aggressive about new-store development.
"We believe we've perfected both the new Wild Oats and Henry's Farmers Market prototype stores, as well as our real estate model, and now could effectively grow the Capers chain," Tuitele said.