In the spring of 2004, Food Lion unveiled a new supermarket concept that promised to make grocery shopping easier.
Bloom — A Food Lion Market, as the first stores were called, was often described as an “upscale version” of the Food Lion banner, although it was clear from the start that there was more to Bloom than a fancy remodeling job.
With their focus on in-store technologies and their innovative merchandising and layout, the first five Bloom stores were also an experiment to test how one of Food Lion's own core competencies — convenience — could be modernized.
The company had spent two years developing the Bloom concept before the first store even opened its doors, and then carefully studied the results, tweaking the format as management received feedback from shoppers.
The result is that Bloom is now a successful alternative banner for Food Lion, with 64 stores in the Southeast, and more planned.
Associate editor Jon Springer toured one of the newest Bloom stores with company executives last month in Fort Mill, S.C., and describes how the concept has evolved in its first five years in this week's retail feature story, "Hi Five."
Bloom's success through its first five years is a testament to the culture of cross-banner cooperation at its Brussels-based parent company, Delhaize Group, which for the past several years has been actively driving synergies across corporate divisions. Bloom was strongly influenced by Delhaize's European experience, blended with the merchandising and private-label acumen of Hannaford Bros. and the customer and market analytical skills of Food Lion.
Another, related factor in Bloom's success has been the company's dedication to making changes as needed — while staying within the initial core parameters.
For example, customer-facing technology was considered an area of opportunity, so the early Bloom stores were among the first in the country to use handheld scanning devices. Now Bloom has begun installing a cart-mounted technology.
Likewise, prepared foods were a central part of the original offering. But while the first stores positioned a prepared meals station called Table Top Circle at the entrance to the store, the most recent layout incorporates that offering into the deli area as a meal solutions destination.
Delhaize's careful deconstruction of its corporate silos and its never-ending quest to improve illustrate supermarket retailing at its best. In executing Bloom — and similarly, its Bottom Dollar and Sweetbay banners — Delhaize has actually created new brands, each with their own identities, both internal and external.
As Paul Sabattus, vice president of merchandising and training at Bloom, told SN, “We've shown the organization that we can be different culturally, and be grounded in having fun at what we do. Food Lion changed itself, and quite frankly, that's what gave birth to Bloom.”
Whether the Bloom brand survives for the long term is yet to be seen, but in the meantime it helps the company remain a formidable force, and the strategies that led to its creation will likely serve Delhaize well for as long as they are in place.