The COVID-19 health crisis has businesses rethinking future operations. In convenience retailing, newly developed store design and operations-related strategies are more than likely in the works now.
This point was made clear during a late April webinar titled, The Global Convenience Store Focus: Shop Talk Live, sponsored by Insight Research, a U.K.-based international retail strategy business specializing in the retail convenience and fuel industry.
The session introduced several in-store design strategies offered by Joseph Bona, president of Bona Design Lab Inc., New York. His firm provides retail design consultation services serving multiple retail sectors, including convenience, mass market and drug channels.
Bona said he sees “a heightened attitude of food hygiene and awareness” occurring with consumers. But one nuanced question is whether this attitude will be sustained or disappear once pandemic-related fears fade.
Consumers have increasingly been demanding food transparency, and that demand will continue to intensify, said Bona. One area he expects to explode is people demanding to know from where their food originated from, in the spirit of traceability.
Bona spoke of several both fundamental and seismic shifts across both store design and operations. Would sinks installed in c-store selling areas be embraced by customers or turn them off? How about wall-mounted hand-sanitizer dispensers? Could retailers find a way to more holistically promote “contactless” customer engagement in the store, including using smartphones to activate a no-touch transaction?
Others significant areas of consideration, according to Bona:
- Retail drive-thru formats. In the name of safety and sanitation, Bona sees more consumers adapting to this route, and he imagines that retailers could convert smaller, spartan and commoditized drive-thru windows to create a more robust, branded experience, one that more replicates the store experience.
- The future of self-serve condiment stations/coffee bars. Such stations, once brimming with packets of mayonnaise and ketchup, are largely out of commission. Will they become fully extinct or perhaps redesigned to offer greater sanitation? Bona wondered how the elimination of core components such as this would impact how in-store designers like himself establish future schemes.
- Implementation of safety ambassadors. These safety leaders are becoming prevalent in the grocery channel at store entries; perhaps convenience stores are next? The concept, Bona said, would create so-called “ambassador stations” designed into store blueprints, with health and sanitation the key motivator. The stations would be tasked with wiping down carts and baskets—and engaging store clientele to let them know the equipment is safe to use. “How do you turn a negative [the pandemic] into a positive? You [as a retail business] are here to help people,” he said.
With food safety top of mind for most all consumers—not to mention eco-friendliness and sustainability—here’s a look at six foodservice-centric product rollouts that are winning with consumers.