‘Heerlijk Welkom’ – Delightful Welcome – reads the text above the entrance of the new Albert Heijn pilot store in the city of Eindhoven. It indicates that this is a store unlike all other supermarkets of the Dutch market leader. “Indeed, this is a totally different experience”, says Adriaan Thierry, director omnichannel marketing & format at Albert Heijn. “This AH XL-store is a giant step ahead for us.”
Albert Heijn was in dire need of such a step. Because many Dutch consumers didn’t find the average AH-supermarkets that delightful. Nor did the stores inspire shoppers. It negatively impacted identical sales, as customers preferred to shop elsewhere. Albert Heijn had become predictable and average. The wow-effect – which outshines Albert Heijn from the rest – was lacking.
And the rest did move on. Especially challenger Jumbo, the retail runner up who launched its inspiring Foodmarkt concept 1,5 years ago. At that time, Albert Heijn didn’t have an answer, so it decided to start developing a brand new concept. Eighteen months later one can see in Eindhoven how Albert Heijn sees its future. That future is omnichannel.
The total floor space is 4800 square metres, of which the Albert Heijn XL store accounts for 3900 square metres. The rest is used by a 200 meter large Gall & Gall liquor store and the so called marketplace. This is the space right after the entrance where small local suppliers present and sell their goods in market stalls. There is also a coffee bar and seats where shoppers can enjoy a drink or eat food that can be bought there or in the store.
The store itself starts right after the service desk, which also functions as a pick up point for online ordered goods from Albert Heijns webshop ah.nl and from Aholds online subsidiary bol.com. This is one of the features where online is integrated offline. Outside the store there is a large pick up point for online customers and in the store there is a table where shoppers can enjoy a free coffee while using tablets to shop online or ask a staff member for help. The shop floor also has a special section highlighting a special item of bol.com. On tablets shoppers order this item or browse the nine million items bol.com offers.
AH XL wants to inspire shoppers with fresh foods and drinks, prepared on site by staff trained to present products and help shoppers, especially in answering the main questions: what’s for dinner? And what to cook within the limits of time and budget. Interesting is the use of wooden frames – inspired by Eataly – which indicate remarkable products and sections.
It can also be seen in the Allerhande kitchen, where chefs create friendly priced meals using ingredients from the store. The products are cleverly lighted and all important sections are indicated by eye-catching lightened characters. Albert Heijn also added hundreds of new items and ingredients to the offer. Therefore this large AH XL has 25 thousand items on display, which is more than ah.nl sells. In the near future however, the new items will also be online available. That’s essential in the omnichannel retail game.
A larger article I wrote on the new store and its strategic fit for Ahold has recently been published in the German trade publication Lebensmittel Zeitung. Click here to see the pdf files: LZ AH XL1 and LZ AH XL2