Fresh food evolution


OzHarvest Eden demos 2It’s day three of the opening of stage 1 of the $440 million Macquarie Shopping Centre redevelopment in North Ryde, Sydney, and I’ve made the mistake of battling the trolley and stroller wielding crowds who were getting in from the cold and seeking novelty in droves, in order to poke around the new Coles store.

This store is being advertised on Sydney radio stations as being ‘a Coles like no other’, but in fact I found it very similar to the Bondi, Broadway, and Balgowlah iterations I reviewed in Inside Shopper in January.

On this occasion there turned out to be other more interesting retail concepts in this new section of Macquarie Centre, billed as the Fresh Food Market, than the Coles. Some of these are reviewed below, along with Coles.


The concourse thoroughfare and café areas of the new section feature warm lighting and a combination of light and dark colours, giving the whole area a warm feel despite the openness and height of the high atrium style ceilings, which went some way to mitigating the claustrophobia of the thronging hordes.

The concourse also had a green feel from the Eden Gardens nursery plants and café seating, where OzHarvest was spruiking product via cooking demonstrations.

Nearby, Macquarie Centre staff could not keep up with demand for free pizza slices being giving away from a plant strewn kiosk at the top of the escalators (which incidentally was a partial cause of traffic bottlenecks).

Coles CheeseColes: Broadway, Bondi, and Balgowlah revisited

All the action was happening in the instore kitchen, bakery, and fresh sections at 2:30pm on a Saturday afternoon, evidently shoppers on ‘dinner tonight’ shopping trips. Off-location displays in the fresh section, such as crumpets and a Coles $1 sugar donuts display, had been completely ransacked.

The layout of the instore café, bakery, fishmonger, and butcher is all very much the same as the Broadway store with many blackboards, but interestingly not sporting as many offers on said blackboards.

The cheese and smallgoods section, one of my favourite parts of the store, was there, along with the gourmet foods bays, which rather than being on gondola ends as with some of the other stores, were located together in three bays in one aisle.

In my view these were lost here and are better as back end gondola displays or even off-location displays near the cheese, if the economics of the back end gondolas is that the space has to be sold to manufacturers for promotions.

There were not many shoppers in the centre store aisles. What was noticeable in the centre store aisles versus other Coles stores were the aisle blades (fins).

Some of these promoted overall store value, and some promoted individual product specials. Coles has been sensible with these and kept them to one or two per aisle so they don’t become visual wallpaper, and the product specific fins are well executed right next to the product they are promoting.

Aldi section overhead nav signageAldi: more of the same, but slightly more pleasant

Unlike Coles, in theory Aldi is normally all about the centre of the store because that’s where its ‘treasure hunt’ items reside, however, on this occasion the selection of fitness kettlebells and medicine balls evidently didn’t appeal to treasure hunting shoppers, as it was reasonably intact.

This store looks pretty much like any other Aldi, except with wider aisles, better navigational signage, and sexier shelf lighting (all in Aldi terms). The shelf lighting is mainly in health and beauty products and is taking a leaf from the Coles and Woolworths books.

Also notable is that this store has a number of checkouts, rather than the usual one or two.

Overall it felt neater, lighter, brighter and more spacious than the usual Aldi.

Inlakesh: ‘Living Foods’

Inlakesh 2This combination organic grocer and instore café and delicatessen with a Mayan name meaning ‘we are different faces of each other’ is a similar concept to AboutLife, or the old Macro supermarkets and BaySwiss (without the homewares), if anyone remembers them.

Inlakesh’s health foods and organic colours are nailed to the mast upfront, with an off-location display at the front of the store of kale stalks for $2.

The small store footprint has compromised the space for centre aisle product stock, and there is only seating in the café for half a dozen or so people, but all areas of the store were humming. It provides an alternative to the mainstream packaged food offers of Coles and Woolworths.

What’s Cooking: Williams Sonoma Lite

What’s Cooking is like a smaller Williams Sonoma, but with perhaps more focus on tableware and less on appliances.

Product demonstrations out front of the mixers showcased in the store windows are designed to help sell the sleek coloured blenders that come priced at $800 a pop.

Instore it’s very light, bright, and white, with nicely themed bays of coloured crockery and novelty mugs, but its long narrow layout meant on a crowded day such as this it was easy for shoppers to get in each other’s way on entry and exit.

This store came over like a cut down cross between Home and Williams Sonoma, but the latter does it better.

BOQ 1It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … a bank!

What the BOQ (Bank of Queensland) were doing was interesting.

Looking more like a cross between a homewares store and a telco store with warm colours, felt wallpaper, bookshelves with knickknacks, and a concierge making coffee, the only nods to banking at all were benches with stools and computer screens. There were no evident tellers or queuing points at all.

A sign on a wall panel out the front proclaimed ‘Yes, we’re a bank’, just to make it clear.

It definitely looks warm and friendly, befitting the BOQ approachable and slightly quirky brand personality, and would be welcomed by existing BOQ customers.

I wonder whether non-BOQ shoppers understand that it is even a bank, despite the sign. I would be very interested to hear what this store’s customer acquisition rates versus its other retail shopfronts are.

Daiso JapanAnd then there’s Daiso Japan

A Japanese version of Hot Dollar or The Reject Shop, with 3500 stores worldwide, but currently fewer than 20 in Australia, it has eight macro departments including food and drink, and everything in the store is $2.80.

It has the typical Japanese really bright fluoro lighting, walls of girly pink, and purple packaging and POS.

There wasn’t much in the way of aisle navigation signage, but the bright colours and novelty factor meant the store was absolutely full and the horrendous queues for the checkouts went from the front to the back of the store. With only two to three checkouts, it had underestimated traffic on this opening weekend.


There were a number of other retailers in this new section of the centre, including an Amcal pharmacy, Habitania, Vintage Cellars, Pancetta fresh foods, and a gourmet butcher, but none of those were doing anything new or different from a retail perspective.

Interesting then, that of the retail offers in this new section of Macquarie Centre, that the most revolutionary was a bank.

The new fashion precinct opens at Macquarie Centre in October 2014, and will include some of the top international names. If the Fresh Food Market is anything to go by, we should be seeing some more retail evolution, rather than revolution, at Macquarie in October.

 Norrelle Goldring is head of shopper experience and retail performance at GfK, and has 14 years’ experience in shopper research. She can be contacted on 0437 335 686 or



  1. Branden Lee posted on July 29, 2014

    I must question if you actually even went to the centre opening you are talking about...? if you think that the Bank was the most interesting tenancy then you either have zero design knowledge or you didn’t actually go..? The Butcher for example was judged as one of the most impressive butchers in any landlord centre in the country. And along with the Fruit & Veg and Seafood offer (which hardly even get a mention) I think you missed half the centre. Why anyone would take photos of the "Bank" and "Daiso" as good examples is beyond me....

    • Norrelle posted on July 29, 2014

      HI Branden I come at it from a shopper's experience and point of view, not a shopfitter's or designers viewpoint. I think Harris Farm and even somewhere like Golden Banana in Top Ryde do it better than what I saw in Pancetta, the fruit & veg store you refer to. The Costis was a slicker version of their stores elsewhere. And whilst the butcher looked premium I wasn't seeing anything revolutionary in offer versus what some independent butchers do. The Daiso rated a mention because it's comparatively new. Note I didn't say better or different. Sample of one. Norrelle

      • Luke R posted on August 5, 2014

        Norrelle...sample of two! Why Australia has to suffer bad design and bad retailing is very irritating. One trip overseas is like a revelation on how to do it "right"

  2. Luke R posted on August 5, 2014

    The person who wrote this article must have just passed through quickly or spent all their time in the Coles. Whilst it is new and clean, this is perhaps the most unpleasant "food court" I have ever been to with seething, unmoveable crowds not doing anything except stumbling over one another. Appallingly designed, especially having an escalator smack in the middle breaking up the flow causing people jams and noise. Parking lot aside, a dreadful experience.

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