“We’re likely to place a greater emphasis on neighbourhood stores over the next little while,” Woolworths Metro general manager, Justin Nolan told Inside Retail.
“One of the key trends we’ve seen during the pandemic is that customers are rediscovering their neighbourhoods and choosing to shop locally. We’re placing a stronger focus on our neighbourhood Metro store network presently, which aligns with these broader retail trends,” Nolan said.
While he said the retailer has “a good inner-city footprint” of Metro stores, the business will continue to invest in Metro stores “where we see the customer demand to support these formats”.
Similar to rival Coles’ neighbourhood concept, Coles Local, the Metro Park Sydney Village store in Erskineville is focused on providing fresh, artisan, handmade and organic products from local suppliers. More than 200 products have been sourced from 20 local producers for this range.
The elevated foodie offering includes gourmet hot meals, fresh sushi made to order by in-house chefs, pizzas baked on-site, an aromatic curry bar and a selection of vegan, organic, gluten and refined sugar free desserts.
The retailer said the flagship store marks “a significant change” in premium neighbourhood food retail.
“In these stores, we also see continued strong customer support for a range that is relevant to creating the meals at home including those from local suppliers,” Nolan shared.
QUT professor in marketing and consumer behaviour Dr Gary Mortimer told Inside Retail that consumers are looking for a more meaningful offer from their local store.
“When prices and brands are generally the same across all supermarkets, shoppers seek more. Highlighting other attributes that are more meaningful to customers, such as sourcing local or sustainable produce,” Mortimer said.
Return to old-school retail
In a first for Woolworths, the store also features a full production bakery managed by social enterprise The Bread & Butter Project. All profits generated will support training programs for refugees seeking asylum who are aspiring bakers.
Woolworths realises the importance of aligning their values with their customer’s values, noted Mortimer.
“Consumers are more likely to connect, engage and shop with a retailer that shares their beliefs. We all want to see big retailers engage in corporate social responsibility practices, whether this is supporting a local sporting club, or charity group,” he said.
And the theatrics of an instore bakery is only set to further elevate the customer experience, in a return to old-school retail.
“Customers want more than just low prices, they want theatre and excitement when they shop for groceries,” Mortimer said.
“Before the modernisation and homogenisation supermarkets in the 1950s, suburbs and towns were dotted with traditional grocers. These grocers offered local products, traditional old-world service – where meats and hams were prepared and cut in front of you – and where customers truly engaged with store personnel.”
He believes retailers are slowly returning to these values and making supermarkets more open and accessible to shoppers.
“The chrome turnstile is going and shoppers are able to come and go as they please, without having to line up like sheep to get into the store. Excitement and theatre is returning.”
Convenience of digital
While old-school values may be returning to retail, the rise of digital can’t be ignored. Woolworths knows too well the importance of a seamless shopping experience to its customer base. For that reason, like many other Metro stores, Metro Park Sydney Village includes ‘Scan&Go’ technology to allow for speedier smartphone transactions.
Mortimer said the technology works well in the convenience sector, when shoppers are purchasing small quantities in metro-style or inner city supermarkets.
“The main gripe that customers have after a positive in-store experience is [with] lining up, whether it is at a staffed register or a self-service register. This type of technology overcomes that customer pain point, allowing shoppers to grab a couple of purchases and simply leave,” he said.
The store also offers contactless grocery pick up at preselected times for those who want to avoid shopping in store altogether.