Shopping at Wegmans on a Sunday Afternoon

Discussion
Jun 27, 2012

As RetailWire readers know, I think pretty highly of Wegmans. But I will admit that it’s been nearly two years since I shopped at one of the chain’s stores. The reasons are pretty simple. Like many other American families (ours is slightly larger than the average), we’ve faced rising costs in an uncertain economic environment and have done our best to stick to our household budgets. Wegmans, with its European breads, patisserie, cheese shop and prepared foods, was a clear budget buster every time. Once in the stores, I just couldn’t (didn’t) resist.

Recently, however, I was given a couple of excuses to go back. Firstly, I recently received a gift card ($20) for the supermarket from a friend. Secondly, I was going to be near Wegmans as a result of visiting the local Apple Store with my daughters. All of us were excited about the prospects of shopping at Wegmans.

Upon entering, my older daughter noticed that Wegmans had changed. "I don’t like it, Daddy." The younger one was just hoping the trains that she remembered circling overhead at the back of the store would be there. (Thankfully they were.)

What my daughter and I had recognized was that Wegmans had switched to a more utilitarian look. Gone were the wooden displays in the produce section. Instead, fruits and vegetables were stacked on top of plastic containers used to store and transport the produce.

Areas of the center store appeared to have more of a warehouse club appearance to them and the frozen foods section, which had been tucked at the front right-hand corner of the store, was now dropped in the center/back area.

An interesting thing happened while we were shopping the store and mentioning that we were not fans of the changes made. We noticed the pricing. Wegmans was not only competitive with our regular grocery shopping destinations, it was often less expensive. Moving into the coffee section, my daughter saw the store sold some Peet’s (my favorite) whole bean varieties and the price looked good. Much to my surprise, it was not only good, it was a buck a bag cheaper at Wegmans’ everyday than it was at Target (or about 50 cents cheaper if using my Target REDcard).

With the excuse of the gift card, we moved to the prepared foods section of the store and bought a few items (the chocolates bought at the patisserie never made it out of the store) before heading to the checkout.

After we finished checking out and started to head toward the exit, my daughter asked me how much we spent. When I told her, she, like her father, was clearly surprised.

"We should probably shop here more often," she said.

We will.

Discussion Questions: How big a role does design play into consumers’ perceptions of a retail store’s product quality and pricing? Are there any in-store design trends you see developing at retail that will influence the shopping environment in the years ahead?

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15 Comments on "Shopping at Wegmans on a Sunday Afternoon"


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Robert DiPietro
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Design and merchandise presentation plays a huge factor in consumers’ perception of quality and pricing. The design in how the fruit and produce is displayed in the shipping container vs restacking is probably a way to save labor cost and reinvest it in sharper pricing.

The trend I’ve noticed is more utility with a modern flare. Polished concrete floors vs tile. More stainless steel and bright clean lines. Lower gondola heights and increased sightlines.

Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Smart retailers continue to adapt well to the reality of the shopper marketplace. This story is a testament to the astute management of Wegmans, who realized ways to cut costs, albeit at the expense of some of the memorable parts of the shopping experience.

It’s interesting that while change is processed as “bad” quickly by our brains, we can quickly move to “good” if the change makes it easier to shop, or in this case, makes it easier on the budget and allows for more frequent visits to a retailer where there is obvious shopper affinity.

Many shoppers who thought they would have or did experience the “whole paycheck” trip at Whole Foods have returned with a new-found way to take advantage of the good quality 365 brand options while still enjoying a few high-end splurges.

I’ll say it again. Great retailers are nimble and can adapt. By doing so, they recover shoppers and build affinity into longer term loyalty.

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I know of no design trends that will change a consumer’s perception of the store’s product quality and pricing. Just being clean, friendly and competitively priced will go much further than distracting designs.

It sounds to me that George had made the false assumption that Wegmans was high-priced and it kept him out of the stores. So you can’t afford to shop at Wegmans? To me I think one could not afford to not shop at Wegmans. Buying less food of a higher quality, you will be money ahead in the long run. Wegmans offers healthier choices while also opening up your world to new and better things. They might not have Aldi pricing but to me, they are a better value.

George Anderson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

David makes an incorrect assumption on my pricing knowledge. As the primary grocery shopper in the household, I spend quite a bit of time researching purchases and am familiar down to the penny with the items that regularly make up our family’s market basket. The Peets’ coffee example in the story was just one. I like many other consumers shop multiple stores in search of the best deal. Fortunately living in New Jersey, there are numerous nearby options so gas prices are less of a concern than in other less densely populated areas of the country. Wegmans’ prices checked against the receipts of other recent shops is more competitive than in 2009. That may not be true of all households, but it is of ours.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Let’s hope Wegmans isn’t merely drinking the low price kool aid like so many others.

But on to design. Design unarguably RULES. We have become almost a totally visual society and design is now the container for content. (BTW Chuck Longanecker wrote a brilliant article on this April 25 on Mashable.com.)

Why are so many drawn to Apple? Design. What is Microsoft struggling with? Design. Great content without great design is boring and often ignored. Great design without great content is simply art. What we need to stop doing is polarizing the two dimensions and learn how to have both.

In my experience it’s design that gets short changed. Having for the first time worked with an astounding identity/branding/marketing agency to launch a new product, I now genuflect before great designers.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Consumers expect upper-scale retail chains, supermarkets included, to offer certain premium goods and specialties, and they are willing to pay any reasonable price for these items. However, consumers do not expect to overpay for everyday commodities and heavily advertised and normally discounted national brands. This is why SKU rationalization needs to look beyond UPC rankings for determining a profitable product assortment. Consumers are willing to pay more for what’s harder to find.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

As the expression clearly states, perception is everything. As we navigate a store as shoppers we are constantly absorbing perceptions throughout that environment — sight, sound, smell, touch and taste (as George and his daughter can attest to!). All of these senses are specifically or subliminally processed and collectively get translated into an opinion or an emotional point-of-view. Being based here in Minneapolis, we have Byerly’s and Lunds which are similar to Wegmans. There is definitely a direct correlation between perceptions of the environment and the cost and quality of the goods sold. It’s interesting to listen to conversations amongst friends when they share their ‘discovery’ and surprise of a great value at Byerly’s or Lunds. The ‘word-of-mouth’ is indeed a powerful marketing channel!

Given the pressures of multi-channel shopping, in-store design will increasingly integrate more of the senses — smell, touch, taste, and sound. These senses are very powerful ‘perception’ drivers and are precisely those brand experiences that cannot be replicated online in 1s and 0s.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Log me in with Ian, Adrian and others who say design/perception is important.

The critical issue retailers so often miss is “consistency.” The delivery has to match the promise. Consumers don’t enter a Target store looking for Luis Vuitton — and they don’t enter Nordstrom’s looking for cheap chic.

This is where Walmart excelled, slipped, and now appears to have regained its footing. Now if only they could return Bentonville to the days when you had to decide which of the two BBQ restaurants in town you would choose for lunch.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 11 months ago

Tony store designs project quality, but at a price. If you are affluent, that’s acceptably nice.
So you go to Wegman’s or Lund’s and get an ego boost
Knowing they are not designed to give budgets a place to roost.

Nonetheless, we all want a piece of the perception pie
And quality is perceived by what’s in the consumer’s eye.
That said, the paradox on cautiousness now arises
Consumers carry wallets of many different sizes.

So future designs will innovate stores at lower cost
That will likely not be bitten by a retailing frost.
And lastly a word about Sunday shopping with Sir George,
“Give us a gift card so we can sail on your lofty barge.”

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
9 years 11 months ago

Design and pricing are big for consumers these days and no surprise when you “check in” at Wegmans that you find that they are leading on both dimensions.

I often visit to pick-up sushi for lunch. In addition to the quality, selection and pricing being great, the traffic in the prepared food/restaurant section is always very heavy.

When it comes to understanding and delivering on their customers’ value propositions, Wegmans is world class.

Brian Numainville
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Design plays an important role in communicating to consumers the persona of the store and the quality and value (not just prices) that the retailer has to offer. While a new, nice looking store can often equate to a higher price perception, it is important for retailers to blunt that by illustrating value received by shopping at their store.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
9 years 11 months ago

You don’t have to be the highest-priced retailer in the neighborhood to be the most attractive. Good retailers learned long ago that profitability is a function of turnover, not margin! An item priced to deliver a penny profit that turns 200 times a month produces more profit than an item with a 50 cent profit that only turn 3 times a month.

Additionally, fast turning items are often cheaper to order, ship, warehouse, stock and sell. High inventory turn should allow retailers to earn more profit and build better stores. Consumers perception of a stores product quality may be influenced by cleanliness, variety, and presentation. Two stores with equal cleanliness, variety and presentation will fare equally well with the consumer over time. Eventually, the most convenient of the two will win out in the market place. Convenience is often measured by how quickly check out is accomplished.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I recall my first and only visit to a Wegmans in the Baltimore suburbs and how impressive the store was to me. With all they had to offer and the beautifully displayed presentations, it still had a warehouse appearance. I am one who thinks the frills are not as important as the quality and consistency of the merchandise and, of course, the pricing.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I’ll be able to drop into a Wegmans next week and will be sure to take note of any display and merchandising changes. From the article written, I thought the display changes were the determining factor, but it seemed the better pricing made up for those changes. I feel that Wegmans is outstanding among the grocery segment in how it displays produce and other foods. Hope this has not changed as it is part of the Wegmans magic. The other magical element has historically been the good service and happy faces on store staff.

Justin Time
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Just for U from Safeway would save the featured shopper even more. Wegman’s has way too large a footprint, like its imitator, Market District. Cool places like Bottom Dollar with their walk-in produce coolers and Aldi with great private brands are kings of get in and get out.

If you want to pay premium, spend hours walking up and down this food circus called Wegmans, then go right ahead. Even the Teeter has a great selection for foodies and soccer moms without the large footprint. Does Wegmans give free ice during power outages? NO!!! Harris Teeter does, and they are a good corporate citizen to their surrounding community.

To each their own, but I’d rather follow a flying piggy bank around at Bottom Dollar than maneuver my cart around really slow foodies at Wegmans.

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