We recently walked around Waitrose’s new store in Haywards Heath. It’s an important opening for the premium retailer, being the largest store it will open in 2017, the fourth store to include its ‘Kitchen’ concept and one of eight stores to include a wine bar. Meanwhile, the mezzanine café also plays host to a supper club where, on selected dates, diners can order a three course menu, including nibbles and drinks, for £35 – a concept trialled last year at its Newbury and Salisbury stores.
Here are our 10 picks of its best and worst points (see left for photos):
- The customer service desk is unbranded (see photo 1). Facing the customer on entry to the store, listing out the store’s services and comprising a familiar format – with a desk and chairs – it’s obvious that this is the customer service area. Spelling out that it’s a customer service area feels like it would be unnecessary and as it is, is refreshingly informal.
- Promotional ‘offers’ sections are scattered throughout the store. Whilst they grab the attention, they somehow don’t feel ‘shouty’ (photo 2). In fact, having these consistently branded, designated sections makes the gondola ends look smart – typically a fixture that can get messy. Meanwhile, the consistent use of the colour red throughout the store to indicate promotions makes the entire in-store promotional mechanic feel structured and it makes promotions easy to spot.
- We see the logic of putting the wine bar (photo 4) next to the BWS area, as customers can choose a bottle of wine from the section, pay for it (plus corkage) and try it at the bar. But it’s in a windowless corner, near the tills. Why not incorporate it into the (rather lovely) café (which leads out onto a terrace) – see point 5 below for more on the café. If you’re buying a bottle of wine to try at a supermarket, the jury’s out on whether or not you might want to drink it in the actual supermarket itself.
- The high-end ‘dry aged’ meat chiller, next to the standard meat counter (photo 3), makes for a nice piece of theatre that one would more typically expect to find in a food hall of a high-end department store. It has a halo effect on the standard meat counter by implying to customers that this is a retailer who really understands meat.
- The mezzanine café has a really strong look and feel (photo 12). For example, it incorporates walls of plants that help to break up the space. It’s the sort of styling that doesn’t typically appear in supermarket cafés, but rather more hipster spaces, such as Etsy’s Brooklyn, New York, head office or the plant wall in this Cape Town bar that we came across last year.
- Waitrose has used both fixtures and comms to good effect in the BWS area, to give visual cues of its pricing heirachy (photos 5 & 6). Light-coloured wood and statement lightbulbs with brass fittings indicate the fine wine area, which sits next to the more standard-looking, lower-priced wine fixtures. And there’s a chiller on the end for convenience.
- The Kitchen concept (photo 7) offers freshly prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner. Taking the supermarket ready meal to the next level, it seems like a sensible fit for the commuter town of Haywards Heath. However, there is an instruction directing you to the Meat & Fish counter for a freshly prepared dinner, ready to heat at home. Is that not the point of The Kitchen? On further enquiry, we understand The Kitchen does not serve meals containing raw meat and fish, hence the instruction to go to the Meat & Fish counter for this. The comms could make this clearer.
- We were unsure of what the ‘Discover’ area is to trying to do (photo 8). The language, ‘Discover wine’, ‘Discover beer & spirits’ and ‘pick a perfect match for your favourite food’ suggests its an inspirational area. But there’s also messaging around the Drinks Retailing Awards. And yet, the signage is scattered with repetitive promotional messages, suggesting it’s perhaps just a standard deals section. A clearer identity could help this section work harder.
- Colourful hanging graphics in the Seasonal section add a nice splash of colour (see photo 11). Perhaps they could have lifted the ‘Discover’ area (see point above).
- The Bakery, Deli & Cheese and Meat & Fish counters (see photos 9, 10 & 13) look smart, functional and honest. They’re a great demonstration of how sometimes, simple is best. Here and elsewhere, we felt digital display screens looked good and were being used appropriately. The industrial-style lights hanging over the Meat & Fish counter really set it off.