Lessons Grocers Can Learn From Department Stores: Lesson One—Merchandising

By Andrew McQuilkin

Everything starts with a store’s product assortment and how the various sizes, shapes, and packaging of products influence the fixtures on which they’re presented. For both department stores and grocery stores, these fixtures have become highly specialized.

Grocery: The four basic loose fixture types include cold/frozen cases, produce bins, service cases and the versatile metal gondola. The tall gondola does the bulk of the heavy lifting around the perimeters and center of the store.

Grocery Merchandising
Brothers Marketplace – Medfield

Department stores: Forget just four types of fixtures. Department stores typically use upwards of 100 fixture types. Among the most frequently used are racks, hang bars, and tables for apparel; tables, cubes, low wood gondolas, and size-specific bins for home goods; and showcases and back islands for cosmetics.

Advice: Grocers should begin treating merchandise as architecture, just as department stores have done for years. The product itself is your best storyteller, and it should be the first thing a consumer sees, unhindered by the design and scale of a store’s fixtures. Imagine the product as the star of your show and the store as the stage set. While grocers can never have the breadth of fixtures typical for department stores, they should reconsider whether a beige metal gondola is the best way to display the vivid colors of apparel and beauty products. Spoiler alert: It’s not.

Andrew McQuilkin

For over 30 years, Andrew has served in key design leadership roles in the retail industry. In his role as Retail Leader, Andrew is responsible for leading the retail design and architecture team’s expertise in branding, store planning, interior design, merchandising, building architecture and rollout for retail clients. Andrew has extensive knowledge and background in the planning, design, and execution of specialty brands, gourmet grocery, and department stores with industry-recognized projects including six Store of the Year Awards.