INSIGHTS

Sustainable Grocery Stores: 7 Priorities for Greener Grocers

Whole Foods uses engaging signage to educate shoppers about sustainable choices.
Whole Foods uses engaging signage to educate shoppers about sustainable choices.

How can supermarkets be more environmentally friendly? 

There are few places where a consumer’s environmental footprint is more apparent than at the grocery store. Consumers shop for groceries twice a week on average, and close to 80% of those consumers are now interested in the environmental impact of their choices, creating new opportunities for sustainable grocery stores.

Today’s shopper wants to patronize stores that make it easier for them to practice a sustainable lifestyle. The grocery industry has been slow to respond to this need, perhaps because of the misapprehension that sustainability is expensive. In fact, sustainable store strategies can add significantly to the bottom line, while increasing customer loyalty and competitive advantage.   

Sustainable operations drive grocery store design decisions

When considering the environmental impact of your store, it helps to think about these key sustainable operations objectives:

  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Switch to renewable energy sources
  • Reduce emissions of super-pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from refrigeration systems
  • Reduce packaging
  • Encourage recycling and reuse 
  • Reduce food waste
  • Source products locally
  • Emphasize plant-based foods

Consider the activities and workflow needed to achieve these goals and how a grocery store design or remodel could support that effort. For example, if recycling and composting will be a more important part of your operations, think about how your physical plant could better enable easy transport, handling, storage, and removal of those materials.  

Setting these 7 strategic priorities will make your grocery store more sustainable. 

Priority 1: Choose sustainable refrigeration systems

Some of the most environmentally destructive technologies at use today are refrigeration systems that use Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are greenhouse gases with global warming potentials (GWP) vastly greater than carbon dioxide. They’re the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Per the EPA, a typical food retail store’s refrigeration system leaks about one-quarter of its refrigerant charge each year, which is not just environmentally destructive but expensive.

According to ClimateFriendlySupermarkets.org, the average grocery store emits 875 pounds of HFCs per year–the equivalent of 336 cars. With 38,000 supermarkets all pumping HFCs into the environment, it’s the equivalent of burning 49 billion pounds of coal a year.

Alternative refrigerants include carbon dioxide, propane, isobutene and ammonia, all of which have Global Warming Potential ratings lower than 10 (Less than 150 GWP is considered best in class.) Aldi and new Whole Foods stores are utilizing the alternative refrigerant Transcritical C02.

The EPA has created a Green Chill Certification program to recognize stores that have adopted sustainable refrigeration systems. The program is open to any food retail store in the US, and there is no fee to apply for certification.

Installing refrigeration systems and air conditioners that utilize non-HFC refrigerants will produce some of the greatest environmental benefits of any grocery store design decision you make. 

Priority 2: Think sustainable from the outside In

The lowest-impact “new” store is a remodel. But if the goal is to build a new, eco-friendly grocery store, sustainability begins with site selection. Building on previously undeveloped land creates a greater environmental impact and can reduce the likelihood of access to public transportation. 

When selecting builders, look for a company that has a track record of mitigating construction site pollution. When remodeling, have your architect and builder assess the existing building with an eye toward recycling and/or salvaging building materials. 

Other sustainable design strategies for the exterior of your grocery store:

  • Design your site to capture and even store stormwater runoff, which can be substantial from large store grocery roofs. Utilize pervious pavements (which permit water to re-enter the soil beneath)
  • Emphasize native and drought-tolerant plants, while providing ample shade to counteract the “heat island” effects of parking lots. 
  • Heat absorption can be reduced by utilizing reflective roofing and paving materials. 
  • Manage light pollution through mindful interior and exterior lighting design choices. 
  • Provide EV charging stations and preferred parking areas for hybrid and EV vehicles to support shoppers’ own sustainability choices. Amenities like bicycle storage and showers in restrooms encourage employees to adopt sustainable commute practices. 

Priority 3: Increase energy efficiency

Grocery stores use more energy per square foot than any other business. With razor-thin profit margins, grocery stores who increase their energy efficiency can see a significant impact on their bottom line.

Solar Energy

Thanks to grocery stores’ large rooftops, solar power is an ideal alternative energy source. Parking lot shade canopies offer another excellent opportunity for installing solar panels. As battery storage systems become more efficient, solar power may ultimately enable stores to become virtually energy-independent and more resilient.

Natural light

When designing and remodeling grocery stores, utilize natural light in your design from windows and skylights. Clerestory windows can be placed well above store fixtures to provide more natural light.

Not only will it reduce energy costs, but natural light improves mood and enhances productivity. 

One study of the effect of natural light on consumer behavior discovered that checkout stands located under skylights recorded sales that were 40% higher than those lit with artificial light. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology conducted a study that showed employees who worked in natural light reported higher energy levels. 

Make sure refrigerated produce displays are functioning

Spending a few minutes a day moving produce off the air curtain can result in tens of thousands of dollars of savings in energy per year in a large supermarket. (It also makes the produce section more comfortable for customers, rather than spewing cold air onto them.) 

Switch ice-bed seafood displays to refrigerated cases

Produce shopper

Opting for refrigerated cases instead of ice displays will have a significant impact on energy use in a grocery store. Producing ice with electricity is extremely expensive. A refrigerated seafood display uses $5,000 less energy per year than an iced seafood display, and saves 100,000 gallons of water annually.

Switch to LED lighting

LED lights reduce energy costs dramatically over conventional fluorescents. Even though they are initially more expensive, thanks to their long lifespan, LEDs reduce maintenance costs and disruption to store operations for change-outs. In parking lots, they provide brighter, more even, and safer lighting at lower cost.

Realistic lighting from LEDs reproduces the wavelength of natural light customers experience outside. In produce sections, realistic lighting has been proven to increase sales. The specific wavelength of agricultural lighting stimulates plant growth and slows deterioration, which keeps produce looking fresh longer. It’s estimated that prolonging shelf life of fresh produce by just one day could reduce the cost of waste by almost one-third. 

Renewables and Carbon offsets

Stores committed to carbon-neutral operations can purchase energy from renewable sources, including wind, solar, and geothermal. Maryland’s Mom’s Organic Market supplies 25% of its stores’ power with solar energy generated by a Maryland solar farm. In addition, the company offsets its energy consumption through wind power energy credits. Festival Foods in Wisconsin recycles heat from refrigeration units to warm its stores during winter months. 

Along with reducing your emissions, Carbon offsets are another way to reduce a store’s environmental footprint. When you purchase offsets, the funds are used for projects that sequester carbon or restore carbon-absorbing habitat like forests, wetlands and marine ecosystems. 

Uncover inefficiencies—and profit

To implement a serious energy efficiency program across multiple store locations, Taper, a B-Corp subsidiary of Ecology Action, specializes in scalable building efficiency. The company operates as a consulting partner and general contractor to help businesses achieve massive greenhouse gas reductions and operational savings–quickly. 

Priority 4: Pare down packaging

Favoring products with minimal and no packaging has a tremendous impact on the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Zero waste has become a goal for many grocery store brands. Food Lion has set a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. By 2025, 100% of the company’s plastic packaging will be reused, recycled or composted. Aldi has committed to make all of their packaging “reusable, recyclable, or compostable” by 2025, as well. 

Make recycling easier

Recycling is confusing to many consumers. How2Recycle is a standardized labeling system that clearly explains how an item should be recycled. Companies adopting these labels include Kraft/Heinz, Amy’s, General Mills, and Nestle. How2Recycle has also partnered with Walmart, Aldi and Target to ensure that their private brand products will include the labels. Stores can take this a step further by educating consumers about how to properly recycle different materials. 

A sustainable grocery store should make recycling and reuse simple, convenient and even fun. Stores can employ engaging, interactive designs that even “gamify” recycling and re-use for shoppers and their kids. 

Reduce plastic waste

Today’s shoppers are familiar with the gruesome statistics about plastic. Microplastics have entered our food chain through seafood. Ocean debris kills over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals annually. According to EcoWatch, in the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day. Recent revelations about how little plastic sent for recycling actually gets recycled has made reducing the use of plastic an even more urgent priority. Yet the convenience of plastic makes it hard to avoid.

Perhaps the biggest no-brainer of sustainability is eliminating single-use plastic bags, which spend an average of 12 minutes in use and up to 1,000 years in the environment. In August, 2021, CVS Health, Target, and Walmart began testing alternatives to the single-use plastic shopping bag as part of the 3-year-long “Beyond the Bag Initiative”, a challenge created by the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. 

In the produce department, compostable produce bags have become more common; Trader Joes began offering them in 2018. Stores still need to help consumers understand what to do with those bags to ensure they end up in the correct waste stream. Paper bags have made a comeback at some grocers. Reusable mesh bags are the most sustainable approach and can be merchandised in the produce department. 

Oranges in Mesh Bag
Merchandising mesh bags in your produce section encourages their use

Stores can also teach shoppers they have the option of not putting most produce into bags at all, since they’ll wash it before eating. Eco-friendly grocer Elroy’s Market in Monterey, California provides small produce baskets to assist shoppers in gathering items in their produce department, further reducing the need for bags. Once home, produce can be stored in reusable containers. Offering these new ways of shopping to customers takes effort and education in the form of signage.

Many grocers have also reduced or eliminated the use of plastic clamshells for certain produce food items, switching to cardboard-and-cellophane boxes.  

When choosing products to carry, consider recyclability or re-use programs that will help make your store’s offerings more sustainable. Some stores have stopped carrying beverages packaged in single-serving, virgin plastic containers. 

Encourage Bulk Food Sales

“Bring your own container” discounts for bulk food purchases can encourage consumers to buy more food that is package-free. Upgrading the design of bulk food bins and bulk food sections can help customers who’ve rarely used this option to explore the possibilities. Merchandising your own branded, refillable bulk containers and jars in the bulk food section can streamline the weighing process without the use of bags. 

House brands can reduce waste

The Aldi grocery store chain predominantly sells its own house brands, giving it maximum control of the packaging used. This strategy has helped win it recognition as one of the most eco-friendly grocery store chains. Target promises that, by 2040, “we plan for 100% of our owned brand products to be designed for a circular future. We will continue designing to eliminate waste, using materials that are regenerative, recycled or sourced sustainably, to create products that are more durable, easily repaired or recyclable.”

Priority 5: Reduce food waste

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 31 percent of the food supply purchased by stores and restaurants ends up in the landfill. Grocery stores may be responsible for 10% of all the waste in landfills. Food waste also contributes to greenhouse gases; if the U.S. can reduce its food waste by 50% it will eliminate 75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, too. 

Food waste has become an important issue for consumers and the subject of new government regulation. The EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy provides retailers with a road map for the prevention of waste and the management of inedible food waste. 

The hierarchy ranks food waste management activities, from best to worst:

1. Source Reduction: reduce the amount of surplus food generated
2. Feed Hungry People: donate to food banks, shelters, soup kitchens
3. Feed animals: divert scraps to animal food
4. Industrial uses: extract oil for fuel, generate energy from waste
5. Composting
6. Landfill/Incineration

Food waste reduction also pays off on the bottom line. A 2017 report from the World Resources Institute debunked the notion that food waste is an inevitable cost of doing business. Food retailers in one study earned an 8:1 ROI (for every dollar invested in waste reduction, eight dollars were earned.) But another experiment in Great Britain found that the ultimate payoff, when private and public costs were fully considered, was 94:1.

Some grocery stores now assemble boxes of imperfect produce to sell at a discount, as the UK’s Lidl does in its “Too Good to Waste” box. 

Understanding these priorities can inform the design and remodeling of stores, as well as operations, to support waste-reduction functions. Most grocery stores send food waste to outside composters, and some even sell the compost that’s created. Sustainable store design should take into consideration how best to collect, store, and move food waste.

Priority 6: Emphasize plant-based foods and humanely-produced animal products

Meat production has a negative impact on climate, as does deforestation for agriculture. A UN-backed research report concluded that the global food system is responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and of that, animals produce more than half. It notes that our current system of food production depends on “inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, energy, land, and water, and on unsustainable practices such as mono-cropping and heavy tilling.” Such practices have “reduced the variety of landscapes and habitats” which have led to the extinction of native plants and animals.

Moving toward sustainably farmed, plant-based diets dramatically reduces the amount of land required to produce food and the environmentally harmful inputs. Even when plant-based proteins are substituted for animal proteins, the impact is dramatic, because so much land is required to grow animal feedstock.

Stores committed to sustainability can reduce the amount of animal products sold and ensure that their eggs, dairy, and meats are from sources that produce humanely. Most savvy consumers insist on sustainable seafood and want to understand its source. Use displays and signage to make sure you tell the sustainability story for these products.

Education and awareness are key

Sustainable grocery stores can use in-store signage, discounts, and sampling to highlight and increase awareness of the most sustainable choices. By thinking in terms of “proteins” versus “meats” a sustainable store can help shoppers understand how to incorporate grains, seeds, and nuts into their diet. 

Plant-based diets rely less on processed foods, and for time-pressed consumers, this loss of convenience can be off-putting. However, it’s an excellent opportunity for the sustainable store to teach shoppers how to use whole, organic foods free of chemicals and pesticides—not just highly processed meat substitutes. Classes and vendor events at in-store teaching kitchens can help shoppers learn to create easy, appealing, healthy meals and to prepare less-familiar foods.

Priority 7: Favor local food

A centerpiece of sustainable grocery stores is local produce. In some regions, local offerings go beyond fresh fruits and vegetables to include locally grown grains and flours, eggs, and meats. 

By reducing the amount of transportation (and refrigeration) required to get their produce to the store, the carbon footprint of food can be lowered dramatically. Most sustainable grocery stores prioritize offerings from local farmers. The definition of “local” varies widely. The 2008 Farm Bill considers a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” to be one transported up to 400 miles from its origin. However, a 2010 study by the USDA found no consistently accepted definition. 

Some sustainable grocers share the names and locations of their producers to enable shoppers to make their own, informed choices. Others provide a “local” section, or even a store-within-a-store.

Not every market area has traditionally had access to local produce, especially cities. Canadian retailer Sobeys recently partnered with Infarm, a Berlin-based ag tech company that produces food indoors, in “vertical farms”, for urban markets. The vertical farming units can grow the same amount of produce as 100,000 square feet of land. 

“Smart” greenhouses and farms housed in shipping containers are another highly efficient way to intensively grow fresh produce in areas where traditional agriculture isn’t possible, or where land is too costly. One Canadian grocery store, IGA in Montreal, grows vegetables on its 25,000 square foot green roof. Green roofs can manage rainwater runoff and are increasingly being used for hydroponic farming in urban settings.

Local food production also contributes to economic sustainability and public health, according to a 2017 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The study, Harvesting The Power of Regional Food System: Investments Opportunity to Transform Communities, found “the development of regional food systems not only contribute(s) direct economic benefits to the community, but can also open the door for improved access to healthy food and other positive outcomes that could result in improved community health and a more productive workforce.” 

Take action

It’s essential that stores communicate their sustainability efforts, while partnering with consumers on theirs. Telling your story authentically, effectively, and consistently is key. Passive communication, through displays and signage, is one important method. Is it easy for consumers to locate organic, local, humanely raised, green certified, and fair trade products in your store?

It’s equally important to make sure your employees understand your sustainability efforts and and can communicate them with confidence and ease to customers.

For companies trying to build or remodel a sustainable grocery store, or planning to make existing stores more environmentally friendly, the Grocery Stewardship Certification program can help bring that vision to reality. It was developed to provide food retailers with a comprehensive sustainability program that also reduces costs and increases revenue. 

It turns out, sustainable grocery stores can be good for the planet and profit. 

Ready to Discuss Your Sustainable Grocery Store Project? Let’s Talk!

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The technology eliminating grocery store checkout lines

A smartphone displaying the Scan and Go app from Futureproof Retail
The Scan and Go app from Futureproof Retail

The pandemic pushed more consumers than ever into the online shopping pool, as even technology-resistant customers adopted and then embraced new tools. Rather than a reflexive return to old behaviors, shoppers are integrating new habits and applying new standards to their brick-and-mortar shopping experience. 

Retailers are scrambling to innovate, seeking to deliver the “frictionless” customer journey provided by e-commerce behemoths like Amazon and WalMart.

According to a poll by rewards app Shopkick, 60% of consumers believe that the pandemic has changed their shopping behavior permanently. That same poll confirmed that many shoppers continue to be concerned about safety while shopping in-store. 

BOPIS (Buy online, pick up in store) exploded during the pandemic, with 85% of consumers reporting increased use of this option. The idea of standing in a queue to purchase groceries seems antiquated to many shoppers. 

Contactless shopping has its limits; with 20% of in-store grocery sales made on impulse, getting consumers back inside is a top priority. 

As well, grocery stores are still trying to work out a way to pick and pack customer orders that doesn’t disrupt the in-store customer experience (or the bottom line). Some, like Kroger’s, have set up “dark” stores that function as customer-free mini-warehouses, to keep employees (and workers from outside services like InstaCart) from congesting the aisles of their stores. 

The checkout line choke point 

Patience is in short supply as the economy re-opens, with social media awash in videos of customers behaving badly. Stick points that were once a grudgingly-accepted part of the in-store shopping experience are creating unexpected, outsize frustrations and reducing customer satisfaction. 

Even pre-pandemic, according to a 2018 study by payment platform Adyen, long checkout lines were costing US retailers $37.7M annually in lost sales. The checkout experience, the least enjoyable part of virtually any customer journey, continues to be a ripe target for innovation

High touch retail stores like Apple and Bonobos have led the way in eliminating the traditional checkstand by bringing the POS system to the customer. (You may have to stand in line to check in to an Apple store, but you won’t have to stand in long lines to check out.) 

Ayden offers a single payments platform that enables retailers to accept payments anywhere, on any device, including web browsers, mobile devices and cash register systems. This permits retailers to offer an “on demand” POS at the optimal point in a customer journey, and to enable more store employees to function as cashiers. 

As retailers go omnichannel, systems like this can also smoothly integrate online and offline shopping experiences within a brand. 

Going cashierless: a tale of two technologies

While contactless payments and mobile wallets are now standard, true cashierless transactions are still in their infancy. 

Amazon threw down the cashierless checkout gauntlet when they introduced their Amazon Go convenience stores in 2017. The company’s Just Walk Out system leverages advanced technology used in autonomous vehicles, including, per Amazon, “sensor fusion, computer vision and deep learning”. 

Customers don’t need to download an app or have an Amazon account to use Just Walk Out to buy groceries. As they enter the store their method of payment is scanned; as they shop, items taken from the shelves are added to their virtual cart. If an item is returned to the shelf, it’s removed from the shopper’s cart. To exit, shoppers must re-scan their QR code, their palm, or the card used at entry. 

But Just Walk Out has not been without its detractors. “Computer vision” was quickly understood to mean “lots of high-resolution surveillance cameras”, and Amazon faced a backlash from consumers who felt the system posed a threat to their privacy. 

On June 17, 2021, Amazon premiered its first Fresh full-size grocery store that utilizes both traditional payment and the Just Walk Out technology at The Marketplace at Factoria in Bellevue, Washington. 

In 2020, Amazon also opened a full-size Fresh store in California that employs Amazon’s Dash Cart technology. Dash Cart enables shoppers to bypass checkout lines when buying up to two bags of groceries. 

Just Walk Out technology is not limited to Amazon, and is being licensed to other retailers as well. Installing the technology in an existing store can take several weeks. For new store construction or remodels, that company recommends that Just Walk Out be integrated into grocers’ store design. 

Future proof your business

Store signage for self checkout at Quarry Park Market
Self-checkout areas deserve an upgrade

For retailers who’d like the benefits of self-service, cashierless checkout but are reluctant to adopt expensive, infrastructure-intensive technology, FutureProof Retail offers the Scan & Go solution. Future Proof Retail collaborated with SIRL, leveraging the company’s proprietary indoor GPS technology to produce a “last foot” shopping solution for use with smartphones. 

The Scan & Go app integrates with virtually any standard point of sale technology and enables shoppers to scan and bag items as they move through the store, view a running total–including discounts–and check out, using their phone. In-store kiosks are an additional option for providing a seamless customer experience. There is a multi-layered loss prevention system, and the app can also make “smart” recommendations, based on the customer’s purchases. For example, someone purchasing tortilla chips may receive a recommendation for the store’s house-brand salsa, a high-margin item. 

Scan & Go includes a final scan of a QR code at the store’s self-checkout area to finalize payment and receive an “exit pass”. At this self-checkout counter, consumers can utilize any method of payment, including credit cards, debit cards, or cash; paper receipts or digital receipts can be issued. The exit pass process enables random auditing of bags, alcohol ID check, and interactions with staff. (Stores have the option of eliminating this step for true instantaneous checkout.) Even with human interaction required, wait time can be reduced.

Scan & Go can be integrated into a convenience store in its “Compact” solution for $75 per month per location plus 1.5% per transaction. The recommended “Standard” solution for grocery stores is $250 per month per location plus a maximum of .22% per transaction; the percentage drops with volume. The Standard solution includes white label customization and API access options as well as full deployment assistance and a dedicated Adoption Success Manager. 

Scan & Go is being utilized by a variety of retailers, and a version has been implemented at WalMart as part of its subscription WalMart+ program. Traditional cashier checkout and Scan & Go was recently compared in a review by Business Insider. The reviewer concluded that traditional cashier checkout was faster when the store wasn’t busy, when purchases included produce that needed to be weighed, or when customers purchased alcohol, which requires an ID check. 

While the review was based on the experiences of one shopper making just two identical purchases, it did highlight an inescapable reality of DIY barcode scanning: the shopping experience slows somewhat even as the checkout experience accelerates. 

But because long checkout lines produce such powerful negative emotions in consumers, this “redistribution” of time spent in-store can still yield higher customer satisfaction. As well, the increased interactivity and personalization provided by the app can produce higher totals at checkout. 

While Scan & Go effectively turns customers into cashiers by having them scan barcodes themselves, Just Walk Out is a faster, virtually frictionless solution. Speed and ease come at a price of course, and retailers will have to determine which type of approach delivers the best ROI for their business model. 

Rethinking checkout will change new store design and store remodels

By reducing the square footage of their store dedicated to checkout stands, retailers can win back valuable selling space, and potentially create a more compelling entry experience for their customers. 

One downside: checkout stand impulse purchases, especially the “power categories” of beverages, magazines and confectionery, are a significant driver of store sales and profit, and ensuring that those buying opportunities still exist is a cashier-less grocery store design imperative. 

Consumers who are no longer idling in a traditional checkstand line may actually avail themselves of impulse purchases that they might not have made under the gaze of their fellow shoppers, provided those items are placed in the flow of their newly streamlined shopping experience. 

King Retail Solutions recently developed a new self-checkout design for a major retailer and a CPG company that leverages this very opportunity. The engaging self-checkout pod created by the KRS design team provides impulse sales opportunities but also offers more privacy than standard self-checkout stations.

“We developed these new store fixtures to transform the final touchpoint in the customer journey to something experiential, rather than transactional,” notes Farrah Potter, EVP of Creative Services for KRS. “But they still ensure the most efficient use of floor space and labor. It’s a win-win.” 

As the cashierless trend takes hold, the look and feel of Checkout 2.0 will continue to evolve.  One thing is certain: the frictionless shopping experience consumers enjoy online will continue to drive innovation in brick-and-mortar store design. 

Ready to transform your customers’ checkout experience? Let’s get in touch.

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Will Ghost Kitchens Replace Grocery Store Self-Serve?

Kitchen inside of a grocery store.

As part of their grab-and-go offerings, many grocery stores offer shoppers hot food counters and salad bars. Yet with continuously evolving consumer needs and preferences, this might be a thing of the past.

Of course, people still want the convenience of prepared food, but self-serve models may no longer be the preferred choice for consumers. So, what’s next? Some signs point to ghost kitchens. The grocery store design consultants at King Retail Solutions are here to offer helpful insight into this trend.

What Is a Ghost Kitchen?

A ghost kitchen is essentially a facility where food is prepped and cooked for paying customers (not unlike a restaurant kitchen). Unlike restaurants, food carts, and drive-thrus, most ghost kitchens don’t have a dining area, takeout window, or storefront. Customers never see the inside because they only offer delivered food.

Why Some Supermarkets Are Implementing Ghost Kitchens

Since a ghost kitchen isn’t supposed to be seen by customers, it could theoretically go anywhere, including inside a supermarket. As grocery store layouts adjust to the changing demands (and appetites) of shoppers, many owners are considering implementing on-premise ghost kitchens. What’s in it for them? There are a few reasons why grocers are embracing the trend.

-Supermarket owners can charge rent for the space used by restaurants.

-Store owners can continue profiting off of hot food sales, even if the kitchen is branded as something else.

Deli counter inside of grocery store.

-Kitchens are inclined to buy ingredients and supplies from the grocery store.

It’s not just the grocery stores that profit, either. Building ghost kitchens inside grocery stores is a win-win, providing ample benefits to restaurant owners.

-By cooking food in densely populated markets, cafes are likely to see a spike in delivery orders.

-Forgoing a storefront and dining room means eateries can save money on renting or buying real estate in a popular area.

-Catering to the demands of modern consumers and saving money on real estate puts restaurants in a good position to expand.

While it’s tough to predict exactly where food trends are going, ghost kitchens seem to be a safe bet for grocers and restaurants, especially with flexible agreements.

What This Means for Grocery Store Design

Pivoting to a ghost kitchen model might seem simple enough—people were already cooking back there, after all. However, successfully implementing the change will require some critical thinking and the careful planning of the grocery store’s layout and design.

Textbook Ghost Kitchen

You can choose to take a straightforward approach in which customers order food from the ghost kitchen just like they would any other restaurant. In that case, you’d rely on meal delivery apps or an internal team to get the food to people’s doorsteps.

Integrated Approach

Alternatively, you could integrate the service by way of a one-stop-shop model. Whether on their smartphones or through a strategically placed kiosk, shoppers can order food from the ghost kitchen and bring their takeout home. For this model, you’d need to have some sort of pickup window.

In any case, the concept should be thoroughly fleshed out to ensure it’ll be profitable for all parties involved. KRS has a keen understanding of the continuously blurring lines between grocery and prepared food services, and we can help you connect the dots.

KRS: Your Resource for Grocery Store Design, Layout, and Planning Services

Overhauling your store (or even a portion of your store) calls for custom retail interior design. The team at KRS can help your supermarket create a layout that works for the unique needs of your business, as well as nearby consumers and any restaurants involved. From design and planning to fabrication, installation, and retail decor, we do it all.

Contact us at King Retail Solutions to learn more about what we can do for your supermarket or restaurant.

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This is Why Checkout Lines Need to Be on the Move

Self service checkout

Technology is continuously changing the way people buy food and other everyday goods. Digital advancements make transactions not only faster but also more accessible from remote locations. Shoppers feel the need for speed and have come to expect quick transactions.

The checkout stand, in particular, appears to be a point of frustration for the modern consumer. According to a survey, almost half of shoppers will abandon their purchase and leave a store after waiting in line for just 30 seconds. These behavioral shifts have an immense impact on how c-stores and supermarkets operate.

Here’s what owners should know to protect their bottom lines, including what to expect from the future of c-store layout design and grocery store space planning.

Why the Hurry?

As consumerism has largely moved online, people are used to being able to find and purchase items with a few clicks. As e-commerce evolves, consumers are presented with new ways to shop nearly every day.

While many grocery and convenience stores only sell partially online (or not at all), their tech-focused customers still expect a modernized, efficient, continuously optimized experience. If people can buy the same or similar items faster somewhere else (including on their smartphones), there’s a good chance they’ll do it. The digital world moves quickly, and stores have to keep up to stay afloat

How Retail Store Space Planning Optimizes the In-Store Experience

So, what can store owners do? Most importantly, they should amp up the brick-and-mortar checkout experience. Space planning can go a long way in minimizing waits, which can encourage shoppers to stay in line.

The Shift to Self-Checkout

Self-checkout isn’t exactly a new technology, but it’s becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, nearly 60% of shoppers said they’d remain in line and finish their purchase if there was a self-checkout option.

It’s important to note, though, that younger customers are more inclined to utilize self-checkout, whereas older shoppers prefer traditional employee-led transactions. 

At this point, it’s a good idea to keep some traditional checkout stations to accommodate older customers. Plus, self-checkout lines can get notably long, too, which might lead to resentful shoppers. It’s all about finding the right ratio for your layout and implementing an adaptive design.

The Future of C-Store Design

  • What’s in store for the convenience market in the near future? The trends we’re seeing include:
  • Contactless payment to accommodate customers who prefer a touchless shopping experience
  • Curbside pickup to accommodate shoppers who want to order online and remain outside
  • Integrated drive-thrus for online orders, hot food, and grab-and-go items
  • Partnering with delivery apps like Uber Eats and GrubHub to offer remote fulfillment

Creating innovative c-store designs is what we do best here at King Retail Solutions. Our knowledgeable team can evaluate your short- and long-term goals to come up with a plan that meets your needs while taking into account the evolving demands of your customers.

The Future of Grocery Store Design

If there’s one thing most supermarkets struggle with today, it’s slow checkout lines. However, many are remedying the issue by embracing technology. Here’s what we can expect from grocery stores in the near future:

  • Modular layouts that adapt to the evolving needs and demands of shoppers, such as portable checkout stations and moveable kiosks
  • Expanded grab-and-go offerings in checkout lines and on aisle caps to compete with c-stores
  • Minimized employee-led and increased customer-led checkout offerings
  • Curbside pickup for customers who want to order online and stay outside
  • In-store smartphone purchases to eliminate the checkout line altogether

KRS offers a wide range of innovative grocery store design solutions that balance the real-world needs of consumers with your bottom line.

Retail Store Interior Design and Planning from KRS

Traditional checkout counters aren’t quite obsolete, and yet they may not need to take up as much space as they once did. If you’re ready to modernize your store with an adaptable layout, the custom retail interior design specialists at KRS are at your service.

With a finger on the pulse of c-store and supermarket trends, we know what goes into effective, profitable convenience and grocery store layouts. From planning and design to fabrication and implementation, we do it all.

Contact KRS to learn more about what we do and find out how we can optimize your in-store design.

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5 Ways C-Store Design is Meeting the Needs of Grocery Shoppers

Convenience store exterior view

While the coronavirus pandemic has changed some aspects of retailing, grocery access remains essential. As shoppers try to limit the time they spend in crowded public spaces, they’ve turned to convenience stores to fill some of their needs.

With this in mind, c-store owners are rethinking their layouts and offerings to align with consumers’ changing behaviors and desires. Read on for a breakdown of the best convenience store design strategies for competing in an ever-evolving market.

Convenience Store Design Trends for 2021 and Beyond

King Retail Solutions specializes in optimized convenience store layouts, fixtures, and concepts that combine the best of both grocery and c-store environments. Some of the most effective retail trends in c-store design include touchless shopping, curbside pickup, drive-thrus, elevated food offerings, and delivery services. Here’s what you should know about adopting these ideas.

Touchless Shopping

Contactless services were a cornerstone of retailing in 2020. Touchless shopping experiences are a big part of this trend, and modern convenience store design is smart to embrace it. Adopting the strategy might involve motion-activated entrances, foot pulls for refrigerator doors, and contactless payment options, all of which KRS can help you design.

Curbside Pickup

C-stores have always filled in the gaps for grocery store offerings. However, as we mentioned, the current market has supermarkets competing with c-stores more than ever before.

In addition, many convenience stores are now offering curbside pickup to accommodate the needs of shoppers who may wish to remain outside. Whether for safety or convenience, consumers appreciate the option to purchase items online and pick them up without getting out of their cars.

Drive-Thru Services

Drive-thrus accounted for a striking 42% of all restaurant visits in 2020. Realizing drive-up windows don’t have to be limited to fast food and pharmacy services, some c-stores are implementing the concept into their layouts.

Your convenient store drive-thru can include pickup services for online orders. Customers can also pull up and request grab-and-go items without ordering ahead. KRS is seasoned in convenience store design, and we can help you strategize and create a drive-thru to meet the needs of shoppers and encourage repeat visits.

Elevated Food Offerings

Convenience store specialty food area

While some restaurants closed in 2020, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic heightened the desire for comfort food. People cooked more at home, but it didn’t erase the need for premade hot meals.

Aside from convenience and safety, this might have something to do with the uptick in drive-thru visits. C-stores have elevated their hot food offerings to meet increased demands for ready-made or ready-to-cook meals.

KRS has experience designing compelling convenience stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. Additionally, we’re well-versed in blurring the lines between these categories. Our award-winning c-store concepts include optimized hot food sections, refrigerated offerings with meal kits and ready-to-bake foods, and connected eateries for a one-stop-shop experience.

Delivery

In 2021, consumers want convenience. Though curbside pickup and drive-thrus help meet this need, what’s more convenient than having an order delivered right to your door? 

In line with grocery stores and fast-food chains, many c-stores are introducing delivery services. Partnering with apps like GrubHub and UberEats is a great way to evolve with the changing market. KRS can help you design a store that accommodates both shoppers and delivery drivers for safe, convenient, and efficient fulfillment.

Optimized C-Store Design from King Retail Solutions

King Retail Solutions is proud to offer innovative C-store solutions that account for the continuously changing real-world needs of shoppers. Our experienced and knowledgeable team can help you meet your short- and long-term goals while adhering to your budget and driving sales.

Unlike many other convenience store design companies, we can assist with every step of your project. From conceptualization and design to manufacturing and installation, our services cover all components of your reimagined interior and exterior layout.

Contact KRS today to find out how we can optimize your c-store design.

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4 Purchasing Behaviors Retailers Must Adapt to in 2021

Woman Stressed While Grocery Shopping

Consumer purchasing patterns continue to evolve and retailers must be poised to pivot and meet the needs of their clientele. What’s trending now? Purchasing patterns show a need for convenience, an uptick in impulse buying, an increased appetite for comfort food, and a desire for safety.

Purchasing Patterns to Look Out for in 2021

Here’s what c-store and supermarket owners should know about these changes and what adjustments they can make to accommodate shoppers’ wants and needs.

Coveted Convenience

In order to feel safe when buying food and other necessities, consumers need convenience. They don’t want to spend a lot of time inside stores—that is, if they enter at all—and are seeking alternative ways to acquire their meals and groceries.

Impulse Buying

Though a lot of shoppers want to get in and get out as quickly as possible, heightened anxiety might also make them more prone to impulse buying. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that making purchases can actually alleviate feelings of sadness. In today’s world, a majority of “retail therapy” occurs online, but stressed consumers also make impulse purchases in person, often at grocery stores and c-stores.

An Appetite for Comfort Food

It’s called “comfort food” for a reason. Many eateries closed in 2020, and a call for social distancing led more people to cook meals at home. However, widespread feelings of uncertainty may have increased people’s appetites for warm, tasty, prepared food.

A Desire for Safety

The word most often used to describe the coronavirus pandemic is “uncertainty.” For many, the future of work, school, and housing are ambiguous. Many people have lingering anxiety and depression regarding social gathering restrictions and, of course, the fear of contracting the virus.

All this uneasiness has contributed to a few notable changes in consumer behaviors over the past year. After all, what we buy, save, eat, and stash away is closely related to our current emotional state and feelings about the future.

Writing for Psychology Today, Utpal Dholakia Ph.D. explains, “When we are anxious, we naturally seek comfort and control over the situation.” The coronavirus has not only spiked stress levels but also presented consumers with very real health dangers. Understandably, this combination has led to an increased desire for safety at all times, including when shopping for essentials.

Whole Foods Personal Care Aisle

Address Consumer Needs With Your Retail Store’s Layout Design

So, what can store owners do to make shoppers feel safer and more comfortable while taking into account their increased yearnings for convenience and comfort food? Aside from enhanced food offerings, it comes down to providing consumers with more ways to shop and adjusting store layouts to optimize these features. 

More Ways to Shop

Modern retail space planning should allow for multiple ways to buy food. This includes traditional shopping and buying goods inside a store, as well as curbside pickup and delivery options.

Efficient In-Store Experiences

Offering consumers more ways to shop addresses the desire for both safety and convenience. Store owners can take this a step further by creating a more efficient in-store experience.

This might involve optimizing traffic flow, implementing easy-access areas with essentials, and honing in on self-checkout options. The right retail decor and signage can guide these features and help shoppers feel more comfortable in the store.

C-Stores and Grocery Stores Turn to KRS for Innovative Solutions

At KRS, we’re seasoned in planning and implementing innovative solutions for supermarkets and convenience stores. Not only that, but we have substantial experience blurring the lines between the two while incorporating other aspects, like drive-thrus, outdoor eating areas, and ready-to-bake food sections. Our team knows the ins and outs of retail decor too. From design to fabrication and installation, we do it all.

Get in touch with us at KRS to find out how we can optimize your supermarket or c-store design.

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How is Technology Affecting Store Design in 2021?

Smiling man using a mobile phone.

Technology is constantly changing the way people shop, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. These shifts in consumer behavior are having a profound effect on grocery and c-stores. 

Adaptable retailers stand to reap long-term benefits. Layout and design changes can make a significant impact on shopping behavior and your store’s bottom line. These adjustments don’t have to be dramatic to be effective. Learn how retailers can implement tech-informed design changes to help their stores thrive in 2021 and beyond.

E-Commerce Brings Focus to Store Exteriors

Due to the growth of e-commerce during the coronavirus pandemic, a good first step is to rethink the areas outside your store. Look to carve out ample space for motorists and pedestrians to pick up online orders. This could mean blocking out additional room for drivers to retrieve their orders and creating a designated section for people to queue up on foot. 

What’s more, technology now allows for even more creativity in the BOPIS realm. Retailers can build high-tech, high-volume pickup stations near their storefronts. These include staging facilities, walls of lockers, order retrieval towers that function like vending machines, and drive-throughs. 

In fact, pandemic-fueled online shopping is turning the drive-through window into a design staple. Retailers can add these low-contact pickup points to fulfill almost any kind of online order. A pharmacy window might multitask fulfilling BOPIS grocery and sundry orders. Grocers may even consider building an additional window to meet this increase in atypical drive-through demand. 

Don’t forget that your storefront encourages people to come inside to shop, and that still matters. Exterior design elements like lighting, graphics, visual merchandising, and custom displays around the exterior and at the entrance enhance curb appeal and can help inform shoppers of sales and more, encouraging in-store shopping.

Signage, both exterior and interior, plays a key role in helping pandemic shoppers navigate your retail space and feel safe as they do so. Customer path revisions may need to start outside the store, and lead the way inside.

How Tech Trends Influence Retail Interiors 

A drone used for retail design.

Interior design in 2021 is all about enhancing the “click and mortar” experience for your customers. E-commerce has become the norm and shoppers demand its convenience even in retail settings. Here are some ways you can use tech-informed design to meet these shifting consumer needs.

Apps

Retailers like Walmart use store decor to reinforce their apps. Signage incorporates the app’s logo, typeface, and colors. Store section signs reflect the simple navigation cues seen on a mobile device. All of this reminds shoppers to download and utilize the retailer’s app.

Bots and Drones

Drones fly overhead and assess inventory. Chatbots direct in-store shoppers to find desired items. Data from these devices can be analyzed to reveal what items consumers want most, in a process known as machine learning. Retailers can use this information to display those high-demand products in parts of their stores where they gain more visibility and thus increase sales. 

Shelving

Sensors and RFID tags can detect when shoppers pick up an item off a store shelf. This helps retailers track inventory and keep high-demand products in stock. Those same shelves might also feature electronic LED displays along their edges, scrolling user reviews and other product information that influences shopping decisions. Grocery and c-store retailers can add these features to existing store shelves, bumping up the value of a potentially overlooked space.

How Important is Contactless Checkout at Grocery and C-Stores?

Due to the pandemic, 87% of shoppers prefer stores with contactless or self-checkout options. Retailers can adapt store layouts to meet these demands. For instance, removing checkout lines that require cashiers and baggers and replacing them with self-checkout stations helps your store appeal to customers wary about the safety of face-to-face interactions. Customer path adjustments help them find their way to these new options while remaining socially distanced.

Some stores are going one step further and offering mobile self-checkout, so shoppers can pay using their phone as they leave the store. Walmart and Target employ sales staff to manage sales on the floor. Employees carry handheld scanners so shoppers can checkout wherever and whenever they’re ready. 

These changes are leading to store designs with less emphasis on traditional checkout, instead shifting toward digital payments. An experienced environmental design firm can help you seamlessly implement interior and exterior design solutions that support tech-influenced shopping behaviors. 

King Retail Solutions Provides Tech-Informed Retail Design

Look to King Retail Solutions to handle every step of your project. From design to fabrication to installation, we are your full-service retail interior and exterior experts. Check out our work and contact us to see how we can help your store adapt to meet new buying behaviors.

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7 Supermarket Design Ideas That Connect With Customers

Click and collect store entryway

For many, 2020 was a year of professional and personal challenges. Shoppers adjusted their behaviors to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and business owners found safer ways to get their products into shoppers’ hands. These shifts were particularly apparent in supermarkets.

Needless to say, the pandemic has changed the way people shop for and retrieve food and other staples. Grocery access is essential, and it’s up to supermarket owners to make the shopping experience comfortable, safe, efficient, and convenient.

Grocery Store Layout Strategies

Navigating the changes in consumer behaviors while keeping shoppers happy and protecting your bottom line requires critical thinking and strategic planning

So, what are the best ways to create an adaptable grocery shopping experience for a supermarket? In 2021, you can expect to see enhanced entrances, modular layouts, easy access to essentials, optimized traffic flow, efficient checkout, inviting outdoor spaces, and order pickup stations. These grocery store design ideas can help you connect with your customers’ current needs and drive sales. Here’s what you should know.

Enhanced Entrances

One important feature of today’s thriving supermarkets is an entrance designed to orient customers. Your grocery store already has entrances and exits. However, enhancing these spaces with a few key details can minimize the stress some shoppers might feel about venturing out to buy food.

This may include outdoor line markers indicating a safe distance and friendly signs noting any updated rules or what to expect upon entering. You might consider creating an open, decluttered layout with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for shopping carts. It can also help to have a designated greeter at the entrance to welcome guests and answer any questions they may have.

Modular Grocery Store Layout

If there’s one concept retail owners have embraced over the last year, it’s adaptability. One way to ensure you can adjust to the evolving needs of your customers is with a modular layout.

Consider switching out permanent fixtures with adjustable aisles, portable kiosks, and moveable shopping stations. KRS is seasoned in flexible store designs, and we can help you conceptualize a layout to meet your ongoing needs.

Easy-Access Essentials

In response to shoppers’ increasing desire to get in and get out as quickly as possible, many supermarkets are making essentials more accessible. In some cases, grocery stores are placing essential items on their end caps to create a more efficient shopping experience.

Additionally, this strategy might include a section modeled after a convenience store with grab-and-go items and fast checkout. KRS specializes in supermarkets and convenience stores, and we can help you create a layout that blends the concepts together.

Optimized Traffic Flow

Optimizing the flow of traffic is a vital component of making customers feel safe and comfortable. Aside from signs and markers, retailers are rethinking the layout of their stores to ensure social distancing and encourage an efficient flow.

The idea is to minimize shopper frustrations and maximize sales by allowing them to access everything they need. On the other hand, the layout should also feel natural and unforced. KRS can help you design a layout for a traffic pattern that makes the most sense for your store.

Efficient Customer-Led Checkout

Self-checkout isn’t a new concept, but it’s become a critical piece of meeting consumers’ needs. As more shoppers opt for self-checkout at supermarkets, store owners are finding innovative ways to make it faster and safer.

Creating self-service checkout stations meets your shoppers’ needs, but the benefits don’t end there. Since several registers can typically be monitored by one staff member, you might be able to reduce labor costs or reassign checkout staff to other high-need tasks like greeting or cleaning.

Retail store open-air exterior

Inviting Outdoor Space

Some consumers feel it’s safer to shop in open-air environments like farmers markets than grocery stores. As a result, many supermarkets are embracing new concepts with outdoor spaces.

These innovative layouts include fully outdoor, tented, or partially open areas where shoppers can browse or pick up grocery items. Beyond that, some are creating outdoor eating spaces where people can enjoy a quick bite in the fresh air.

Convenient Curbside Pickup

Though many of these design ideas encourage customers to enter your store, the reality is some people prefer staying outside. Whether for safety reasons, convenience, or both, you should consider including a designated pickup station for online orders in your grocery store layout design.

King Retail Solutions: Your Resource for Grocery Store Design

We offer innovative solutions that take into account the real-world needs of shoppers and retail owners. With thousands of store designs in our growing portfolio, we have the knowledge and experience to help you meet your goals while staying within your budget.

Unlike other supermarket design companies, KRS takes care of all aspects of your project under one roof. From concept, site survey, and design to strategy, fabrication, and installation, we can assist with every step of your interior and exterior grocery store layout.

King Retail Solutions creates compelling retail spaces and award-winning supermarket layouts that build on a store’s existing strengths while taking into account the needs of its customers to encourage repeat visits. We believe every surface and corner of your store has value, and we’re here to optimize every last inch. Our comprehensive services and capabilities can save you time and money in a continuously evolving, competitive market.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your brand evolve.

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The Importance of Site Surveys in Retail Space Planning

Interior layout of a grocery store.

Every inch of retail space has value. Adjusting and optimizing a current space can make all the difference in a competitive and ever-changing market. Ascertaining what interior and exterior space design changes need to be made starts with one crucial first step: a retail site survey. How you approach this survey impacts the effectiveness of your project and, ultimately, your store’s success.

What is a Retail Site Survey & Why is it Important?

A retail site survey notes, maps, and measures all existing physical elements inside and outside of a store, including the architecture and infrastructure. It’s usually performed as a walk-through, when surveyors take photos and record details like doors, walls, shelving, signage, displays, kiosks, and brand colors. They’ll also locate and review blueprints of the structure, noting any changes since the original build.

Collecting data is the crucial first step of a retailer’s infrastructure design project. This information guides store owners, procurement managers, and construction teams as they make critical choices about changes to interior and exterior spaces. 

Some businesses attempt to conduct their own in-house site surveys, which can be daunting, especially for chains with multiple locations. In addition, there’s much more room for error. Tape measures and photos can never capture the intricate details of a retail space. Invariably a measurement won’t get captured, necessitating yet another survey.
A 3D scan stores all measurements, making it possible for retailers to access them at any time. In fact, the surveys can be accessed via any smartphone, tablet, or VR headset. This is why more and more retailers are taking a creative and contemporary approach and hiring enterprising design companies to develop virtual, visual, 3D site surveys.

How a 3D Retail Site Survey Benefits Your Business

Virtual 3D view of a retail store.

A 3D site survey delivers the same information as a traditional site survey, including measurements and floor plans, but takes the viewer on a virtual walk-through of the retail environment. This interactive experience shows all angles of the store and allows the user to move about freely, zoom in or out, and explore all corners of the space.

This deep digital dive benefits store owners, procurement managers, construction crews, and adjacent teams in myriad ways.

Saves on resources. Hiring a company to perform a 3D site survey produces better results than trying to manage this step in-house. Relying on internal employees to procure equipment or undergo training for even a basic site survey costs companies time and money. 

Promotes collaboration. Digitized 3D site surveys are simple to use, for everyone involved in the project. The visual elements can be easily viewed and shared by stakeholders. Designers and installers can see what their worksite looks like, measure difficult to reach areas, and organize site documents in a collaborative space, facilitating proactive communication.

Informs all departments. From risk management and loss prevention teams to marketing and merchant teams, the site survey allows everyone to see exactly what a store looks like. Departments can utilize the information to inform current and future strategies.    

Ensures brand consistency. For retailers who manage chains or are looking to expand, hiring a company to handle the entire project from start to finish ensures that design elements are realistic, repeatable, and buildable across multiple locations.

There’s less confusion when the project moves out of one phase and into another, such as from the team who designs the signage to the team who builds it. Choosing a single comprehensive company often proves more affordable and easier to manage than hiring multiple contractors. 

3D Site Surveys and Environmental Design Solutions

Begin your infrastructure design project with a detailed 3D retail site survey from King Retail Solutions. We’ll handle all the subsequent steps of your project as well, including design, fabrication, and installation. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Is Your Store Ready for the Next COVID-19 Shopping Surge?

Reports from public health officials have estimated that the spread of coronavirus could continue for up to two years. They also predict that COVID-19 shopping surges won’t abate in the near future. 

In order to best serve their customers during these challenging times, stores have pivoted the ways they do business as well as adapted store layouts, the checkout experience, and more.

Meeting your customers’ needs means knowing their concerns and expectations. Download our infographic to get the details you need to know.

We offer a range of products for safer shopping.
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