Albert Heijn XL, Eindhoven
Limburglaan 2, 5652 AA Eindhoven, Netherlands
The big supermarkets in the UK have been busy battling it out over price for what seems like an eternity. Panicking about the rise of hard discounters such as Aldi and Lidl, they are still bleeding profits, as customers desert them in droves and abandon the traditional weekly shop.
For more than a decade, the big brands have stuffed their stores with every kind of non food product, arranged with brutalist efficiency, and then seem surprised when we stop visiting and shop online instead.
In their haste to make us BOGOF and sell us home insurance, the grocery retailers seem to have forgotten that they are really here to sell us food.
Thankfully, there is a new movement in other parts of the world, to reinvent the supermarket as a proper food destination for the 21st Century.
It’s slow moving, but we think it is now finally gathering pace.
Inspired by the rise of slow food supermarket Eataly and the pioneering food format from Loblaws, which stormed onto the scene in Toronto at the end of 2011, finally the big boys seem to be paying attention.
The new XL strategy moves from ”doing groceries” to a ”shopping trip for food”. This next generation food store refocuses on foodie inspiration where omnichannel services are a natural and integrated part of the shopping trip.
Now, Ahold, owner of Albert Heijn, has revamped its XL format as a foodie destination, with this stunning new store in Eindhoven, designed by Swedish agency Blink, and Dutch Architects Classens Erdmann.
The XL format first launched in 2002,with ground breaking design. Over the intervening years, the format has grown to 30 stores, which have been looking increasingly corporate and tired.
The next generation XL is a revamp of an existing store, with fresh food at its heart.
The food market is a series of island stalls, beautifully cross merchandised with abundant market style produce displays. Most islands are manned preparation stations, with on site chefs for pizza, sushi and kitchen. A fresh prep juice bar sits at the heart of the produce department.
The graphic signature remains recognisably Albert Heijn, but the point of sale has been given a new chatty language and contemporary style. This enhances the idea of the store as a platform for enthusiastic experts.
Multichannel is obviously a key concern for all retailers and the new store has a click and collect drive through as well as mobile self scanning and some nice interactive displays.
The Netherlands has become a haven for fresh food retailing. With the award winning Jumbo Food Market, the urban cool independent Marqt, the ever popular La Place, and the amazing new Markthall in Rotterdam, the competition has become super fierce for such a small country.
We are waiting for the innovation to filter out.