Why an Italian supermarket chain moved bakers and cooks front and center in its superstore – Morning Brew

Andrew Meredith
· 4 min read
This story is part of our weeklong series about key trends in store design. Click here to read more.
Supermarkets are designed pretty much the same all over the world. Shoppers enter and see a bank of cash registers, along with other people paying, pushing carts, and trying to mollify screaming children who didn’t get their Cocoa Krispies (or, depending on where the tots are melting down, their Choco Krispis, Choco Pops, or Coco Pops).
But not long ago, Esselunga, the supermarket chain in Italy, decided to try something different. For its superstore in Brescia, it shifted the typical supermarket layout 90 degrees to the right, positioning the checkout lines along the side of the store.
And now, when entering the store, what you see is not the banality of a gaggle of shoppers having their groceries bagged.
What you see is a show.
Mark Landini, creative director of Landini Associates, the Sydney-based design studio that has worked with brands including McDonald’s and Aldi and designed the store, said that Esselunga’s kitchens—arguably the heart of a store that engages with customers over its food—had been in the back, unseen by customers.
“They actually made a lot of their own stuff, but they made it behind the walls so you couldn’t see it,” Landini told Retail Brew. But in the store today, by contrast, “‘Here we are making it so you know it’s fresh,’” Landini said. “It’s kind of show-and-tell.”
Storytelling is a recurring element in Landini’s work. A Burt’s Bees store in Hong Kong that his firm designed, for example, features a large photograph of the eccentric co-founder of the brand, Burt Shavitz, tending the bees he kept in Maine. Walls are made of recycled shingles to evoke Burt’s shack (on full display in Azure Magazine), while golden lighting aims to create a sense of actually being in a beehive.
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Long story short: But Burt’s Bees is not the only hive of activity when it comes to retailers using stores to regale people with stories of their founders' pasts and passions. Because in an era of social media, when you’re as apt to follow Nike as your cousins or the Kardashians, brands don’t just want to collect from you. They want to connect with you.
The Body Shop opened a new concept store on Oxford Street in London in 2019 that celebrated the activism of the store’s late founder, Anita Roddick. The space featured an “activist zone” for customers to promote their favorite causes, and a donation box for the organization Bloody Good Period, which provides feminine-care products to those that can’t afford them.
The North Face store redesign that debuted in Soho in 2019 features museum-like exhibits about the brand’s heritage, including, as Insider reported, a glass display box with a tattered duffle bag used by Conrad Anker when he traveled to far-flung corners of the world as leader of the North Face climbing team. Another exhibit had a sleeping bag that fellow climber Emily Harrington used when stuck on the face of a mountain one harrowing night.
Scott Denton-Cardew, principal and executive creative director of Denton Cardew Design, a creative consultancy that’s done retail-design projects for companies including Levi’s and Nike, said he’s heartened that brands are dedicating space in their stores connecting with people, not just selling to them. But he stressed that stores should just be sure that any details they share have been vetted before they put them, in the most literal sense, on display.
“I think it’s important if you have a robust story—that you can’t punch holes in—to take a moment,” Denton-Cardew said.
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