Store: Tesco Metro
I’ve visited the Tesco Metro in Hammersmith a few times in the past, as a large supplier of fizzy pop used to have on office extremely nearby. I don’t think I’m being unfair when I suggest that the experience could often be a harrowing one – the sheer volume of trade meaning that the range was often blitzed and queue times could be rather on the generous side. Not Tesco’s fault by any stretch: being sited in a major transport hub means that shopper numbers are through the roof at busy times of day and the store’s quirky shape and the hefty number of pillars within it has meant that the store design has had to be unusually imaginative.
The store has just undergone a refresh and officially reopens next Monday, but I popped along this week to take a quick look and, as has become commonplace with virtually everything the Tesco London team do, I came away thoroughly impressed. As with most Express and Metro refreshes in London, the amount of thought that has gone into designing and ranging the store around shopper missions is a joy to behold and enhancements to the layout and checkout area mean that the shopper experience has monumentally improved. Significant queue times have been all but eradicated, except for the peak trading time of Monday evening, but even then, shopper throughput occurs at a very healthy tempo.
The store incorporates a lot of the by now familiar Tesco London kit. Bakery really benefits from the inclusion of the Euphorium and Bakery Project range. With a new Central Production Unit in Byfleet capable of servicing around 70 stores in the London region, Euphorium units will be popping up in many more Tesco stores. Bit of a win-win for Tesco, as the efficiency of off-site baking is combined with the undoubted strength of the Euphorium offer and brand.
The store’s ranging is testimony to the dual role that it plays for its catchment area. Until 5 pm, it’s a food to go store. After, 5 pm, it’s a grocery store. The food-to-go, produce and bakery departments take pride of place at the front of the natural flow through the store. Chilled is up next, with a strong range of ready meals and other convenience foods. The Finest PL range really stands out well here, although there is also a generous smattering of Everyday Value lines in a nod to the fact that the store serves an extremely diverse range of shoppers in terms of affluence levels. This diversity is also acknowledged by the inclusion of a nifty little world foods section, which houses a decent selection of Asian and Polish lines.
The food-to-go section is up to the usual high standards of all refreshed Tesco outlets and is matched by a nice run of whole foods opposite. The ‘healthy’ aspects of the range have been really dialled up in the refresh and the check-out zone is the first I’ve seen that has gone confectionery-free ahead of Tesco’s self-imposed pledge to remove chocolates and sweets from Metro and Express checkouts by the end of this year. That’s a savvy move by Tesco as it seeks to regain favour with shoppers and also a great initiative as it means us retail geeks get to play the ‘spot the confectionery at checkout’ game in January 2015.
The ambient grocery offer is very well ranged in terms of space allocation and pack sizes. Petcare, for example, gets just a solitary end-cap, while baby enjoys some more generous space as part of the household and health & beauty aisle. Booze has improved immensely, helped primarily by the expansion of the chilled alcohol offer from two doors to twelve. Non-food, meanwhile, is limited to light bulbs, stationery and tableware: just enough to cater for most distress eventualities, but not too much to take space away from the more productive food and drink categories. Overall, the mindfulness of shopper missions is reflected by the lack of buyer-influenced range bloat that afflicts some Tesco stores and means that expectations of double-digit like-for-like growth will be more than comfortably achieved.
The redesign of the queueing and checkout zone is the design team’s most glorious achievement. This is also of vital importance in a store that is the second- or third-highest Tesco store in the country in terms of footfall - it services a whacking 70,000 shoppers a week. For the sake of context, the stats for Carrefour stores I’ve recently visited in Paris are: hypermarket (32,000), supermarket (12,000) and c-store (9,000). The improvements have been made through the redeployment of space (over 25% of the store’s area is now devoted to checkout), the use of new slim line self-checkouts and a doubling of self-checkouts to 20. I overheard several shoppers voluntarily offering very positive feedback to staff on the improved checkout experience as well as one shopper heaping praise on the look and feel of the place, adding that the new layout and absence of clutter made the store much easier to shop.
There is a very strong service culture in the store. Being greeted upon entering the store and thanked when leaving it is a really nice touch and I doubt I’ve met anyone quite as friendly as the checkout supervisor for a fair old while. The rest of the staff, despite being insanely busy and facing the herculean task of working 140 cages in a stock room the size of a phone box, were all top drawer too.
All in all, a familiar story: another superb piece of work by the London team, so thumbs up for that, accompanied by the nagging sensation that Tesco really should be doing this sort of stuff (design, range, layout, service) across the UK as a matter of urgency.
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Store design: 9
Customer service: 10
Private label: 8
Total score: 43