I recently wrote a story about how the grocery store of the future may not have toilet paper. The article is about how long the successful Chicago grocer Bob Mariano sees the future of grocery stores. He’s in smaller stores, delivering non-perishable goods and ready-made meals to your home. Here’s another depiction of the grocery store of the future from BRR Architects, a national design firm headquartered in Overland Park.
BRR Architects designs many things including grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations. In terms of grocery stores, they’ve designed stores for Hy-Vee, Walmart, Whole Foods, Schnucks, and even a shop for Bob Mariano that I wrote about in Chicago when he was at Roundy’s / Kroger in 2016. So you know what you’re talking about.
According to BRR Architects, the grocery store of the future looks more like a town square in a blog Katie Crawford posted on her website. Part of BRR Architects’ vision is to optimize store exteriors to get those shopping online and in-store pickups out of their cars.
Her vision includes areas where customers can pull up or drive through to pick up last minute items or even coffee or soda to pamper themselves. In addition, they provide for outdoor seating, space for food trucks, and maximizing the use of outside walls and spaces to communicate the store’s various services.
Inside the store, BRR Architects believes that dual-use stores could be smaller. One side, the market side, for customers doing their shopping. The other side, for third-party buyers or shop clerks who fulfill orders from people who collect groceries. In addition, some of the items that BRR Architects calls a “center store” may be moved to a micro-fulfillment arena where third-party buyers and store staff can place orders for their customers.
After all, the store of the future will use increased automation. Those “center store” items that I mentioned are in the micro-fulfillment center. Well, you can order these items in your virtual shopping cart while frolicking on the market side of the store and they will be fulfilled upon check out. Additionally, after the initial selection, a digital concierge service can recommend free product pairings. And it will be wise based on shopping habits.
This is another grocery store concept that I really like. When I asked Katie Crawford of BRR Architect how far we were from such a concept, she pointed out that many elements of the concept are already part of the food industry. The organization of the elements is different.
I was also surprised to see Walmart implement some of this, although it shouldn’t really be surprising how much they have changed the grocery business over the years. Crawford emailed me:
The individual parts (micro-fulfillment, convenience, outdoor markets) that make up this concept already have their place in the food industry, but we propose a different way of organizing these elements within the retail sector. You can see this in Walmart’s announcement to add small micro-fulfillment centers to their stores, and we believe this trend will continue from there.
When that type of concept could hit our West Central Missouri area, Crawford told me, “To run these micro-fulfillment centers successfully, retailers need to know what volume of product sales they would see in a given area. Ultimately, it will be what community size is needed to support the town square concept and retailers would look into this before deciding what their new concept would look like in rural areas. “
With the data large grocery and retail chains can collect on the people visiting their stores, I don’t think it will be that difficult to pinpoint which cities in west central Missouri have a micro-fulfillment center or a town square – Can support grocery concept. However, I think we’ll see them first in Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, and Columbia before they show up in Sedalia or Warrensburg. So I think it will take a while. Hey, at least Warrensburg is getting a Hy-Vee. That says something.