Visiting this store provided some illuminating and instructive insight on how to tackle the structural pressures on the hypermarket concept: make them smaller; make them awesome at fresh; collaborate with suppliers to provide a bit of theatre; take a pragmatic attitude to general merchandise; and implement effective loyalty campaigns to generate reasons to visit.

I’ve got a lot of time for Ahold Delhaize. Both as a combined company and in their previous guises as separate entities, I’ve revelled in some of the stores that they have operated around the world. I have enjoyed tremendous trips to AH XL, Etos, Hannaford, Bloom (the ill-fated but amazingly shopper-centric concept from Food Lion that was arguably about 20 years ahead of its time), Delhaize and Stop & Shop and I can now add Albert to this list, as this store was topdrawer.

The first thing I noticed was that a decent chunk of the right-hand side of the store had been annexed and was in the process of being converted to a Jysk, the Danish-based global home décor chain. Boxes ticked here: store made smaller and a complementary new neighbour that might do some favours in terms of footfall.

The second thing I noticed (*subtle advertorial klaxon*) was that the store was running a loyalty campaign offering shoppers the chance to avail themselves of Hasbro games. The POS for the campaign was comprehensive and was clearly a popular feature among the shoppers instore, deftly ticking the ‘reasons to visit’ box.

Non-food was handled well. The entrance to the store took shoppers straight into media and household/cookware, with the remainder of the GM offer consisting largely of baby and fashion, Albert being one of many global retailers that has adopted the Cherokee clothing license to boost its credentials as a viable destination for family clothing.

Fresh departments were ace, along with the rest of the store being called out through vibrant colour-coding and striking graphics. Bakery was exceptional and I also really liked the meat and deli counters where the breadth of range and service levels exuded authority. Produce was done well, with plenty of POS highlighting Albert’s robustly enthusiastic approach to local sourcing.

One real highlight, for professional reasons obviously, was BWS, where some excellent fixtures and lighting were augmented by plenty of impactful inputs from suppliers. Health & beauty was most pleasing with a nice line in segmentation and merchandising in addition to some handsome supplier-branded shelving that was well deployed in cosmetics and fragrance.

In a similar vein to the rest of the Albert estate, promotions were housed on yellow end-caps, which reminded me of Albert Heijn and Dutch arch-rival Jumbo in terms of approach. In tandem with punchy pallet displays in the spacious aisles, the sense of excitement generated through promos was maintained well and was driving quite a few impulse buys.

Overall – there was a lot to like about this store. It was compact enough to avoid being a huge drain on time and energy if you wanted to shop the whole thing and the colour-coding of the store, while by no means pioneering, was executed superbly and made navigation a doddle. Non-food was sensibly executed: just enough to cover off most bases in terms of a regular family shop, without feeling the need to go over the top with a huge range of electronics etc. A final note would be an appreciation of the fact that the designers of this store made full use of natural light (the most neglected free resource in retail) with some well-placed skylights that set off some flawless merchandising very nicely indeed.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insight Director

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