I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that, as well as being home to some of the best flagship stores on earth, the Dutch market is also home to some cracking smaller and/or regional chains, 90% of which I haven’t actually visited yet.

I managed to tick a few off the list a couple of weeks ago, notching up some visits to Ekoplaza, DEEN, Coop and PLUS, three of which were very impressive in their different ways. Growing from a single grocery store that opened in Hoorn in 1933, DEEN developed its first fully-fledged self-service supermarkets in the early 1950s and has since developed into a chain of 80+ neighbourhood supermarkets in Hoorn, North Holland, Flevoland, Gelderland and Utrecht.

On a rare foray into North Amsterdam, having enjoyed the free ferry trip across the river, I popped into the DEEN store in Mosveld, a largely residential area. The store was perfect for this sort of location: a fairly modest size and well designed to cater for main shoppers doing a weekly shop, top-up shoppers popping in for a few items or folk simply popping in for lunch.

At the time of the visit, DEEN was running a loyalty campaign featuring MasterChef rewards and the store was awash with POS material and recipe cards for the promotion. The entrance to the store took you straight into a great produce area, which also included an organics section and fresh orange juice machine.

Beyond produce was a nice selection of fresh counters devoted to meat and deli (the absence of fish perhaps explained by the presence of a specialist fishmonger in the shop next door). Digital screens were judiciously applied across the fresh section, displaying promotional and product information.

DEEN benefits from a degree of vertical integration, owning its own production facilities in several fresh categories and employing instore chefs, meaning that its credibility in fresh categories is excellent.

Throughout the store, cross-merchandising was deftly deployed, and navigation was really helped by the use of colour coding (green for produce, red for meat & deli, blue for frozen etc.). I particularly liked (and I’m sure there is a proper word for these, but apologies for my ignorance), the big lampshade things that hung from the ceiling, calling out the colour coding on the exterior, with product detailing on the interior.

The BWS department was an unexpected treat: lovely wooden crate-style fixtures deployed to merchandise beers and snacks and the wine displayed in some smart shelving with wooden trim.

Standards throughout the store were generally flawless and customer service was exceptional, including a meeting with one of the friendliest store managers on earth. Based on the Google translation, the retailer states that “We help the customer as we would like to be helped ourselves. Happy at DEEN we call it!” This is a pledge that they certainly live up to in a quietly impressive fashion.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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