Coles gains the initiative

This is the second of my blog posts looking at some of the top grocery stores I visited on my recent trip to Australia. Last week was Woolworths, so its only right that this week we have a look at Coles.

Recent years have seen Coles experience something of a resurgence, led by a new management team topped by Ian McLeod, backed up by investment from parent Wesfarmers. The results is that after years chasing the tail of Woolworths, Coles is now setting the initiative in a number of key areas (such as price promotions, private label, store environment and the crucial battle for fresh). Recent results have seen it outperforming its arch-rival, although its important to note that its sales densities are still lower.

Once again, please visit the Planet Retail media gallery for more photos and complete virtual store tours.

I visited the new Coles format store in Tooronga, Melbourne. Its located right near the company’s head office and is often used to test new features which could be rolled out across the chain if successful.

The supermarket is actually located in a small shopping centre flanked by residential flats. The shopping centre also contained some upmarket fresh food shops (seafood, meat, f&v) with which the Coles has to compete with.

The fresh produce was obviously an area of focus. Here, vegetables lie on an ice bed to emphasise their freshness.

The store had a greater focus on prepared meals and ‘food on the go’ solutions. This was one of the few ready made curry counters I saw in Australia - surely an area of growth in the future. Also not the softer, more playful graphics the store uses.

The bakery section was opened up, allowing shoppers to see food being prepared behind. Again, emphasising the freshness.

Coles’ ‘Down Down’ EDLP price promotion has been a great success and no doubt caught Woolworths on the back foot. Instore, suppliers taking part are promoted on prominent gondola ends.

Again, a new playful look to the dairy aisle. Pressing the button on the cow on the left leads to a ‘mooo’ sound being emitted - something Asda tried in the UK a few years ago.

Another interesting aspect of the store was that it seemed to devote a greater proportion of its sales area over to non-food items - in this case toys.

If you have visited the store it would be great to hear your opinions.

Next time - 7-Eleven!

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