Coles versus Whole Foods
Coles’ Broadway store in Sydney is one of the latest unveilings of its deli/bakery/eat-in offer first pioneered at Southlands in Melbourne.
The delicatessen format holds up pretty well against the Whole Foods in Seattle I visited a few days after Christmas.
Following is a bit of a roundup, but the pictures really tell the story.
What Whole Foods does better than Coles
Salad Bars: While Whole Foods pricing is slightly higher ($18.50/kg versus the Coles salads at $15/kg) you’re paying for variety and presentation.
Whole Foods had two well-signed double sided salad stations, each holding around 20 plus salads and components featuring complementing categories, such as nuts, sitting above.
Shoppers are able to make their own salad from components or scoop a pre-made salad mix into a tub.
Coles has two small single sided salad stations located on the fresh vegetable aisle ends, each holding around 10 salads, most of which are traditional basic premixes.
The salad units require staff attention as bits of vegetable spread around the unit and onto the floor, so they looked messy and unkempt.
They also lack any eye level signage so they may be easy to miss.
International cuisines: Coles really only has sushi, pizza, and pasta. Whole Foods not only has sushi but other Asian, a Mexican Taqueria, and while you wait seafood.
Fresh cut fruit: Whole Foods features beautifully merchandised offerings by colour. Coles was out of stock, higgledy piggledy, and unkempt.
Eat-in seating: Both chairs and tables and an island bar around the sushi counters provide seating in Whole Foods for up to 30 people.
Coles has only three tables, which were much appreciated by the parents with strollers when I visited.
To be fair, Coles have iPads showing Curtis Stone making recipes on the tables to keep you entertained.
Instore calendar of events: Whole Foods featured a combination of specials, opening hours, food, and wine tastings and events, such as meet the local produce vendors.
These were reasons to keep you coming back to the store.
What Coles is doing better than Whole Foods
Delicatessen cheese and meat: This is excellent in Coles, with cheese guides and salami guides blackboarded on the walls.
There are large glass door cases containing product behind the counter staff providing the overall impression of range and absolute freshness.
There is also service, such as ‘we build your cheese platter for you’.
This is complemented by gondola end displays next to the deli focusing on ‘Coles Finest’ gourmet product and condiment selection which includes boutique brands like ‘Josh & Sue’ rather than Coles Private Label.
Barista coffee: You wouldn’t think this is a fair comparison really, given that Seattle is the corporate home of Starbucks, but Coles has a Lavazza barista counter next to the bakery that’s promoted on the digital signage at the store entrance.
Pity then that the Coles barista was nowhere to be found, irritating the small queue of caffeine lovers that had formed.
Cookware: Cook & Dine is the latest Coles incarnation of what started out as Cookshop; basically a clearly signed and segmented aisle of bakeware.
This gives it a level of focus; now it just needs to figure out how to tie it into recipes and the fresh offer.
Deli and bakery deals: Toasties and drinks and coffee/muffin type deals are common in Coles as a way of promoting its eat-in offer.
Other notable new things in Coles
1. Bay of sandwiches and salads to go just inside the entrance had good variety and price points.
2. A gondola end of chilled single serve pies, pasties, and sausage rolls with sauces on top of the island also talked to the lunch/snack to go occasion.
3. Low profile bakery islands with glass sliding doors were attractive and gave a sense of discovery.
4. ‘Average adult daily intake of 8700kj’ stickers were present on just about every glass case of pre-prepared food.
The only downer at Coles, apart from no barista, was the inability to take deli produce through the checkout. This confused me and other shoppers.
For instance you have to pay for your sushi at the sushi counter, which is fair enough if you’re eating it instore, but what if you want to take it away? This requires multiple points of transaction as you shop the deli vs centre store/checkout.
All in all, however, Coles is doing a good job with this new format, particularly for its location.
It’s nice to see an Australian retailer in the same shopping experience ballpark as the Americans for once. I look forward to seeing similar format stores roll out in CBD and office proximity locations soon.
Norrelle Goldring is head of shopper insight and retail strategy at GfK, and has worked with Coca-Cola, Goodman Fielder, and Vodafone. Contact her on 0437 335 686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.