Last week, in true Jacobs spirit of always exploring, our team visited food retailers in England and there was one retailer that stood out as exciting, simple to shop, and convenient. Marks and Spencer (also known as M&S) is a British multi-national retailer that specializes in the selling of clothing, home products and food products. After a decade of sluggish apparel sales, the retailer shifted strategies in 2016 to focus on food, taking space away from traditional products in apparel and home and opening up more their Food Halls by the end of 2019.
The trends surrounding meal kit companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are certainly generating buzz because they hit on a food experience that feels personal. For years, in the US, many grocers have had the "grab n go" section that usually contains a section or two of prepackaged small meals in plastic containers. It's been around for years and it's tired and doesn't fully meet the demands of the future urban consumer that wants variety, personalization, and healthy options. Marks and Spencer is redefining the grab n go experience by having clear pricing, compelling assortment options, and making choice easy. Most importantly, we had fun picking out our meal deals, mixing and matching, and it felt personal and as if we were creating our own meal kits.
Unfortunately when you walk into many grocery stores' grab and go area, you have a variety, but pricing changes based on items and the assortment is stale. It's limited to some sandwiches, snacks, and maybe some vegetable cups. It's tired and uninspiring and most people go that section when they're out of options for lunch. M&S has single price point sections of mix & match items that are easy to understand with color-coded strips and ample signage in each area. From a customer point of view, the sections are set up by the way we actually eat and plan our meals - main courses, sides, desserts, drinks, salads, meats, etc. Put yourself in the mind of the consumer planning a meal while in the store - "I need to get a few sides for tonight's dinner." With traditional grocery stores, that may mean you go to the pasta & rice aisle, then to the frozen vegetable aisle, and then snack aisle. There's a lot of friction in that process. At M&S Food Hall, all sides, desserts, pies, meats, entrees are in once place with one mix & match price. It's merchandised by the way that real customers plan their meals.
Lining the main racetrack are end caps highlighting the Dine in for Two deal. Customers can choose from a selection of one main course, one side, and one starter or dessert for £10 ($13) with free wine (or non-alcoholic alternative). each dish is full prepared and can be assembled easily at home. Each shelf clearly displays the type of course and the options made us want to try them all! The majority of the store is owned brand with compelling packaging.
When you enter the entrance of the M&S Food Hall, you are welcomed with displays of a marketing campaign, which in this case was "Spirit of Summer". This campaign is felt throughout entire grocery area with highlighted items featured for summer, in store displays and signage in every section - not just a promotional area.
If you're in the U.K. in the future, making a stop at Marks and Spencer is definitely worth the trip.