For many people, the deal as far as supermarket clothing is concerned is simple: stack it unimaginatively and sell it at a lower price than elsewhere.
Address Burnden Park, Manchester Road, Bolton
Revamp completed October 2011
Department size 10,000 sq ft
External consultants JHP and The One Off
This continues to be the formula in many of the big players’ branches, but things are changing. Sainsbury’s with its Tu offer has endeavoured to create shop-in-shops for some years now and the same impulse can be seen at work in Tesco.
To an extent, however, George at Asda has lagged behind. At one point this clothing brand went as far as having a standalone format. The trouble was the interiors were exactly the same as the supermarkets in terms of layout. That was some years ago and Asda is now in the business of catching up with its rivals by providing an environment you might want to shop. And the latest iteration of what’s being done can be seen in the Asda store in Burnden Park in Bolton.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Supermarket visual merchandising was about commodity for years. The idea was that jeans should go with jeans, T-shirts with T-shirts and so on. The outcome was a boring and uninviting interior landscape. In George at Asda Bolton things are different. Quite aside from the fact that the equipment is used to create a shop-in-shop entrance and to promote the fact that George is discrete from the rest of the store, the general run of things is to tell merchandise stories. The first thing the shopper will see is a Jubilee-themed display, but there is little ostentatiously patriotic stock here. The visual merchandising works as an exercise in lifestyle rather than commodity-based retailing.
02 - CONCEPT
The concept here seems to be the creation of a space that enables value to be communicated, while at the same time providing shoppers with a pleasant area to browse. It is in the nature of large supermarkets that they tend to be sheds, and therefore an effort has been made to eliminate this by including overhead white rafts and ‘balls and beads’ installations. Care has been taken over the cash-taking area with a wall that anybody who’s been in a Next will recognise.
03 - SERVICE
Asda and George are about self-service and therefore the measure of the efficacy of the staff has to be the availability of stock in the right size for each style. Staff looked motivated insofar as the replenishment operation had been undertaken with everything filled up.
This may sound like the sort of thing that should be a given, but in many supermarkets it is frequently not the case. And if you really weren’t up to self-service, there were plenty of staff on hand to help.
04 - PRODUCT
George is a value clothing range and single-figure pound signs abounded across the entire department. If there is one thing you take away from this store, it is that this is a range that will not involve parting with a lot of money. As far as colours are concerned, this is a summer of brights and the beachwear shop was awash with them.
And care had been taken to make the plains work harder with the Jubilee theme, which spanned a fair proportion of the space. Kidswear looked particularly strong.
05 - COMPETITION
Bolton’s quite a large place and is also a short train ride to downtown Manchester, which means the competitive environment is pretty tough, whether it’s Primark, New Look or offers from other supermarkets. George does, however, win when it comes to price and is a match for all-comers. As far as ranging is concerned, this is one of those offers that falls into the ‘fashionable’, rather than fashion category and as such it stands up pretty well. Shoppers seemed to think so too – there were lots of them browsing the rails and heading for the cash desk.
06 - VERDICT - The prospects are good
Asda recently announced at the revamped Bolton store that it took just over a week to install this scheme and it was paying dividends, as was the simultaneous revamp in Leicester’s Fosse Park. This is a confirmation of the efficacy of the look and it will be interesting to see how quickly it can be exported to other stores. Pick up any newspaper and the phrase ‘belt-tightening’ is likely to be found, and George at Asda looks well placed to benefit from this practice. If low-cost clothing is sought, this is a good place to take a look.