Marks and Spencer is giving its food halls a radical makeover in a bid to create a delicatessen atmosphere for shoppers.
Head of retail design Niall Trafford said the refit aimed to represent the “mind of a supermarket but soul of a deli” and included wider aisles, darker fridges and fittings and ceiling lighting to ensure focus on products.
Shelving for ambient goods will also be adapted to fit the scheme and till areas will become longer and wider to allow customers to pass through more quickly.
The new format will be unveiled at Shoreham and Edgware Road stores this week and in Dundrum next March,
and is already on trial at stores in Basingstoke and Blanchardstown.
Food trading director and interim director of food Guy Farrant said the company still planned to open 500,000 sq ft of new floorspace for food by March 2006.
The food range has been cut by 12% to 4,000 products, varying according to the size and location of outlets, down to 1,000 items in the smaller Simply Food outlets.
A two-format strategy has also been introduced to approach food outlets as either attracting pedestrians or out-of-town shoppers with transport.
Decisions on six under-performing Simply Food stores will be reached in the next six months, he added.
Speaking as the company announced a 2.1% drop in like-for-like food sales in the first half, chief executive Stuart Rose said that if successful, the new format could be rolled out in all stores across the United Kingdom by the spring.
“We will give each store a proper makeover and refit and wait to see customer reaction.”
Rose also outlined other plans for the business, including pulling the six divisions together under an umbrella of ‘Your M& S’, the new company slogan.
He said the performance of food varied significantly between different stores.
He added that the company aimed to generate synergies between food and clothing with its promotions, and a mystery shopper programme would be reintroduced to monitor how competitive its pricing was with its rivals.
The company was on track to meet targets set for 2006 and a return to growth, he added.
In the six months to October 2, total food sales were up 3.2%, with total UK retail sales down 0.4% to £3.3bn.
Amy Balchin