Ahold closed all 670 of its Albert Heijn stores in the The Netherlands for one day last week in order to strip out poor selling lines, introduce non food items and remerchandise its food and promotions. Dubbed Operation Pit Stop', the spring cleaning programme coincided with the more extensive remodelling programme being instituted by domestic rival Laurus, which is rebadging its entire estate to a single format. An Ahold spokesman denied the facelift had anything to do with the competition. "We've been planning this for the best part of two years. We did it all at once to raise customer awareness that the whole portfolio was being upgraded." He added: "Laurus says it can offer the same service levels as us at lower prices. They might have the service, but they are nowhere near us on price." Each store reviewed every SKU in its range, averaging 15,000 items, and stripped out about 1,500 of the slowest selling lines. The space this created was used to introduce food-related non food items such as cutlery and microwaves, and for consumer electronics such as DVD players. The layout of stores, which average about 12,000sq ft, has also been altered with food items for breakfast, lunch and dinner, being clustered together. Promotions have been given greater prominence by grouping them altogether. "We usually have about 400 items on promotion and they used to be spread throughout the stores, but we have brought them altogether in a promotional street'," the spokesman added. Ahold has also acquired three 40,000sq ft stores to convert to its mega-supermarket format being rolled out in the Netherlands over the next five years. Details of the concept are still being finalised but about 20% of the selling space will be devoted to non food items such as cooking utensils and microwaves. Ahold will be seeking permission to build 70 larger format stores in the next three to five years. {{NEWS }}