04 Oct Death of retail
Organic Garage Review – Drivers of Change
When you think about great shopping experiences, grocery stores likely wouldn’t top your list. It is, after all, a chore and generally not something people look forward to. Even the large newly renovated grocery stores don’t leave us anxious to go back. That was until Organic Garage came along.
Total transparency here. For a grocery store to be an exciting place to be is quite an achievement on its own. Add to that the fact that it’s a market-inspired, organic and healthy grocery store. Then add to that the fact that it’s a discount grocery store. Mind blown.
The fourth Organic Garage location to open is the new flagship location in the Junction. It sets a new standard for retail design in the grocery channel. CEO Matt Lurie is a sixth-generation grocer. But after spending some time discussing retail with Matt I have to say his knowledge across all retail channels is nothing short of inspiring. He has a strong passion and understanding for retail as a whole as opposed to his own channel in grocery. According to matt “Retail is not dead. Retailers are simply losing the personal touch that customers bring to the shopping experience.” It’s like there is an established design format customers have become used to, and new stores are simply playing into it. It may be clean, but not very innovative. Stores feel like carbon copies of each other.
At a time when newly renovated grocery stores are super clean – Organic Garage is gritty, raw and boastfully imperfect. The name and logo say it all. “There’s nothing conventional about the name…”
Matt was admittedly very hands-on with the design and build process. Working closely with api(+) who he said did a great job capturing his vision. This is often really tough with most agencies. Matt says “Most design firms struggle with breaking the inherent design rules in retail. We don’t operate in those rules. I didn’t care what had been done in the past, i wanted it done a certain way.” Even at the build level – contractors are often so precise in their craft. Matt convincing the bricklayers to overgrout. Aging all the wood. Rub the edges off the square
“If you’re going to do something, why not be different?”
From the highest levels of the organization, there are a couple of hard rules that everyone involved with the design and build had to internalize. Those are Authenticity and Imperfection.
Imperfection: There is a large sign on the way out that proudly reads We are perfectly imperfect because anything less than perfect is normal.
“All the the Organic Garage locations are like siblings. They share the same bloodline but everyone is inherently unique based on the specific location that will tie back to the design of the store. The Junction store created the blueprint that the other stores will follow. Core elements will stay the same which is what creates the thread through the company.”
A couple of key fundamentals to converting customers at retail are increased dwell-time and attachment sales. Organic Garage nailed both. I keep finding myself wanted to do another lap through the aisles.
The approach to the store entrance is enough to make you feel that this is about to be a different shopping experience. The store is is connected to an LA Fitness gym but boasts a completely different brick facade from the rest of the building. It feels more warehouse with a clean industrial yet modern look with a beautiful patio that rivals most upscale bars. A perfect setting to meet up with people and sip on a fresh Kombucha, iced coffee or tea that you might have poured yourself from the self serve stations inside. It’s as inviting in the evening as it is during the day.
Entering this store feels like you’ve crossed the threshold into a new world. It’s perhaps best described as an abandoned vintage warehouse with a touch of carnival. Exposed brick, colorful graffiti and large carnivalesque composed of individual letters with inconsistent fonts and sizes. All features that might go against conventional design logic – but it works amazingly well. This is a space that has fully committed to its theme – throughout the store. There is no attempt to take you from a warm European bakery, to a seaside fish market to a clinical pharmacy. You’ve stepped into this world and you’re staying. Even a stop at the restroom keeps you planted in this reality.
[Salad, bakery and wasroom pics]
Is it busy? Absolutely. imperfectly and intentionally so. But while the decor does a great job of keeping you in a playful new world, the product is so well positioned and organized that it fully stands out against the busyness of the the graffiti, aged bricks and wooden shutters. It’s a unique and beautiful way to keep the product in the foreground and in the focus of the shopper.
[organized store photos]
The signage throughout the store is familiar. It’s natural human language. As though your best friend leaned into you to tell that they “Only sell good #$@#@”. Nothing feels like a marketing ploy. Road signs, manhole covers, hopscotch and lane markers not only playfully guide the shopper through the full perimeter of the store – but add another layer to the authenticity of this world that you’re in.
[produce and floor photos]
This design style integrates perfectly into the neighborhood. The Junction itself celebrates its roots as a train station town, keeping a vintage quality with most businesses and structures featuring aged wood and wrought Iron design details. When asked if this design intent was to regionalize the location only or if this was a brand strategy for all locations Matt Lurie was quick to respond with “
The design serves as a blueprint. All locations are from the the same bloodline, but there are some differences tied directly to the neighborhood.”
You may not notice it right away or at least not that they’re screens – but as soon as you walk in there are to large portrait screens showcasing ….
“When done improperly, TV’s can take away as much as they add.”
Almost every aisle within the store is fitted with a tablet that playfully provides useful information to the customer who may be searching for recipes, promos or other information. “This has been very successful element. We started out small but going forward will be looking to incorporate larger tablets in these spaces”
Prime real estate on each endcap is given to this.
Rounding the third corner, passed the grass-fed meat fridge is perhaps the most unexpected design detail. Another element hard-fought in the early design stages. A permanent scaffold spanning the length of frozen food wall. It’s worked into the decor in a such a way that doesn’t cause any confusion. It makes you pause briefly at the uniqueness of what you’re seeing – but nobody wonders if something is actually under construction. Everything about it just feels finished and complete. Perhaps it’s because you’ve been in this world for some time before you arrive at this point that this doesn’t feel out of place.
Lights, trim, fixtures – the design of every last detail was considered. Light fixtures are sections of metal barrels. Aisle fixtures have all been cladded. Everything has been modified or custom made to belong here. Matt says “We wanted to create social-worthy elements throughout the store.” And there are no shortage of those.
[lights and fixture, graffiti and details pics]
What’s next for Organic Garage? A new store is opening in Leaside in 2018 and they have just secured the space for a new location in Liberty Villiage. Continued rapid growth in the GTA is still the strategy. While I tried to get info on expansion outside of Ontario, no plans have yet been announced.