PayLess rolls out first of new prototypes

PayLess rolls out first of new prototypes – PayLess DrugStores

The innovative chain unveils a new pharmacy format and stakes out new or expanded categories in OTC, a dynamic nutrition and convenience food department, an extensive Party Center and bath and body and fitness sets.

SANDY, Utah — PayLess has rolled out the first of its new prototype stores here with a flurry of grand opening festivities. The 27,000-(22,000 selling) square-foot store near Salt Lake offers fine-tuned concepts and different adjacencies than the chain’s Northern California test store, which previewed four months ago.

In contrast to the test store, there are about 5,000 new SKUs, mainly in bath, skin, nutrition and food and OTC. President and chief executive Tim McAlear tells Drug Store News: “What I’m looking for to make this a success is the width and the breadth of these categories. We’ve made a major commitment to each of them.” He explains that in the test store, there have been “substantial increases” in expanded departments and without advertising.

One big surprise in the store is a new PayLess pharmacy format, with a low counter and L-shaped wrap-around patient waiting area. The space extends behind the pharmacy and has a private door for counseling next to a convenient rest room. Its front counter graphics no longer have the usual mural portrait of a pharmacist. Instead, the design in red and white with neon signing conveys a more a clinical concept, and wall space once used for decor is filled with customer information and a large lazy susan will call.

The 114-linear foot bath and body center offers a vast array of handsomely merchandised bath products from Caswell & Massey II, Bodycology and other new lines, plus bath towels and accessories. “If there’s a bath line, it’s in here,” vice president of merchandising Andy Striefel says. The set is located toward the center front and features multi-sided and tiered, specialty-shod style green wooden fixtures. Staff is on hand to assist in preparing customized gift biskets.

From the bath and body set, a fitness department extends toward the middle of the store. A kiosk with a flexible display for promotions and product, such as workout wear and a screen showing exercise videos, links the two departments.

The big exercise-equipment set in the California test store is gone, but some exercise items, like lower priced stair-step machines, remain. Other fitness set features include an extensive natural vitamin and nutritional set, including herbal medications, natural toiletries, homeopathics, as well as nutritionals for body building and weight gain. The set also includes exercise information on audio, video, magazines and books and workout wear.

The new Party Center, commanding the right rear corner, is well signed with bright ceiling-hung owners. In this store the primary card set is from Ambassador, although some stores are supplied primarily by American Greetings, including the Draper, Utah store which opened two weeks later–for a total of 33 stores in the state (559 overall).

The 2,300 square-foot Party Center gives bold definition to a combined department with greeting cards, party goods, gifts and serviced helium balloons, gift wrap and mail service. It also offers a fresh floral assortment in a single, refrigerated case.

The gift wrap/mail desk serves as an information center for party planning using different themes, as well as source information for services available in the area, ranging from clowns to costumes and catering.

See and go

From the entrance, a customer can easily spot a department destination in this new layout with its lower gondolas. The addition of more neon adds excitement. Camera and electronics are to the right and now has neon signing with more product display and less graphic presentation on the walls. Striefel points out the new adjacency of stationery with cameras and electronics, which allows a bridge for hardware such as calculators and typewriters.

The 96 linear-foot food section–with bright photographs of food and snacks–is most highly visible department from the front of the store. It includes health foods and convenience foods (new since the test store) plus 44 feet of cold cases. The new food department signing, notes executive vice president Gordon Barker, “is very self-explanatory.”

Color power

A serviced cosmetics bullpen is located just inside the entrance and has the first satellite cosmetics checkout in the chain. PayLess will offer a schedule of store events, including color consultations and makeovers to keep this department humming. Says cosmetics buyer Sheri Ralston, the color analysis and makeovers “necessitates interaction between the store and customer.”

The Color Me Beautiful line provides a focus for “having your colors done.” Expanded cosmetics from Clinique, Ultima and Lancome and other department store lines add an enhanced department tone. “We’re trying to satisfy the repurchase customer who’s already been educated, and they’re short on time,” she says. Beauty Without cosmetics (not animal add an environmentally aware dimension to the assortment.

Throughout the store, new fixtures pick up department theme colors in different departments with coordinated fixture toppers, such as mauve for cosmetics and related products.

Open look

The total feeling of the new design is more open and inviting than the traditional or 45-degree PayLess stores, thanks to an increased percentage of lower or 60-inch gondolas in the center area and 8-10 fewer gondolas. (PayLess stores use 60-, 66- and 72-inch gondolas banked higher at the walls for a stadium effect.)

The lower profile and central door helps the customer find a department. According to McAlear, new stores will feature central entrances when possible to maximize customer orientation, although two-entrance retrofits won’t be changed because of the cost.

Serviced departments now include cosmetics, camera/electronics, bath and body and nutrition. Staff is now trained for the latter two so that at any time, a sales associate will be available to service these adjacent categories.

Making space

Space for new departments in the PayLess prototype has been garnered from categories like toys, apparel and shoes, housewares/appliances, pet (cut by half), kitchen, automotive and hardware the latter is an 80 percent reduction). Says Striefel, “as we go against the big boxes, these categories are becoming less important.”

The reductions and new adjacencies have required much analysis of POS data because some items won’t sell without other items. A promotional endcap where shoes might have been–now trimmed to basics like canvas footwear–features an endcap of aqua shoes at $9.99. “We think this is what they’d like to have,” says Striefel.

Some categories have undergone a shift of emphasis, like fitness sports and pennant products instead of fishing gear. But there are still markets where fishing is important, so the merchandise plan is still flexible. “As we retrofit our stores, we’ll look hard at parts and pieces by store–and not try to make |one-size-fits-all,'” he notes.

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