Design showcase: Esselunga seeks to reinvent the supermarket

Esselunga, Italy's oldest supermarket group, has launched what it describes as a radically reinvented store.

Located in Brescia, and developed with Australian design agency Landini Associates, the store has taken the layout typically associated with supermarkets and turned it by 90 degrees.

Checkouts are positioned to the right of the store rather than at the front. Instead, this space is filled with a glass box that puts 'production' features – the normally-hidden elements of the in-store bakery and the kitchen of the store's Atlantic cafe – on show to customers. The theatre on show includes various types of food preparation and cooking, visible through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Landini Associates describes the installation as the 'The front door; an expression of Esselunga's commitment to making food.' Esselunga has a longstanding commitment to fresh food and continuous development.

“In the case of supermarkets placing payment stations in the most prominent and valuable space would seem, to us at Landini, not to make sense,” said Landini Associates associate director Paul Gates. “So we agreed with our client to change this. The front of any high street store is its shop window, normally a place where its product is promoted. That's all we did here, promote Esselunga's ability to make great food. Requiring customers to read signs so they know what's in an aisle is tiresome. Better to show them instead by staggering the aisles. All this simply makes sense. Blindly following what others have done, just because it's the norm, doesn't."

In a second innovation, the store does away with the grid layout typically used to arrange supermarket aisles. Instead, triangulated aisles are introduced in a staggered fashion towards the rear of the store, using merchandise as primary signage.

New merchandise adjacencies have been created and accepted layout conventions ditched. The store's first aisle is dedicated to speedy food shopping, including the deli, bakery, and dairy sections, with sources of protein linked by display. Specialist departments are arranged around the perimeter of the store.

Further theatre is created as customers leave via the checkouts. Projected films show Esselunga's manufacturing plants, showing previously hidden operations and giving insight into the provenance of its products. The films also show off the retailer's food production skills.

Key materials in the store include concrete, timber, perforated panels, stainless steel, and coloured tiles.

High level, illuminated signage helps customers navigate to different sections of the 4,600 sq m (49,514 sq ft) store. At product level there is minimal signage to help navigate categories. In the car park, enormous signage on the walls is used to bid customers welcome.

Landini Associates has designed for clients including McDonald's, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, and Selfridges. It continues to work with Esselunga.

Photography: Andrew Meredith