Even though I live in Northern NJ suburb, about 20 miles west of Manhattan, I live in an old town with a population of about 11,000. We live in a house that predates the tax records in 1914, on a tree lined dead end street. We have about a half acre, two lots, where we have ponds and perennial gardens, and a little bit of private space. We can walk to the center of town, which at the moment is offering less and less. In this poor economy, there are more shops empty now than are actually operating.
But I can still walk to the bank, the post office, the library, and best of all, a fabulous, huge, fully stocked Shoprite Supermarket. The store draws from surrounding communities, and has been there in this new space, almost 20 years. When we moved to this town, 27 years ago, the Shoprite was in a smaller, very old and cramped space, with no parking, and we all cheered when when the new sprawling shopping mall opened. Most of the stores attached to the Shoprite are now empty, there is the liquor store (you can’t sell alcohol in a supermarket in NJ, and we can’t pump our own gas either!), and of course the pizza place and Chinese restaurant, and oddly enough a Radio Shack, but not much else.
Recently, the owners of the Shoprite, decided to undergo a much needed overhaul of the store’s layout. The physical structure of the store remained intact. Earlier this year they relocated the floral section to the entrance, and in its place build a huge cheese counter/display, costing me an extra $20. whenever I walk by it, it’s the samples you know… this overhaul of the layout was much needed, and the purpose was to make the flow of merchandise more logical and to allow more brands, and more choices within a category.
I will admit, the old layout made no logical sense. The organic section was at the back of the store by the dairy, and the dried fruit and specialty nuts were next to the fish counter. Some things were stuck in odd places, and if you wanted salsa, it was found in four different places in the store. It reminded me of the illogical organization of my personal fiber library, which I reorganized last month, over the course of a few days. Well, this 20 aisle Shoprite was a lot bigger than my half dozen bookshelves, and you can’t imagine the total chaos of removing every single item from every shelf and relocating it.
What surprised me most, and why I’m bothering to blog about this, is the community reaction. You’d think the entire town had been relocated and put on another planet. It has been a major source of amusement watching the reaction of the supermarket shoppers both in and out of the store, this has been the biggest topic of conversation, not the current state of the economy, school starting, the NJ governor’s race, but the changes in the supermarket layout. To wander down the aisles is first of all, dangerous, and secondly, very humorous, and thirdly very frustrating.
The danger comes from all the shoppers craning their necks to desperately search for where the item they are looking for might be found. I was bumped by a shopping cart six times in my last outing there. The poor employees, strategically placed in the aisles for customer assistance, armed with maps of the new layout, are being accosted by disgruntled shoppers like a sold out Bruce Springsteen concert. Their venom at this total inconvenience is sort of scary. And of course, I get the frustration when I have been searching for the case of Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese for the last four trips to the store, because the entire organics section has vanished, and no one knows where the items went. I was finally successful on Saturday when I logically looked at the newly relocated Macaroni and Cheese section and there it was, on the bottom shelf next to, well, next to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Duh…
As a marketing strategy, this is actually brilliant. This little stunt has caused every shopper in this store, to look at every item in search for their favorite brands. I’d love to sit down with the numbers when this is all done, and see how much people spent beyond their regular purchases buying things they never new the store carried. And, if you are environmentally conscious, and trying hard to buy more organic products, they are right there next to the regular products, increasing the choices and making you more aware of the options.
The neighboring town, where we send our kids to High School (our district is too small to have it’s own High School) had it’s annual Fireman’s Carnival this past weekend. I had to really refrain from laughing out loud when the topic of conversation over by the beer tent switched to the chaos at the supermarket, and how frustrated everyone was because they could no longer just run in and grab what they needed and run out. Whole aisles have been moved! The book, “Who Moved my Cheese“, came instantly to mind, we as a species don’t tend to do well with changes in our routine and our world in general. Even if the change is logical and important. Flexibility is not an innate trait in most humans. It isn’t in my nature either, but I’m really trying hard to be more flexible and open to the changes that the universe brings me on a daily basis, even silly ones like the reorganization of my supermarket.
This would include such things as upgraded software, changing where I put things in the studio, (because I’m sick of things falling out of cabinets whenever I open doors), new fall school and activity schedules for the kids. And of course moving hundreds of contacts in six different locations to Google Contacts so I can sync with everything. I’ve spent most of the weekend trying to figure out and use my new iPod Touch. I finally had to call in the special forces, my techie husband, who had to bail me out. But I successfully downloaded a book on tape (with his help), from my library’s free service, and listened to it all the way to Maryland and back yesterday for a Labor Day party. So I learned to be patient, and that change is sometimes good. Last night my husband updated my blog software, there was a reported worm attacking all non updated WordPress blogs, so he stayed up really late last night to make this change while I blissfully slept. I love my husband…
So now my next upgrade is to change from Office 2003 to Office 2007. There will be more hair pulling and gnashing of teeth, as I learn this new piece of software. Change is ultimately a good thing, usually, once I get use to it, I feel like there is something new to explore, and I even have a refrigerator full of new foods I discovered in my rearranged supermarket while looking for the Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese…