Making shopping easy: Food Lion store remodels almost complete

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 25, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — Food Lion shoppers may notice some new things at Food Lions in Salisbury, like the expanded selection of products, the new décor and changes in customer service.

They undoubtedly noticed the renovation work being done in stores for the past few months. Food Lion officials say it is all in an effort to make things easier for customers and get them in and out of the store quickly.

Food Lion announced its plans to remodel stores in the Charlotte area in March. A total of 142 stores are being remodeled on a rolling basis, to be completed next month.

The remodels are part of Food Lion’s “Easy, Fresh and Affordable. You Can Count on Food Lion Every Day” strategy, launched in 2014.

Not all stores are completed, but as of last week, Joey Williams, director of operations in Salisbury, said 108 stores in the Charlotte area have completed their renovations.

The company invested $215 million into the new changes. Williams said the money was invested in construction, lowering prices and retraining associates.

“We’re reinvesting back into our business,” he said.

The Charlotte area is the fourth market to go through the renovations. The company remodeled 162 stores in Raleigh in 2015, and the year before that renovated 76 stores in the Wilmington and Greenville markets.

Williams said Food Lion used customer feedback to guide the changes.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for the customer,” he said.

There are more navigational signs in the aisle to help customers find what they are looking for. And the stores have been rearranged so that similar items or items that are usually bought together are closer.

For example, the peanut butter and jelly might be closer to the bread and the lottery, ice, Rug Doctor, Coinstar and other service machines are grouped together at the front of the store.

Food Lion’s brands have more varieties and flavors, including seasonal flavors.

Over in the deli, there are new varieties of cheeses. Salads and sandwiches are made fresh daily and there is pre-sliced meat available that customers can pick up without waiting.

Customers can look forward to meal deals during the weekends that offer discounts on grab and go meals.

The local goodness display features locally sourced foods that will rotate based on the season. There are also signs that let customers know if an item was grown locally throughout the section.

The Nature’s Place brand offers natural and organic products and there are sections devoted to sugar free and gluten free items.

The store at 123 Mahaley Ave. has a walk-in produce cooler, kept at 54 degrees to keep produce fresher. Williams said the company worked on making the area cold enough to keep produce fresh but not too cold for customers.

“The intent is for the product to hold up longer when it gets home,” he said.

Not all stores will have the produce coolers, but about 20 will.

The produce tables outside of the cooler are also refrigerated.

In the meat section, there are more ready-to-cook items, as well as organic meats and an expanded variety of chicken.

Wines are grouped together with beer in another section of the store. Some of the wine is kept in chilled wine boxes and there is a new limited reserve section that will feature different brands for a quarter before rotating in new brands.

There are also more craft beer selections available, with empty six-pack cartons available for customers to mix and match.

The walls have a fresh look, with new wood décor and different sayings in different sections. For example, the dairy section has the tagline, “Ingredients that enrich meals.”

Signs reminding customers of Food Lion’s 100 percent fresh or double your money back guarantee are found all over the store.

Customers will even see changes in the store associates. Williams said there will be more associates at check-out lines. Some associates will be guiding customers to the shortest line. Cashier associates will be taking items out of the carts, putting them on the conveyor and placing them back in the cart after scanning and bagging. They will also offer to help customers put groceries in their cars. Transferring the item from the shelf to their cart may be the only time customers touch their items while in the store.

Instead of leaning over or walking all the way around the checkout space to help a customer, the associate now has an opening between scanner and the closest bagging station that they can easily slide through to help customers.

When the store gets busy, the conveyor belts can be extended over the space so that one associate can bag the items at the bagging station at the end of the aisle while the other continues scanning the items.

Associates also have wireless headsets they can use to ask another associate to grab an item a customer may have forgotten. The headsets also remove the need for overhead announcements.

The signs above the checkout aisles have also changed. Each sign has both a full service and express option that the associate can change with the flip of a switch. The express option is for “about 12 items” so that customers with 13 items know they are welcome.

Williams said some customers were a little upset that some of the items were rearranged, but they liked the changes once they got used to it.

“After the first month, I’ve not heard one negative comment,” he said.

Some stores in the area are still working on the renovations, but Food Lion hopes to have them all completed by October.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.