Cingari ShopRite remodel and expansion a success.Originally printed in the December 2023 issue of Produce Business.
Build big displays and sell volume is the strategy at the remodeled Cingari ShopRite in Norwalk, CT.
The store operates on busy Connecticut Avenue, also known as Route 1, which, prior to the construction of Interstate 95, was the main route along the East Coast. This location recently got a thorough remodeling, which included both an expansion and a complete overhaul of the sales floor. The store remodel emerged from a three-year planning process that stretched on due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite such obstacles, the grand reopening took place in March.
Already a successful store, the response to the remodel — a new concept for the chain — has been stellar, according to Tom Cingari Jr., vice president of produce, floral and e-commerce at Cingari Family Markets, in Norwalk, CT. In fact, Cingari points out that the Norwalk Cingari ShopRite is the highest volume produce department in all the Wakefern cooperative, with which it is affiliated.
HIT THEM WITH COLOR
“This store is just high volume, so it made sense to give it the best and brightest. This is kind of our crown jewel,” says Cingari. “We did the remodel and reaped even more benefits than we thought we would. The people from the town responded in such an amazing way.”
The updated store now opens with imposing displays of produce and floral.
“Our philosophy on produce is ‘fresh forward,’” he says. “So, we put it front and center. We want to make sure that, when you walk into one of our stores, you see color and freshness.”
Cingari Family Markets has a philosophy about embracing customers with store aesthetics as soon as they enter, believing that first impression will be an uplifting factor shoppers carry throughout the store.
“We try to hit them with a ton of color in produce and floral right as they walk in,” says Cingari.
Complementing the main produce department, floral is adjacent to the front door.
“We basically doubled the size of the floral department. All the store decor you see is brand new. Every single case was switched out to brand new, energy efficient. The store has been here since 1982, so it needed it,” says Cingari.
In terms of produce merchandising, the Norwalk store applies a time-honored strategy.
“We put out a lot of product,” says Cingari. “Our merchandising is kind of on the old-school side of just putting out a ton of merchandise and our market share and our cutout to the other parts of the store shows that. Since the remodel, it has just absolutely exploded.”
THE EYES HAVE IT
As it developed the remodel project, the company determined to go low with fixtures so customers don’t see straight lines. The idea was customers would see above the fixtures and get a view of color breaking and texture.
“When you walk in, it really catches your eye, not only on the wall, but also on the floor and even in the cut fruit and vegetable section,” says Cingari. “It’s just an explosion of color and texture.”
Adjacent to the entrance, the produce section features a big presentation of products that are on ad. Despite a massive presence, such displays can be completely turned over by midafternoon on just about any day, Cingari says.
Organics are also featured in a big presentation near the entrance. A wall display in the cold case has a complement nearby on the floor where dry organics occupy their own space.
Before the remodel, he says, the produce department was typical, with long runs of refrigerated island cases.
“We broke the entire department up, and we took all the refrigeration off the floor,” he says.
The move was consistent with the desire to lower the profile of the department and feature color, as well as to make the department more sustainable in terms of power use.
“We grouped all the different categories to where they really should be,” Cingari says. “So, you have a tomato and avocado run. You have your berries in one section. All your citrus and pears. You have all your grapes in one spot. You have all your apples.
“As you walk through, it kind of makes more sense and allows the customers to go where they need to go, while at the same time giving them that mass display look,” he says.
“If you don’t put out as much, you won’t sell as much. The results speak for themselves,” Cingari emphasizes. “Our produce cutout is over 16%. If you go across the U.S., it’s probably around 10% or 11%. So, our people are buying with their eyes, and we’re showing them what’s fresh just by how we merchandise.”
Greens get a lot of wall space at a corner of the produce section. Bright and clear illustrations, with detailed captions, top the refrigerated wall cases to call out organics, mushrooms and clamshell salads, as well as greens. One sign calls out what is designated as Italian vegetables, which makes sense given the ethnic makeup of the surrounding neighborhood.
On the floor, new bins allow for big, conspicuous displays, but include a multi-height element, in many cases to enhance the line-of-sight merchandising plan.
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS
Tropicals are a particular point of focus on the floor.
“We dedicated an entire block to just tropical fruits and vegetables,” says Cingari. “We have an international clientele at this store, and to be honest, we could probably use double that room. We put it all together so that customers can have a one-stop shop for tropicals.”
Although tropical items may have started off as products to satisfy specific ethnic demands, Cingari says, “Now everyone is buying yucca,” he says. “They make mashed yucca, a healthier version of mashed potatoes.”
Although a less exotic category, Cingari ShopRite made more space for potatoes in the remodel, as consumer demand has become more varied over time.
“The baby potato category — the small Yukon golds, red, small white potatoes — absolutely exploded over the last two to three years, so we gave potatoes a huge run,” says Cingari.
The company also does well with specialty onions, such as cipollinis and pearls, he adds.
Convenience played into the remodel plans, as well as a little pizzazz.
New to the chain, and something it’s testing in this location, is a fresh-cut produce concept. The Norwalk Cingari ShopRite has someone right on the floor preparing all the cut fruit and cut vegetables that are going into this case.
“It’s literally done on the floor, so it’s a little bit of theater,” Cingari says. “If you need anything done, they’ll do it for you when they’re back there. So, it’s like a full-service produce department. We’ve always done cut fruit and cut vegetables, but doing it on the floor is something totally new.”
The remodel plans included a 5,000 square addition to allow space for a broader foodservice offering in the form of a full grill.
FRESH, NEW LOOK
Cingari says an important consideration in the remodel plan was to expand what the store offered customers, with a more stylish decor package.
“We gave the customers a new and fresh feel,” says Cingari. “So instead of the typical supermarket, when you walk in, it’s white, bright. We kind of toned down all the colors to a wood grain and a modernized feel for our customers.”
Although being on a main thoroughfare such as Route 1 has its advantages, it also means the Norwalk Cingari ShopRite is on one of the community’s main commercial roadways where just about every possible competitor operates. Cingari says standards instilled over the generations since the family business began in 1929 is a competitive advantage, one that plays out even better in the new, updated store environment.
Cingari lauds store management and his produce manager, Byron Lopez, in how they operate the store and treat its customers.
“They’re probably the best produce team that I’ve ever seen,” says Cingari. “There’s a certain standard, so everyone knows exactly what they need to do every day, and they do it. And we are fortunate to have an incredible team of merchandising staff. They have the talent. We’re seeing the benefit of that.
“We have customers back in this store who probably haven’t been here in a long time. Customer service is our superpower.”
Cingari Family Markets
ShopRite of Norwalk
360 Connecticut Ave., Norwalk, CT 06854