1988 - Supermarket Shopping
Today's supermarkets have evolved in response to consumer demand, and we now buy 75% of our food from them. A total floor area of 40,000 square feet is quite typical, with parking for hundreds of cars. Behind the scenes there can be almost as much space as there is in the actual sales area. This is taken up by food preparation sections, storage space, offices, loading bays, staff restaurant and rest rooms, heating and refrigeration plant and other facilities. Many supermarkets built in recent years have made use of empty areas of urban wasteland, but few have been treated quite as imaginatively as this example. The site has easy access from a main arterial road and was ideal for development as a supermarket, but part of it was occupied by a listed building - a derelict church -that could not be demolished. The problem was given careful consideration bythe architects and it proved possible for the fabric of the church to be incorporated into the new supermarket as a lobby area/restaurant, with offices on the upper floor. Supermarket shoppers usually buy a large volume of goods on a single weekly or fortnightly trip. How should this affect the way the supermarket is laid out to make shopping easier?
Sainsbury's. Founded in 1869, Sainsbury's is the oldest of Britain 's major food-retailing chains. By 1939 it had 250 shops offering traditional counter service for poultry and game, dairy products, cooked and fresh meats and general groceries. Self-service was introduced in 1950 and the company's first supermarket - defined as a self-service sales area of over 4000 sq ft - was opened in 1954. Some customers - especially the older ones - were taken aback by the notion of serving themselves, having always been accustomed to dealing with assistants. In comparison with the older kind of shops, supermarkets allowed customers greater choice, economised on labour costs and permitted more effective use to be made of space in stocking a wide range of goods - especially own-brand items. As with anybusiness, finding the right location is vital and supermarkets require large sites. Traffic congestion, parking difficulties and soaring land values meant that, by the 1960s, town-centre locations were becoming impractical. The edge-of-town supermarket - such as this impressive new development in Wolverhampton -was seen as the answer, permitting easy access and abundant parking for the two thirds of Sainsbury's customers who now come by car. Many of the Sainsbury's branches being built today will carry about 15,000 product lines - in 1900, the figure was 130, in 1950, 550 and even in 1970 it was under 4000. The layout is clean-cut and orderly, the lighting subdued. The flow of customers is carefully orchestrated to avoid congestion. Recently an interesting development has been a partial reversion to counter service for fish, cheese, bread and delicatessen items. The personal contact - like the homely smell of the in-store bakery- adds a welcoming touch amid the neat aisles.
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