How does a retailer that prides itself on providing a distinctive in-store brand experience demonstrate that to a community before the physical storefront opens?
Whole Foods Market, one of our clients, faced this challenge with the opening of their newest Washington store in the city of Lynnwood, about 20 minutes north of Seattle. The store, which opened this Thursday, is truly reflective of its community. A focus on cooking, families and kids is evident in the expansive bulk foods section, cooking classes, a children’s play area and a Kid’s Club program, while brightly colored walls and signage give the entire space a playful, upbeat vibe.
But in the months while the store was being transformed from a vacant Circuit City into a welcoming destination highlighted by reclaimed wood and LED lighting, the store team still wanted to be able to give the community that Whole Foods brand experience. It wasn’t about hyping up the opening. They wanted to live their company values, including a commitment to local and organic, a belief in giving back to the local and global communities, respecting the environment, promoting health and wellness and creating win-win partnerships with vendors and suppliers.
They accomplished this in a number of ways. Early in the morning on Black Friday, they handed out coffee and breakfast to shoppers at the nearby Alderwood Mall. For Valentine’s Day, they distributed bouquets of roses to community members. Store leadership spoke about job opportunities at the Edmonds Community College and hosted a free screening of The Lorax film for kids. All this before the store shelves were even stocked.
We saw firsthand how it resonated with the community. One Facebook commenter posted in response to the Lorax screening: “All I have to say is your company is amazing! I mean who else comes to town and does this…NO ONE! I love you guys already and you’re not even open yet.”
That mutual affection was on display this morning as hundreds of customers streamed into the store when the doors opened for the first time. It seemed to me that the community understood what Whole Foods Market valued; already, the store feels like a gathering place for families in Lynnwood.
Have you seen other retailers do a good job of laying the groundwork in a community?