Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Trip to the Grocery Store

Now that I am on a health kick, part of my week is devoted to shopping at the local grocery store. In Australia, there are really only two options if you want to go to a major one. There's Coles or Woolworth's (Wooly's). I have seen a few Franklin's around also. But the one I go to is Coles because it is only a 10 minute walk from my house. Everything seems normal to me now, but Australian and American grocery stores have major differences.

In the USA, we have dozens of major grocery stores. Depending on what region you are travleling through, you will see different stores. I grew up with Sun Foods (Now Hannaford Bros.), Shaw's and Market Basket. We now have Price Chopper, Massachusetts has Big Y and Stop & Shop. In Wisconsin I traveled to Pick n' Save, in Colorado it was Safeway, Texas had H-E-B and I suppose Wal-Mart should get a mention also as they are a big competitor throughout the country of all the above mentioned.

You have to understand that in America, everything we do is big. So I can't say that Coles or Wooly's are mini, I just think that the USA is huge. In the states, we have two large entrances to the super markets. You can enter and pick up a cart or basket at each of the entrances. In Oz, there is one entrance. This is where the cart is picked up. I'll talk about exiting later on.

This is the entrance to Wooly's at the mall near my house. Just a little turnstyle like entrance.

The portion sizes are smaller as well. Australia is increasingly being recognized as an obese nation, yet they don't have the "super-size" options that I remember back in the states. For example, the cereal I eat comes only in a 480g(17oz) box. Back home, I could get a box maybe three times as big as that. There are a couple of flavors that do have a bigger box like Corn Flakes, but not many of them come in that size.

Those boxes (above) are a popular snack cracker called Shapes. I could eat one box in five minutes easy. My ideal size snack cracker box is a family size box of CHEEZ-ITS!

Shopping carts, or trolleys as they are called here, kind of baffle me. Back home, our shopping carts obviously have four wheels, but only the front two swivel. This makes it very easy to steer the cart left or right. It does make it a bit difficult to move directly left or right. That's where you normally hear that loud noise produced by the cart scraping the store floor as the shopper drags it to the side. Well here in Australia, all four wheels swivel. This is great for moving the cart in all directions, but I find that the cart is always rolling away from me! If I'm going around a corner, it kind of takes off. I prefer the cart sticking around. I will say that the wheels are never noisy like back home. One last note about the shopping carts. People wheel them home! I see usually four or five carts on the side of the road enroute to Coles. I think it is illegal, but I've also heard that it is someone's job to go pick them up around the neighborhood at the end of each day.

I found this trolley up the street from Coles in an alley

The Australian Trolley with 4 swivel wheels

The next difference is the store layout. In the past five years, I've noticed that American grocery stores are making dynamic changes to the floor plan. It used to be that all aisles go in the same directon, but now depending on which section of the store you're in, the aisle could be going vertically, horizontally or diagonally to the entrance. For example I know in some stores in my hometown, the organic rows make you feel like you're in a completely different store, with different flooring and colors.

In Australia I feel that they haven't grasped this concept yet. There really are no different layouts except that of the produce section, which is a little more open similar to the US. Otherwise all the aisles go in the same direction.

A typical health foods section at a US Grocery Store

And going back to the size differences, what skinny aisles they are! I mentioned that everything is bigger in the USA (Texas too!). It would be difficult to get three shopping carts side by side down the aisle here. I don't think it can be done.

A shopping aisle at Coles, Australia

Another aisle at Woolworth's

A Price Chopper Aisle, USA....BIG!

It may sound like I'm saying I don't like the Australian grocery store. That isn't true. I'm just still used to the way things are at home. For example, the location of the milk! In the states, the milk is put usually somewhere near the back of the store. I've read that because nearly everyone purchaes milk, the store wants customers to pass by all the other products before getting to the milk. It is a marketing scheme. At Coles, where I shop, the milk is in the second aisle to the left! Everyone here goes left to right through the store, so I disagree with the milk placement because (A) it gets warm if I am taking a long time shopping, and (B) it isn't a great marketable location. In Woolworth's defense, I did notice that they do put the milk in the way back of their store. It is Coles that isn't up with the times. I didn't notice Franklin's milk...moving on.

Try sometime Google searching "Grocery store marketing tactics" or something similar and you can find all sorts of ways that supermarkets get you to buy more. From fancy end of aisle displays to slow music. It all has a purpose of getting the customer to throw a little more in their carts.

In New Hampshire and Vermont we have an impressive beer aisle. I always liked the beer aisle because that's where I spent a good amount of time working this past decade for Clarke Companies. In Australia there is no beer aisle. There is just the liquor store outside the supermarket. Much like Massachussets.

The Beer aisle, USA, one of my favorite aisles

Finally, I mentioned earlier something about the exits. I found it is hard to leave a store unless I buy something. It sounds strange, but I've been into stores before back home and had to run out because I had forgotten my phone in the car or because I changed my mind and didn't want anything. It was easy because the entrances are also the exits there. Today, as I was trying to compare Franklin's, Coles and Wooly's, I went into all three and indeed had to do a bit of searching before I could leave. You are not allowed to leave out the entrance and they block all the unused register aisles with carts....er trolleys. Don't you hate that!?

That's all for now. Happy shopping. Next time I'll compare USA's Home Depot to Australia's Bunnings Warehouse...nah.


- Edmund - said...

Groceries stores are confusing here and I never understand why they take the carts out of the store and home?!?! It really is a lot more different than you would expect. Good blog.

Christina said...

hi.. glad to know your blog.
I was finding the information about shopping cart in Australia, and I found in this blog.

In Indonesia, so many supermarket and hypermarket growing up in every city.
The biggest one is Carrefour.