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10 takeouts from GIANT Heirloom and GIANT Riverwalk

Updated: Dec 24, 2021


Recently we had the chance to spend a day with Paul Madarieta, Director of Urban Retail at the GIANT company, and responsible for the GIANT Heirloom format, to explore the impressive format developments from the retailer in Philadelphia.


GIANT Heirloom is very much a format with a difference, while many of the Heirloom principles have been taken through to the larger Riverwalk store. Here we explore more about how the format has taken local relevance to new heights, and share key learnings we took from our visit.


1. Kombucha on tap



In Europe, kombucha on tap is a rarity. And while it’s more common in the US, it’s a service offered by very few neighbourhood grocery stores. In itself, it’s just one small element of the offer, but it’s one that converts into a great looking feature in-store that sets wider perceptions around what the store is all about and how it meets a variety of food & drink missions. And it’s done well – with a selection of kombuchas available, even stretching at times to include cold brew coffee. Customers serve themselves, then pay at the checkout.

2. Tap walls



In two stores – the GIANT Heirloom Northern Liberties and the larger format GIANT Riverwalk – the tap principles from kombucha have been extended much further into tap wall concepts. The scale of this is impressive, with more than 40 taps available on both sites. The taps serve a combination of drink in and take home missions - the in-store crowler machines deliver extended shelf-lives for the beer tapped in-store. And in both stores much focus has been placed on creating the environment alongside the tap wall for it to prosper.


For example at its smaller Northern Liberties site, a downstairs area came with the site. Originally designated as office space, this was repurposed to create Heirloom Underground, a seating area, with many taps offering a very wide range of – often local – beers, as well as wine and (free) water and (free) soft drinks. There are also a range of games, both board games and (free) retro video games, making this a great place for young families to socialise, with plenty of entertainment for children alongside a pleasant, welcoming seating area for adults.


3. Seating is integral to the proposition


As well as in Northern Liberties, seating also forms an important aspect of other stores. It feels as well that this isn’t just about creating a seating area, it’s about making the seating area as welcoming as it can be, with quality fit out and consideration of the best way of laying out the entire store to optimise seating. For example in Riverwalk, it’s been positioned with a view out onto the river, while at the same store an external seating area – with external tap wall – has been added, an area which is also used for events.

4. GIANT has created feature points out of local suppliers in its stores

Lots of retailers work very effectively with local suppliers, and many do a great job in showcasing them in-store. But here the principles of local are taken further, with the celebration of local suppliers woven into the core design elements of the store itself. The most prominent example was the gondola end display from One Village Coffee, based out of Souderton, PA, approximately 30 miles North of Philadelphia, but this was far from the only example.


5. It’s worked with a local restaurant to create an outstanding taco counter in its Riverwalk store

We’ve touched on the Riverwalk store a couple of times already, a much larger format that nonetheless carries many of the smaller format principles through. And a key one here is around local . The store includes a strong food-for-now offer, including a Saladworks counter, a sushi/ poke bar and a taco bar. The taco bar is a core part of this, and is operated by a prominent and highly regarded local Mexican restaurant, which GIANT worked with to help to bring its offer in a food-to-go format into the store.


6. Ranges are differentiated, aiming to meet regular neighbourhood needs alongside providing something more special

Across the store, shoppers’ eyes are drawn to differentiated products. This doesn’t mean the store’s focus is on premium, speciality lines – it offers a mainstream range, with competitive pricing supported by being part of a large food retail business. But in selected areas, ranges come through as stretching into weekend indulgence territory rather than daily needs. For example, premium pasta ranges, and a differentiated wine offering that draws upon many old world varieties.


7. GIANT leads with more emotive category signage


One of the first things that impacts on entry to the store is the differentiated use ofcategory signage. Produce is signposted as ‘Garden’, meat and fish as ’Land and Sea’ and the deli as the ‘Heirloom Kitchen’. ‘Pairings’ is also a nice way to describe cheese, pre-packed charcuterie and dips, while ‘Gathering’ is also used to signpost seating.


8. Plant-based is very well represented and signposted


Plant-based is given prominence in-store, and comparable billing with the above super categories across the stores. Where possible it’s located alongside the ‘Garden’ section, to build on the natural linkages between the two.

9. Pairings is a theme that runs across the store

We touched on the Pairings signposting earlier. This fits on many levels, and with snacking/ grazing / smaller plates/ sharing all areas that are likely to have a bigger role on how we eat going forward – especially in company – it feels to be one with an opportunity to be taken much further. And the theme runs beyond the section itself, with adjacencies well-considered across the store to make the most of these opportunities.


10. Using the design and messaging to create a distinctive, welcoming in-store environment

Beyond the individual features, the key is that all of them come together, alongside many other aspects, to create a friendly, welcoming, and locally relevant place to shop. Some of this is of course more subtle, in the messaging for example that is used across the store. It should also be said however that a critical aspect to this is the welcoming nature of the team members in-store. Often stores with a focus on self-scan can become functional rather than inspirational destinations, even where they are selling more premium products. This isn’t one of those, with team members delivering great engagement and service on the shop floor. As models shift towards more self-scan and even cashierless shopping, more retailers will look to see how they can bring out a differentiated experience on the shop floor itself. They could do worse than look at GIANT Heirloom for inspiration.