When I heard that Loblaws was going to open a store in Maple Leaf Gardens, I was nervous. Maple Leaf Gardens, as long time home of Toronto’s NHL franchise, holds an important place in Canadian cultural history. Locating a store in this shrine to the national pastime could invite a lot of scrutiny.
The first thing that caught my eye when I entered the store was a sculptural homage to the location: a giant Maple Leaf comprised of seats from the arena. The store is visibly embracing its heritage.
The second thing that got my attention was a rack by the front door which displayed the President’s Choice Insiders’ Guide (the in-house food magazine) the current flyer and a detailed store layout. The store guide, entitled “Welcome to Food’s Greatest Stage” is a nod to the importance of retail theatre in cutting edge stores (A Personal Retail Theatre Experience).
I could not help but notice how alive and active the store was. There were construction workers in hardhats picking up to-go lunches at the Chef-Made Meals Counter. Urban workers were taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi while enjoying a sit down deli meal in the canteen. In one of the aisles, there were a group of advertising students from nearby Ryerson University doing a pop-up photo shoot complete with portable bistro furniture. The impression that this was the-place-to-be was underlined by the fact that a Loblaws’ employee was shepherding a tour group through the store.
From the vestibule, the consumer has direct sight lines to the floral display, the Sushi prep bar and Chef-Made Meals.
The message is clear; this is the place for fresh food, quality service, and unique products.
The message of quality and service is not diluted as you move through the store. Behind the deli there is an air dryer compartment replete with prosciutto, pancetta, coppa, bresaola, sausages and other cured meats. There is a veggie juicing station to recharge your antioxidants, and you can even order a piece of chocolate hand chipped off of a giant block.
Throughout the store the staff was happy and helpful. The sight lines were only slightly obstructed by the fixturing but the signage and the map made it easy to navigate the store.
To make sure that you left the store with a lasting, positive impression that would bring you back again and again, the checkouts were flanked by a customer service counter on one side and a tea emporium and patisserie on the other side.
The best news of all: I live just a short stroll away across the park from this marvelous store. It is such a joy when a retailer gets it right!