Thursday, February 14, 2008

Food Retailing Innovation Memo: Ada's Creates its Own Lifestyle Natural and Organic Foods' Retailing Niche Using Bold, 'Big Idea' Innovation

Florida family-owned Ada's Natural & Organic Foods Supermarket understands store format innovation and lifestyle-oriented food retailing better than most retailers. The two-store, and soon to be three-store, Florida natural products retailer not only offers an extensive selection of natural and organic fresh foods, grocery products and non-foods in its supermarkets, it also creates a special lifestyle theme for each store.

The natural products and lifestyle grocer's latest format innovation will come later this year in August or September when it opens a 20,000 square foot lifestyle-oriented natural and organic foods supermarket in Naples, Florida.

The store will feature a Japanese-inspired Zen Garden theme throughout its 20,000 square feet. There will be Koi fish swimming in a large, elaborate pond, Japanese architecture throughout all the store's departments, and Japanese decorations at every turn of the store's aisle.

Ada's, which is owned by Florida's Bonadias family, creates a unique, one-of-a-kind theme for each of its stores. The flagship store in Fort Myers, Florida for example uses a tropical rain forest theme throughout the 28,000 square foot store. The store includes a large, temperature controlled bulk foods room even, which in done-up to look like an ancient lost temple. (Think Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark or Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone.)

Company co-owner Ed Bonadias says its all about creating lifestyle. "We want to offer our customers a lifestyle they might not normally have, through a variety of products, services and atmosphere." Ada's certainly lives up to that goal.

The independent grocer recently opened it newest and second store in nearby Cape Coral, Florida. Although the Cape Coral lifestyle store is only half the size of the Fort Myers market at 14,000 square feet, that size difference doesn't result in any compromises on the grocer's thematic lifestyle format.
The Cape Coral store takes its inspiration from the Canadian woodlands and mountain ranges. There's a temperature controlled bulk foods room just like in the Fort Meyers store, but in this case its designed to look like a log cabin, befitting the Canadian woodlands' theme. There are live waterfalls in the store, and areas that make a shopper feel like she's hiking in the pristine Canadian Rocky Mountains.

The new Cape Coral Ada's also has a twist we can't recall ever seeing in a supermarket before: The Bonadieses' have built a two-story fitness center which is connected to the store. When one thinks about it the logic of this innovation is impecable; natural foods, natural products and fitness--the two go together like fruits and vegetables.

The fitness center is open 24 hours a day and even offers shoppers free classes like Pilates, spinning and aerobics. And get this dash of merchadising brilliance: shoppers exercising next door in the fitness center can give their shopping list to an Ada's personal shopper, who will fill the list and have the groceries waiting for the customer when she finishes exercising.

An important thing to note about Ada's is that the independent retailer doesn't use these unique lifestyle themes in its stores as a substitute for good food retailing and product merchandising.
In fact, the opposite is true. In terms of customer service, the grocer will only hire employees with past industry experience, either at another retail food store or for one of their suppliers. A big focus is providing customers will answers to any question they might have. And if a store staffer can't answer the question, Ada's has computers nearby where the employee can search until he or she gets finds an answer to a shopper's question.

In the area of natural product selection and merchandising, the grocer packs its stores with not only popular natural foods products, but goes out of its way to stock niche natural and health foods items other natural products grocers might not have. The stores sell about 1,000 different types of glutten-free products for example, and that inventory grows weekly. (A family member is allergic to glutten, which inspired the grocer's focus on the category.)

As part of its lifestyle-oriented approach to food retailing, Ada's also likes to create food theatre in its stores in the form of product sampling. Both stores have about 18-20 product sampling stations located in them. The new Naples store will have even more. Nearly all of the sampling tables offer tastes for shoppers all day and night during store hours. The idea is to combine the unique theme of the store with top-level service, an extensive and unique product selection, and lots of retail theatre. Constant innovation is a theme the family comes back to and executes often.

It's worked well thus far. The family bought the original Ada's store in 1993. It was 900 square feet and had two employees. That original store was in Fort Myers. Since then, the family made two moves, ending up in the 28,000 square foot Fort Myers flagship store described above. And of course, as mentioned, they recently opened the second Ada's in Cape Coral, with the third and newest store set to open in about 7 months in Naples. Today, the grocer has more than 100 employees for the two stores. That number will grow even more when the 20,000 square foot Naples store opens in August or September.

What Ada's Natural & Organic Foods Supermarket demonstrates is that with retail format and operational innovation, an independent can not only do well, but thrive. The family tells us they plan to open 4-to- 5 new stores in the next few years. Each new store, like the existing ones, will have its own unique lifestyle theme, while maintaing and improving on the grocer's product selection, merchandising and customer service metrics.

The family also is thinking "big idea" innovation outside of the supermarket businesses, but with the lifestyle them taking center stage. The family corporation's ultimate goal is to open an all-inclusive, completely organic Disneyland-like resort in the Carribbean.

Plans thus far call for an all-organic resort--not a chemical or preservative would be used for example--with a 1,500 room hotel, featuring among other things organic bed sheets and bathroom towels, 17 restaurants serving only organic foods and beverages, a chemical-free water park, an ice skating rink, movie and live entertainment theatres (organic popcorn only), and a casino. Ten-percent of the resort's profits would go to supporting local agriculture on the island and another 10% would be donated to international environmental causes, the family says.

We have no idea if the family will ever get their organic mega-resort built. Although they just might. Regardless though, it's that kind of "big idea," innovative thinking that allows the grocer to experiment in its stores, and to differentiate itself from Florida big guys Publix and Whole Foods Market, for example. It's also the type of thinking which allows the retailer to realize food retailing can indeed be theatre and to try new concepts like the full service health club as part of a supermarket.

This innovative thinking is on tap with some new concepts for the Naples store as well. For example, the in-store cafe in the new 20,000 square foot store will have an entire "glutten free" buffett, along with a regular one. The store also will feature an extensive organic pet food and sustainable pet products' department, which will sell many pet products currently mot offered for sale in most U.S. retail stores.

More surprises are on tap for shoppers when the Japanese Zen Garden themed Naples, Florida Ada's opens this summer, according to the Bonadies family. We like to hear that. May the retail innovation never end.


Anonymous said...

I'm very excited about your new store opening in naples. It'll be a much closer drive than hiking it over to whole foods on 41. I miss where wild oats was located. I HAVE been to your store in fort myers and it reminded me of places up in new york state and boston. It has much more of a neighborhood feel than the other health food giants. …I'm a big c-span fan and i saw that busboys and poets (a huge new restaurant, coffee bar and event venue) has really taken off. I would LOVE if Ada's would set aside space for independent films, (human rights films even...?)and/or book lectures or even better for BookTV and cspan to broadcast events from your site.
Lastly, I am very interested to work at your new store if there are openings. I am a trained mental health nurse with lots of experience and knowledge in nutrition, and complementary medicine. Plus, I've been buying organic for 8-10 years now. Please let me know where i can pick up an application. thank you for your time. Jill Haughie

Anonymous said...

The Ft Myers store has been run into the ground. There are few products available, management is poor. They let most of the familiar employees go.

Anonymous said...

Ditto the comment from 11-15-08. First, the Ada's store in Cape Coral closed (no advance notice), the 10% once-a-moth discount was silently discontinued (a store employee told me that all of the items would be permanently marked down - didn't happen), and the last few visits I've made I have found none of the items I looked for. It's going out of business without the sale!