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Simple Mart - The Fast, Simple Place to Shop
Apr 24, 2006, 11:37a

Every time I go into Target, I end up spending way too much time there. Usually I just need to get some soap, a bottle of contact lens solution, or some detergent. Instead of a quick, simple trip to the market, I'm overwhelmed with a super-sized parking lot, over 15 brands of soap combined into 3-packs, 6-packs, 9-packs, 12-packs, and 24-packs, and more time spent waiting in line to pay than I even spent shopping in the store. Standing in front of the deodorant, I've got to sit there for a minute to analyze which is the best price of the smell I like. What I think should just be a 5-min trip turns into a 30-min trip, and the sensory overload of ceiling-high products and fluorescent lights leaves me with a headache.

I think it's time for something different.

In this age of "super-marts" (Target, Safeway, Costco, and Walmart, to name a few), I think it's time for the "simple-mart", a place you can go that is fast, high-quality, and, above all else, simple. This is a place where you aren't overcome with the anxiety of choice but you're greeted with the right level of selection at the best price. So if you just want to get some soap, a bottle of contact lens solution, and some detergent, you're in and out in 5 minutes, not 30.

What would it take to create such a shopping experience?

1) Transportation: Parking should be as close as possible to the actual store entrance, so you don't have to walk a quarter-mile just to get inside the store. This means that if the store is in an urban area, the parking should be underground, directly below the store. If the store is in a suburban area, the parking should be arranged in a circular pattern around the store, minimizing the distance to entrance for the maximum number of people. If you're lucky enough to be in a city with decent public transportation, the store should be a 5-min walk from that too.

2) Store Layout: The store layout should be consistent and virtually identical across all Simple Mart locations. That way, you wouldn't have to re-learn where everything is if you went to a new one. The most frequently purchased items would be up front, so if you just needed milk, eggs, and bread, you wouldn't have to walk more than 10 feet from the door.

3) Product Selection: Simpe Marts would carry everything you would ever need for your home. It would combine the product selection of Safeway and Longs Drugs, so you would be able to get your groceries as well as other home supplies there. However, there would be one critical difference - there would only be 1 of each identical product. Instead of 15 brands of body soap, there would be 1. Instead of 3 brands of Honey Nut Cheerios, there would be 1. Instead of 12 brand of mozarella cheese, there would 1. Of course, the definition of "identical" is a tricky one. Would the store carry both the hickory-smoked cheddar as well as the mild cheddar - I think so, because those 2 products differ sufficiently in flavor. But would there be 10 brands of frozen pepperoni pizza? Nope, only 1. How would this 1 product be selected? It would be based on price, popularity, and quality, so that the lowest price, most-popular, and highest-quality product would be for sale. Would the store sell both Coke and Pepsi? Just like a fast-food chain, the store would only sell 1, because they're both different brands of what is essentially the same thing: cola. By simplifying the decision-making process, you'll save time and deal with less complexity.

4) Check-out: Just like Home Depot, there would be a large number of self-checkout terminals, watched over by a handful of employees. All registers would always be open, so the length of the line would be minimized independent of the number of employees working at the time. There would be no "club cards" - every person would always get the lowest price on the stuff they're buying. Also, no coupons, ever, only low prices, always.

Of course, there are a lot of details missing above (e.g. how to compete with competitors, store aesthetics and ambiance, advertising, etc.).

And, even more importantly, this idea may simply fail as a business. I forget the exact number, but a large amount of purchases are impulse buys, meaning you leave with something that you didn't intend to buy in the first place. This is why so many different products are pushed in front of you, why you are forced to walk by a bunch of stuff just to get some milk, and why the checkout stand is filled with the same useless tabloids and chewing gum.

But hey, I think it's worth a shot. Just like Starbuck's revolutionized the coffee business, I think Simple Marts could revolutionize the super-market business. And of course, it would probably need a better name :)

Read comments (3) - Comment

omar - Apr 24, 2006, 1:03p
i understand your plea but i have a different solution..

i think i'll buy things like detergent etc.. from now on on amazon.. i'll just need to make sure i keep good track of when i need things!

Roy - Apr 24, 2006, 1:48p
If you narrowed the product offerings down enough, maybe you could fit it all into a really large vending machine. Then you could put machines in many convenient locations (like ATMs)

Simran - Nov 7, 2006, 8:48p
I painfully remember my trip to a Costco, different than the one I go to usually. It took me around 40 mins to figure out where the petfood was.

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