Visiting Helsinki for a couple of days (see blog here) allowed me also to experience a guided visit to the S-Group’s Herkku Food Market Delicatessen in the basement of the Stockmann Department Store. Stockmann is an institution in Finland, being a grand, historical, store. Visiting a country for a couple of days can be a recipe for completely misunderstanding the retail scene, but the chance to visit the new Herkku concept was a great opportunity.
At around 5k sq.m and c20k lines, this is not a small store, but it did feel quite intimate, if a little unclear as you descend the escalator. The store entry sees a large bakery (bake-off) on the right hand side and fruit and vegetables on the left. Both have high impact and an impressive range. The potato cellar was interesting and seemed to be well used.
Following round the back (?) wall after the bakery are a series of serve-over counters including a pizza area with pizza oven and a fresh and juice bar. All operate a queuing system, which can be entered and checked by mobile phone. The displays and range are first class with a particularly impressive display of fish (the store has its own smoker). A small bistro offers a range of light meals and is complimented by a rather small café and coffee shop.
The core of the store has the normal displays of ambient product. Some Tesco products (Finest) were notable and I did spend some time in the beer section, with its brewery like piping design.
All in all it was a really interesting and attractive store. I suspect is has a price premium and it is focused on a certain demographic. We visited on a Friday lunchtime and it was busy, though the customers were on the older side. Baskets and small trolleys dominated. I could see myself shopping there – especially for bread and fish – but it would not be a main shop.
A few things struck me as curious. The queuing system was interesting but the ability for mobile phone checking and the placement of some chairs to sit on near the fish display (see the prepared meals photo above) hint at some issues at certain times. Some of the fruit and vegetable displays seemed a little unclear with displays on pallets rather than better quality “shelving” – on asking I was told they were ‘best sellers’ so had been put in a separate display. I guess you know this if you are regular customers, but it puzzled me.
I was also taken by the small size of the ‘restaurant’ (Bistro – great fish soup and prawns by the way) and the coffee shop. Both seemed busy and at peak times I could see them being well under-sized. When you look at UK stores with such concepts, they would be much larger in scale.
It was also noticeable that a lot of in-store merchandising and display building was taking place. Doing this at a peak customer day and time seemed strange. Apparently the Stockmann ‘Crazy Days’ sales was about to happen. This is a huge event and another institution and thus explained the trolleys, people and boxes in the aisles. It still felt odd though!
Finally, given probable developments in Scotland (and perhaps the UK as a whole) I did notice the Deposit Return/Reverse Vending Machines near the entrance. The fresh juice bottles (returnable) show the deposit and the return. Whilst I didn’t linger long, I did see a few people bringing bottles etc. back for return.
A really interesting couple of hours in a very attractive central urban store. I hope it does well, though I suspect it is an expensive place to operate.