The new Lowes Foods store in Winterville, North Carolina aims to create an entertainment-driven shopping experience. It features an array of unique concepts and various specialty food sections that seek to create a “Village of Shops” theme, providing customers with a diverse and engaging shopping environment, complete with interactive elements and a strong focus on customer service.

In a recent fireside chat with RangeMe & ECRM SVP of Retail Wayne Bennett – who was on hand at the store’s grand opening – Lowes Foods SVP of Merchandising Glenn Figenholtz discusses the new concept and how it fits in with Lowes Foods overall strategy for delivering a truly unique shopping experience to its customers. 

Take a virtual tour through the Lowes Foods Winterville Store

ECRM: Tell us a little bit about your background and your role at Lowes Foods.

Figenholtz: I lead merchandising at Lowes Foods across our entire store, and I’ve been with the company for about two years now. I have a long history in the retail space, over 20 years now. I started my career at Walgreens and ran many of the food and beverage businesses there for quite some time. 

ECRM: How does the Winterville store showcase the future vision of Lowe’s Foods?

Figenholtz: What we’re trying to do at Lowes Foods is become an entertainment company that sells great food experiences. When you come into our store, we really bring that to life through both our concepts and the overall engagement of what a guest can experience. It’s all about experiential retailing. We’ve got over 70 seats in the store, so someone can come in, go to our Beer Den and grab a beer, go to our Boxcar Coffee Bar and get a great drink, and then pick up some food from all of our great concepts throughout the store. This includes the Smokehouse, Sammy’s, Chicken Kitchen, Sausage Works, and our Cakery.

ECRM: I believe you refer to that as the Village of Shops theme. Can you go a little deeper into that concept and what you are looking to accomplish with it?

Figenholtz: When you think about it, Lowes Foods is that village people come into. All those different concepts or shops, like our Beer Den or Sammy’s, they all have a great backstory behind them. They are unique brands in and of themselves with branding elements and exclusive items we create. We want to make sure we bring these to life and give our guests something unique and different to experience every time they come into the store. Continuing to build up each of those shops with brand guardrails and products that make Lowes Foods unique gives our guests a great opportunity to try something new every time they’re there.

ECRM: One of my most favorite shops within the village is the Cakery.

Figenholtz: Oh, by far. Real butter, real cream in our icing. They are delicious.

ECRM: In addition to the experiential things you’re doing, I’ve also noticed the enthusiasm of the store associates. They extend the whole experience aspect. 

Figenholtz: People make the difference in what we do. It’s great to have different brand elements and things we want to accomplish, but without the people, it doesn’t happen. Our people make the difference in how they come to life and engage with our guests.

We encourage our hosts to engage with guests, sample and sell products, and make sure guests have unique experiences. Whether it’s doing the chicken dance or sampling buttercream from the Cakery, the engagement and excitement our people bring really drive our businesses.

ECRM: As we were walking the store, you mentioned a concept around “dinner tonight.” What do you mean by that and what is Lowes doing to own it?

Figenholtz: That goes back to the food experiences we want to deliver in our stores. Our guests are busier than ever, so how do we conveniently offer what a guest is looking for for dinner tonight? Whether it be ready to eat, ready to heat, or ready to cook, we offer great food experiences. We provide inspiration and make it easy to put recipes together so guests can create great meals at home.

ECRM: When you walk into the store and turn right, that tomato display was fantastic, kind of mixing dinner tonight with the experience.

Figenholtz: Exactly. Come in, make a salad, try a tomato. It might be a different color, shape, or size, but all that goes together to create an experience at home.

ECRM: Share a little about the Brown Bag private label line, your perspectives, and the creative around it.

Figenholtz: Brown Bag is our hero private brand product. All of our Lowes Foods Brown Bag products are clean label, making us better than or equal to national brands and providing unique items. Our guests and consumers are looking to eat cleaner, and we offer solutions with simple ingredients and great taste.

ECRM: For the emerging brands listening in, I know the Healthy Pod display stands out. Can you talk about that program and its importance to Lowes Foods?

Figenholtz: The Healthy Pod provides a great opportunity for incubation and showcases brands that offer healthier, better-for-you options. It allows us to merchandise emerging brands and provides a forum for new brands that might not have distribution yet. It’s a great opportunity to partner with Lowes Foods and showcase these brands.

ECRM: Can you share how you and your team utilize ECRM services to find incremental product innovation?

Figenholtz: ECRM and RangeMe provide exposure to new brands we don’t see every day. We get to see what’s happening in the market, look for strategies to implement, and meet with vendors to put plans in place. It’s a great opportunity to leverage the tools and activities to find innovation.

ECRM: When you’re looking at vendors and partners, what do you consider as part of a strong vendor partnership?

Figenholtz: We put a plan in place to win and be successful together. Understanding our guests, aligning to category strategies, and having activation plans to ensure the product sells are key. We look at how we can drive the business together, and we love the opportunity to test and learn with our suppliers to find solutions that make sense.

ECRM: Congratulations on the new store opening. It was an honor to be there and see the excitement. 

Editor’s note: Brands can now submit their products to Lowes Foods via the retailer’s RangeMe link!

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