This is retail stripped bare of all but the essentials – a display, a price and a few checkouts. Interesting too that it is the food discounters that are seeing sales soar, a consequence, we are told, of shoppers deserting the high street’s more familiar names in favour of lower-priced alternatives.
Yet stepping through the door of a value food retailer, one thing is immediately clear. These may be functional spaces, but design thought has been applied to them in terms of layout, customer flow and ease of shopping in just the same way that the big supermarkets tackle the problem of carving up their interiors.
The difference is that there is a concentration on cost-cutting at the expense of everything else, meaning that display gondolas, graphics and expensive finishes tend to go out the window, if there are any.
But consider the way things are done in a typical Lidl. Fresh fruit and veg tend to be near the beginning of the customers journey, followed by dry goods. Freezers and chillers are at the back and booze alley, a big number in Lidl apparently, is left until last. All in all, not unlike bigger and pricier alternatives.
And somewhere along the line, non-food is shoehorned into the mix. This might appear, at first sight, incompatible with budget food retailing, but it demands attention, if only because it is themed and changed on a weekly basis.
It is worth noting too that product design actually plays a pretty major part in the non-food offer with retailers such as Tchibo employing the likes of Sebastian Conran to beef up their non-food product credentials.
So does this mean that we should all be celebrating the high-end design ethos that informs the activities of the better value retailers?
Well probably not. But neither should we be too sniffy about what they are doing. These are not the kind of retailers that usually merit consideration when talking of good-looking interiors, because they are not.
They are however, perfectly evolved instances of retailers that that are equipped to deal with high-volume, low price transactions and in many cases they are a lot better at what they do than many of their mid-market equivalents.
The bigger high-street food retailers could do worse than taking a look at what is being done in this arena as not everything is as simple or straightforward as might at first seem to be the case.