I live in a great urban retail district in Portland, Oregon called the Pearl. This week I was surprised to notice a new retail shop open in my neighborhood. Penzeys Spices is a 50 year old company that operates 48 stores and they do it quite well.
Their value proposition is that they provide high quality spices to the home cook, at affordable prices. The design of their retail stores is very consistent with that promise.
When you first enter the store you a greeted by an open floor plan with a good lines of sight, clear category signage for easy way-finding, and not too much visual clutter. The fixtures emulate wooden crates, and distressed wood and brick are used liberally in the design. The store is well lit, blending several large sky-lights with halogen fixtures.
Every spice in the store includes a large sampler jar which you are encouraged to smell. The sample jars are labeled with rich product information. The “for sale” packaging has simpler labels with clear pricing. Informational signs are scattered amongst the shelves, educating shoppers about the various spices.
Recipes are placed on each display that prominently feature the adjacent spices. The recipes include large photo’s of the finished product, and tear cards to enable you to take the recipe home. Penzeys clearly understands that they are selling the experience of having a fresh baked coconut pie in your home, not a just a jar of vanilla. A gift area includes a variety of gift packs with pre-selected assortments of spices and accessories (such as pepper-mills) in custom wooden gift crates.
Props are used to add visual interest to the environment (fishing boats, nets, burlap sacks, etc…)
Because the store caters to home cooks, who may be shopping with young children, the isle spacing is stroller friendly, and there is a themed coloring area for kids.
The store is the company’s second location in Portland. They seemed to have hired a friendly and enthusiastic staff, and sent a retail operations team member from headquarters to help launch the store.
Penzeys in-house team designed the store (I don’t know if a firm was involved with the original concept). They have there own fixture shop at their Wisconsin headquarters to fabricate the fixtures.
The company started as a mail-order business and expanded into retail, so it’s not surprising that they cater to multi-channel consumers offering catalogs, e-commerce, and retail stores with a consistent shopping experience.
Spice & Tea Exchange
I had never been in a dedicated spice retailer before, but this certainly felt like a well executed concept. It did make me curious if there was much competition in the category so I popped onto Google Maps and learned that there was a competitor called the Spice & Tea Exchange less than a mile away, so I paid them a visit as well.
Spice & Tea Exchange is a franchise operation, so it’s possible that the locally owned store in Portland is not representative of the overall concept, but unfortunately their Portland store did not fare well in comparison to Penzeys.
The store has been open for five months, but the primary signage was still a vinyl banner covering the previous occupants sign. There was a sidewalk tent in-front with a handmade promotion taped to it.
The store had a simplistic layout with product along the walls and no real use of the interior space. The fixtures, materials, and way-finding signage are all fine. Unfortunately they need of a new copy-writer, as most of the signage is to tell you want not to do!
Please don’t reach in the jars.
…the most expensive spice in the world
…this is not a hands-on museum.
All the negative signage made me feel like they would prefer shoppers not visit the store at all.
At the end of the day, I have no idea which store has better quality spices or how they compare on price, but I can tell you which store I’d rather shop… Penzeys won my business through their superior customer experience. Penzeys understands who their customer is and perfectly executed an experience tailored to that customer. I love great retail!