Adaptability for All Formats

The Flexstore concept brings together a range of ideas, many of which had been used over the years to overcome design challenges for various retail collaborators of Interstore | Schweitzer, including Texas-based grocer H-E-B and upscale U.K. food retailer Waitrose.

“Over the last four or five years, one of the biggest German retailers and food retailers and the biggest Swiss retailer, together with us, decided to go deeper into the technical development of this, what we now call Flexstore, with all these different elements and components, how to solve the issue of drainage for the refrigerated counters, how to work and have the possibility to go around in the store with electricity, water supply and need in the service departments, and things like that,” recounts Interstore | Schweitzer CEO Bernhard Schweitzer in an exclusive interview with Progressive Grocer from his company’s offices in northern Italy. “And so these two major retailers in Switzerland and in Germany financed these developments, and in 2020, at EuroShop, we were allowed to present to the public what we have developed over the last four, five years. So it’s a sum of different technologies.” 

One key motivation in Flexstore’s development, he notes, was hearing retailers continually request: “Please give us a tool, give us something which will allow us … to constantly adapt layouts … with the right equipment, change the composition and the position of certain departments, enlarge certain departments. We have to have the possibility to do that.”

Additionally, the German retailer noted earlier “was buying over 100 big stores, and didn’t want to renovate them completely, but wanted to integrate completely new service departments,” says Schweitzer. “And with this idea of the Flexstore, where everything is plug and play, we were able in a very, very short time to produce these departments, bring them and position them in the stores without changing too much of the rest of the store. So these possibilities to be completely flexible in strategic decisions and be very, very, very fast in realizing these ideas, is for sure today one of the major motivations for retailers to use” Flexstore.

Since the concept features “the kind of technologies that allow us to be extremely fast in the construction period,” he continues, the company was able to reduce construction time on site by around 40{c30f02d1a3839018c3a3c8c7102050a0b32e2e4f8eba54dea6cc544f0247e749}.

Further, while the Orangeville Sobeys isn’t a small-format store, the Flexstore concept can work for retail spaces of any size, including smaller locations. “Especially for smaller formats, flexibility becomes more and more important,” Schweitzer tells PG. “In a big store, yes, it’s important to be flexible, but if you have the wrong assortment or the wrong combination of departments in a smaller store, it really, really can hurt. And to have the possibility to adapt that, it’s quite important.”