Ottawa-based grocery retailer Farm Boy, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary on December 2nd, has opened its 42nd location in Ontario.
The 23,225 square foot store location near the intersection of Dupont & Christie streets, in the central Toronto neighbourhood of Christie Pits is in the Litho condo development. This RioCan-built eight-storey mixed-use rental residential development has 210 condominium units and also features an LCBO store on ground level.
“We have received so much support from our Toronto customers over the years and we are thrilled to share that we have opened a new location on Dupont Street.” said Jean-Louis Bellemare, President and General Manager, Farm Boy.
“Those visiting the new location can expect to see the same fresh market experience Torontonians have come to know and love – a wide variety of fresh and unique Farm Boy products, along with exceptional customer service.”
“Going into new condo developments has been a strategy that we’ve implemented and have seen success with,” said J.J. Hochrein, Director of Marketing at Farm Boy. “The fact that we have a customer base directly above us, with a growing community was a big draw for this location.”
The 42nd store has the familiarity and consistency of a classic Farm Boy market, which includes characters like Mikey the Monkey, who is noticeable for welcoming customers and swinging above the bananas in the produce section. Farmhand, Lulu and Buddy are also included in the store design, in addition to the chicken coop above the eggs.
“One of the things that we want to continue to do with a Farm Boy experience is to have these ‘surprise and delights’ and have some fun with the store. You can see it with some of the characters that we have in our dairy farm, incorporating the barn and in produce with the fields.”
Private label is important for the retailer. With over 1800 products currently being produced under the Farm Boy label, the blend between well-known brands and in-house private ones creates an opportunity.
“That’s a focus for us – to expand our private label line of products. That being said, as we are looking at our Grocery lineup, we want to make sure that we are stocking ‘fan favourites’ like Heinz ketchup and French’s mustard – it’s important to carry what our customers are asking for. That being said, if we have the opportunity to bring in a trusted brand private label and really give the customer a great product with strong value – we’ll look at that.”
When asked about the product breakdown, Hochrein described the process for the in-house private label expansion.
“We’re growing hundreds of products (300-400) a year into the system. We have an amazing team that looks after our sourcing and manufacturing process. We’re constantly testing new products, market trends, customer care feedback. Always asking for feedback from our customers and team to see where we can make a better offering.”
The brand also brings in local favourites into their market environment, which is sourced as part of the strategy of creating a well-rounded shopping experience.
“An example of the product partnerships is with Hayter’s Farm, as they do all of our turkeys. Anytime there is a holiday, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, they are right there to work with us. Hayter’s Farm is part of our core lineup and it has been a fantastic experience and we’ve grown together.”
One thing that customers will notice about the Farm Boy market experience is the presentation of products.
“We design all our labels through the private label team. When we sit down and look at the offering, we discuss the colour palette and how it will look in store. The products are also coloured by style and repeatability – as customers can remember which style they liked based on the look of the label.”
When you walk through the store, one of the interesting design choices is in the lighting, which changes based on the department that you are walking through. The lighting features in the produce section are white, while the features change to a black colour in the meat & seafood market area.
“The in-house team at Farm Boy does all the store design, which can be thought as a tier system.
- Tier one is the focal murals and highlight signage.
- Tier two is the level signage and in-department design
- Tier three signage is the pricing signage.
With our team, we look at the messaging and how to communicate effectively to our customers through design. This starts at the high level (Tier One), looking at how Tier Two is seen from the customer and the process goes down from there to the pricing signage.”
In addition to creating the experience, Hochrein shared about the breakdown of the store product offerings and how things change and adapt through location design.
“One of the main locations in the store to grow the offerings is with our Grocery section. We are trying to have more products and more selection for customers, especially as there is a varying palette in our customer base – we want to carry choices.”
The Bakery is another department that is designed for the full customer experience, with easy to read displays and unique offerings alongside staples. Top products in the section include sourdough bread, cinnamon buns & twists. Kettlemans bagels are also a fan favourite and were described as a great partner to work with.
“We want to have great quality meal solutions for customers at a great value, so that’s a big part of what we do. The ‘soup’ side of the business is starting to grow – with the current selection sitting at 20 different varieties that rotate through the program. There are seasonal soups that flow in and out. We also have a chef’s team at head office that is development kitchen that is trying new things all the time. With customer care – we are always on the lookout for suggestions and can send those through to the chef team for further development.”
With delivery and click & collect being a discussion point in the grocery industry, Hochrein was able to discuss what makes a Farm Boy experience different.
“We’ve tried various strategies in the past, but the current success is with Voila by Sobeys (in the GTA), which carries a line of Farm Boy favourites.”
“We are continuing to add products to the program and it’s nice to introduce new customers to the brand through this opportunity.”
Farm Boy Dupont will employ more than 135 people and celebrated its grand opening on November 4th, 2021.
The brand will be opening a new Ottawa – Stittsville location in November and have two stores announced for 2022, with markets to open in Guelph and Barrie.
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