Carrie Rengers

'First-of-its-kind' remodeling coming to seven Dillons stores

Dillons is remodeling a number of its Wichita-area stores, including all of its Marketplaces. At the Central and Rock Road store, one new area already in place in the meat and seafood department is what's called Easy for You!, which combines meat, seasonings and sauces and flash freezes them together in various portion sizes.
Dillons is remodeling a number of its Wichita-area stores, including all of its Marketplaces. At the Central and Rock Road store, one new area already in place in the meat and seafood department is what's called Easy for You!, which combines meat, seasonings and sauces and flash freezes them together in various portion sizes. The Wichita Eagle

A shopper in a serious hurry last week frantically looked for plastic wrap at the Dillons at Central and Rock Road.

After learning it was across the store on aisle 46, she was disappointed to see that it in fact was not on aisle 46.

"Well," said a Dillons employee, "it was yesterday."

Shoppers and store employees have been adjusting to a number of changes at the store. More changes are coming there and at seven other Wichita-area stores under a new plan called Restock Kroger. It's named for the Cincinnati-based parent company of Dillons.

"It's a first-of-its-kind reset for us," says spokeswoman Sheila Lowrie.

"The beauty of the reset . . . is that we're using our customers' shopping behavior. We're using the data to set the store."

The other stores are at 31st and Seneca, 47th and Broadway, Central and West Street, 135th and Maple, 21st and Rock Road and the Andover and Derby Marketplaces. Most of these stores were remodeled within the last couple of years.

The changes at Central and Rock should be done early this summer, Lowrie says.

"I thought it was some kind of game at first!" one shopper wrote of the changes on Facebook.

“I wonder what I’ll find around THIS corner?" asked another. "And will it be here next week?”

Lowrie acknowledges that changes "are frustrating for our customers," but she says it is with them in mind that the company has moved up its traditional seven-year timeline of remodeling.

"Part of that is everything in the world around us has changed," she says. "Customers' expectations have changed."

Competition, such as from online giant Amazon, has changed, too.

"Supermarkets are facing . . . a lot of existential questions about their existence," says Kevin Coupe, who is known as the content guy with MorningNewBeat.com.

"You actually have to have a store that people would say, 'Oh, I'd rather go to the store than do it online,' " he says.

Gone are the days when stores remodeled for cosmetic upgrades only, Coupe says. He says store reconfiguring is about laying the groundwork for new products and services to come, either immediately or down the road.

A new offering at some Wichita Dillons is Easy for You!, which combines meat, seasonings and sauces and flash freezes them together in various portion sizes.



For Dillons, there are a number of additions.

There will be new areas for prepped meals that are similar to popular ingredient and recipe delivery services such as Blue Apron.

Dillons is expanding its prepared line of meals as well, and it's enhancing its deli, Chinese kitchen and bistro areas.

There will be more digital coupons and offers, and Dillons is working to make its ClickList pick-up service more seamless on digital platforms.

The company also is testing a ship-to-home delivery service.

"It's wonderfully convenient," Lowrie says.

One new offering at the meat and seafood department at the Central and Rock Road Dillons is what's called Easy for You!, which combines meat, seasonings and sauces and flash freezes them together in various portion sizes.

"It helps solve that question, 'What's for dinner?' " Lowrie says.

Not all of the remodeled stores will have this offering.

To keep up with what Lowrie calls the explosion of organic and natural products available now, Dillons is integrating those items with other food, as it already has at its 37th and Woodlawn store.

"It allows our customers to explore new items that they maybe didn't necessarily know we carried," Lowrie says.

While some skeptical shoppers have speculated that chains such as Dillons like to remodel to get shoppers out of their traditional shopping habits by rearranging things, Lowrie and Coupe say that's not the case.

"Most retailers like the idea that people get used to where they're going," Coupe says.

Each store remodel will be a little different with store-specific customer shopping data, Lowrie says.

Lowrie won't share remodeling costs but says the overall project is a substantial amount of money.

"We're listening to what our customers want from us," she says. "We want to continue to be their grocery store."

And, for the record, if you're looking for plastic wrap at the Dillons at Central and Rock Road, it's now on aisle 47.

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com.
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