In an effort to capitalize on consumers’ desire for one-stop shopping, non-retail businesses are increasingly opting to open offices inside supermarkets. In the past few months, the AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah (AAA NCNU) opened six AAA Express stores inside Lucky Supermarkets in Northern California. Meanwhile, on the Eastern Seaboard, real estate brokerage RE/MAX of New England has signed a five-year exclusive contract with Stop & Shop Supermarkets to open mini offices inside the grocer’s stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
The strategy is not entirely new—many banks already operate mini branches inside supermarket chains and AAA itself has long held regular store locations at retail centers, says Ahmad Mohazab, principal architect with TECTA Associates, a San Francisco-based architecture firm that’s handling the AAA assignment. But with this new generation of stores the organization is trying to be more aggressive about grabbing consumers’ attention, he explains.
AAA Express stores will offer services ranging from auto insurance to road trip planning to passport photos. The stores will measure from 500 square feet to 700 square feet in size and feature floor-to-ceiling glass panels, a curved-end portal and scrolling LED displays with moving text that will advertise AAA’s latest programs. There are currently five AAA Express locations operating inside Lucky Supermarkets. A sixth is scheduled to open in the spring of this year, possibly followed by a larger rollout of locations later.
“AAA Express is designed to give its members and non-members an opportunity to take care of their membership, insurance and DMV needs in an environment that is convenient, approachable and energetic while they move through their busy days,” says Matt Skryja, a spokesperson for AAA Northern California. “A co-brand relationship with Save Mart Grocery Stores [operator of Lucky Supermarkets] compliments both companies in vision and values.”
The new Express locations also represent an effort on AAA’s part to draw in younger consumers, notes Mohazab. The visibility of the stores and their “hipper” design are meant to give the organization a more contemporary image, which might resonate with drivers in their 20s and 30s. “Frankly, I really didn’t know about AAA stores [before], but now I have no choice because when I go into a grocery store, it’s right in front of me,” Mohazab says.
Meanwhile, for RE/MAX of New England, the mini RE/MAX offices inside Stop & Stop stores offer the opportunity to promote the RE/MAX brand while saving build-out costs for RE/MAX franchisees, says Christine Carlo, director of marketing with the firm. The mini RE/MAX stores will feature a consistent look and feel and will be located in high traffic areas. There will be three different models for the stores, the largest measuring 20 feet by 20 feet. This year, the agreement will result in the opening of 17 such stores.
“One of the benefits for RE/MAX is that [this] offers a smaller, more economical office for our franchisees. The franchisee doesn’t have to worry about upfront build-out costs because everything’s been completely planned out—it’s almost like a kiosk that will be placed into the store,” Carlo says. “And for Stop & Shop, it really provides value for their customers because the customer is looking for one-stop shopping.”
RE/MAX of New England has already committed to opening 17 mini RE/MAX locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 2010. Next year, the firm hopes to expand into New Hampshire.