A select number of Woolworths stores across several Australian states are about to be totally transformed, in a move that's aimed at making life more convenient for shoppers — but not everyone's convinced.
The supermarket giant announced that in response to customer spending habits, three more stores across the country will be converted from the standard Woolworths design, to the compact 'Metro' layout.
While it's not the first time the retailer has converted its stores into the Metro format, it's understood the changes are specifically being made to "tailor to local" needs. Woolies said that customers shopping in certain stores tend to buy products specific to that area, so at those outlets they'll be keeping items that are popular there, and reducing others that aren't.
The three stores on the chopping block set to soon be transformed include the long-term store on Darling Street in Balmain and the Woolworths branch on Fountain Street in Alexandria, both in Sydney's inner west, and another at Buderim on the Sunshine Coast.
The changes also come days after another outlet in Prahan, Melbourne, was also converted. Another store in Avalon in Sydney's northern beaches also recently made the change.
Move allows retailer to be 'more thoughtful' with stock
"In our big full service supermarkets we can offer more of everything because we have the space," a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
"In some smaller supermarkets where we cannot easily expand the store, Metro conversions allow us to tailor the local range by introducing new product lines that are based on what the local community wants."
Woolworths said the move "allows us to be more thoughtful in what we stock".
"For example, in Alexandria we have reduced the number of products in what's called general merchandise, things like batteries, light globes and stationary where sales are lower. We'll still stock them, just not as many varieties," the spokesperson said.
“We've been then able to reuse this shelf space to put in more products that meet our customer needs, generally increasing the range in food. An example in Alexandria is a significant increase in our Asian food range which has been requested by the local customer base."
Metro stores target 'grab-and-go' products
Metro stores are predominately found throughout inner city suburbs, where it's not always achievable to install full-sized branches. They specialise in customers' quick needs, such as pre-packed meals, lunchtime snacks, toiletries and basic essentials.
"There are two types of Metros — the smaller stores you see in the city, great for picking up a few things on the run, and our neighbourhood stores that provide a far wider range of products for a full shop and pre-made meals and are located in suburban areas," a Woolies spokesperson told Yahoo.
"There is no change to the size or footprint of the stores converting to our neighbourhood store, and in fact each store will be redesigned over time with a new layout to provide even more space for all the things people love to buy at Woolworths."
The supermarket hopes by converting some of its branches it'll help customers in the long-run, that's not always been the case for the retailer itself. During the pandemic, Woolworths unveiled a Metro store along Manly's busy Corso, in Sydney's north, which was aimed at stiffening the competition in the area. The strip had long been dominated by Coles, which currently has two full-sized stores in the suburb in close proximity.
The Manly Metro lasted a little over a year, closing in 2021.
'Glorified convenience stores'
Shoppers have flooded social media feedback after news broke of the plan, with some saying it's the right move for the supermarket, and others labelling it a cash-grab.
"This stinks and one could say smells of profiteering in a cost-of-living crisis," a Twitter user said. "Bad look from Woolworths, I will stick to Aldi. Woolies converting popular suburban Sydney shops into ‘glorified convenience stores’."
Woolworths says it has added more than 4000 products into Metro stores based on customer feedback. There are 93 Metro stores and 1002 supermarkets across Australia. Metros make up nine per cent of the retailer's footprint in the country.
Woolies plans to roll out 20 full-range supermarkets and between five and 15 Metro stores per year.
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