Sainsbury’s new look, with help from VT

If you’re a reader of Retail Week, you might have noticed a feature on the fantastic new Sainsbury’s store in King’s Lynn.

This store’s rather unorthodox approach to VM is, I believe, a fantastic showcase for supermarkets’ potential, and one that I’m proud to say Visual Thinking assisted with.

Along with Twelve, Pope Wainwright and Sainsbury’s in house team, we have together given the store a creative and authoritative new look for several different product categories including product presentation and overall VM delivery for Kitchen shop, Paper shop and TU Clothing.

Take a peek at the pictures on the Retail Week website to see the finished look… 

June – Happy Pills, Barcelona

I was lucky enough to visit Barcelona for a weekend break in June. Whilst there, I discovered my smallest new store concept of the year with a great retail design – Happy Pills.

Happy Pills is a ‘pick and mix’ sweet shop with a difference, and is nothing like I’ve seen before.

The design concept has been based on recreating an authentic pharmacy look. Shop fittings resemble the same fixtures you would expect to see in any high-street pharmacy. Even the service area has a pharmacy look with drawers, filled with packets and bottles, as you would expect to find in a dispensary.

The appearance of the staff completes the look with assistants decked out in white tunics, wearing simple name badges that bear the company’s signature pink cross logo design.

The shop itself is tiny, being only wide enough to allow two people into the corridor-like layout at a time. This is an interesting technique as it limits how many people can enter the store, and similarly the potential loss of stock that can come from such desirable products. School kids beware: the ‘only two people in the store at one time’ policy applies here – just by the limited space!

Instore it’s just like a pharmacy, with the products sold in simply designed, plain, empty bottles. Customers pick up their chosen size of bottle and fill it with a selection of items. To complete the purchase, customers attach a sticky label from one of a number of pre-printed messages, which range from ‘bad hair day’ and ‘wake up!’ to ‘feel good’ suggestions, to give the product the finished look. Finally, the filled bottles are put into a plain white bag and sealed with a sticky label with a Happy Pills logo on the outside.

What’s interesting is how all of the best practices and methods used to present a pharmacy shopping experience in have been directly applied to products in another category, i.e. confectionary.

The only negative aspect is that I am a little worried the packaging design looks so authentic that the products (sweets) could be easily mistaken as actual medicines! I would suggest a cautionary note to designers, to think carefully about the potential consequences when coming up with new concepts, and to act responsibly.

However, having said this, I was impressed with Happy Pills. It a great idea with a fantastic self-select approach, efficient till point service, and the constantly busy store (mostly women) created a real buzz about the place!

It’s surprising how, even with a very small product, you can come up with such a great concept. Imagination had gone into this design and the execution was seamless. Happy Pills is for people who are looking for a fix that is non-medical, but fruity, sugary and minty instead. They also get a great retail design experience at the same time.

Visual Thinking helps GMK hit the mark for Beretta

Visual Thinking has equipped specialist gun sports retailer GMK with more ammunition for its Beretta sales team.

In the second stage of work with the leading shooting sports equipment supplier, Karl McKeever trained the management team and sales staff in the techniques of VM, as well as in retail standards and service.

“The objective was to give GMK’s staff a strong foundation of core visual merchandising and retail skills,” said Karl, who trained 22 staff in total.

“The Beretta brand values of heritage, quality and a passion for the outdoors are very strong in such an established brand. GMK wanted its retail partners to learn how to present these qualities instore through a renewed focus on delivering great product presentation and high quality displays.

“The team has excellent enthusiasm for both Beretta and for country sports in general, and our job is to help them turn that into a set of skills that maximise their business opportunities and the sales of Beretta products.”

GMK will continue to work with Visual Thinking separately on developing the customer experience within its own retail stores in Harrods and on St. James Street, London.

For more details on GMK visit