The largest supermarket retailer in Australia makes experimental changes at its smaller stores

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Woolworths is experimenting with fresh seafood, organic meat and unpackaged vegetables at its smaller convenience stores, to try and cater to local shoppers’ tastes and their growing preference for buying food in smaller amounts more often.

The country’s largest supermarket retailer started rolling out its Metro convenience stores five years ago, and now has 36 across the country concentrated in inner-city and suburban locations, with another to open in Rozelle, in inner-western Sydney, on Wednesday.

Justin Nolan, general manager of Woolworths’ Metro business, said the company was moving away from a one-size-fits-all strategy for its smaller stores, and trying to skew each stores’ offer towards the preference of local shoppers.

As a case in point, the Rozelle store will be the first Metro to stock fresh seafood, from an in-store “pop-up” running Thursday to Sunday. It will have the largest organic meat range of any Metro, and will be the only one to carry unpackaged organic fruit and vegetables.

“We’re still focused on a very small range, but then really trying to make sure that each store is tailored to the customers’ needs in terms of when and what they want to shop and make sure it’s what they actually asked for,” Mr Nolan said.

The Rozelle neighbourhood store is around 1000 square metres and stocks about 9000 products, compared to about 3000 square metres and up to 30,000 products at a full sized supermarket.

Mr Nolan said the Metro format was working well in dense locations, where shoppers wanted to buy food to either eat straight away, cook that night or eat over the next couple of days.

“Customers are looking for something to complement their larger shop, and something that’s easy to get in and out off,” he said.

“Outer urban areas are well service by supermarkets and have convenient options, so we then try to have Metros where that may not be possible.”

The Rozelle store is the seventh new Metro to open in the past year, which includes three smaller Woolworths supermarkets that it converted to the Metro format.

Mr Nolan said Woolworths was looking at other supermarket that might perform better as Metros.

Woolworths does not report sales from Metro stores separately from its regular supermarkets, but said in its most recent quarterly result that they had seen seen “double digit” sales increases.

Coles is also trying different offers to match the customer trends towards doing smaller, more frequent shops.

In November it opened its first Coles Local store, in Melbourne’s Surrey Hills, which is about half the size of a regular supermarket, stocks ready-to-eat meals and is geared towards premium products.

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