The Belgian company, Lemmens Winkelinrichting (store design) did not initially focus on the fresh produce sector. Nevertheless, they eventually fell into the sector over the years. Marc Aper, who has been with the company for 25 years, says that in the Netherlands in the beginning they were solely focused on bakeries, "After a few years we started serving butchers and in 2007 we started working with the fresh produce sector. We have now worked with multiple greengrocers and our customers are very enthusiastic about what we do."
The first shop: Landwaart
Lemmens serves customers in Belgium and the Netherlands, "A decade ago a Dutch baker wanted the same design as a Belgian model. Through the years we became more well known in the Netherlands, and we designed our first store in the fresh produce sector at Landwaart in Maartensdijk, Netherlands. It was interesting that there were many similarities with designing a butcher shop. This store was opened with great satisfaction 7 years ago. Landwaart has great products and meals, and presents them beautifully in their shop. They are one of the most progressive fresh produce specialists in the Netherlands. They are members of the BPF: Business Partners in Fresh. All the members of this group are future oriented."
A part of the Lemmens team. Marc Aper sits in the middle.
According to Marc, Lemmens distinguishes itself through having everything in-house, "We deliver a complete design, including refrigeration from our other company, Lemcool. Our customers can order a complete package, including a centralized cooling system, which can result in 30-35% energy savings. We also bring people into contact with each other and we advise our customers on current trends. For example, in the fresh produce sector, processed products like salads and meals are becoming increasingly popular. Nowadays you can't survive with just a few fresh produce items. Of course the basics must not be denied and retailers will continue selling tomatoes and lettuce. You can distinguish yourself through offering added value, having specialties available and presenting your products in an attractive way."
Netherlands vs Belgium
Over the years the service aspect has changed in greengrocers, "The approach is much different. More and more stores are either partial- or full self- service. This gives customers the freedom to take their time when searching for products and less staff is needed. Yet there is still personal contact." The move to self-service is not obvious for every fresh produce specialist, "The Dutch are more progressive in this aspect than Belgian entrepreneurs. We try to convince them of the positive effect, but the customer makes the final decision. Another difference between Belgium and the Netherlands is that the Dutch are more open to sharing ideas. A Belgian would rather do it themselves."Do what you're good at
Marc has seen that some butchers start selling vegetables and some greengrocers start selling meat, but he is of the opinion that this is not always a success, "Some want to offer a complete range of fresh products. This will probably only succeed if you have a specialist for each product group. A butcher has less knowledge of vegetables and vice versa. You should stick to what you're good at."
The shop in 3D
Lemmens Winkelinrichting offers it's customers a complete 3D image so they can see exactly how their new store will look, "We work out all the details and the customer can 'walk' through the store so that we can make adjustments when necessary." Marc does not expect extreme growth in the fresh produce sector, "The proportion of customers in the fresh produce sector is max 10%. The number of retailers is declining, so we do not expect a huge increase here either. Nevertheless, we do see opportunities in terms of renewing designs. We also have a lot of new business, and of course there is a lot of talk about that." He emphasizes that a new store is not a guarantee for success, "It all starts after you get the store. The presentation, the supply and the experience play the biggest role."