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BJ’s Wholesale Club Positions Smaller Store Concept as ‘Innovation Lab’

BJ’s Wholesale Club is testing out a smaller store format called BJ’s market. The first 43,000-square-foot concept store opened in Warwick, R.I. and will feature top-selling fresh foods, produce and seasonal products in what is designed to be a more convenient and efficient shopping space.

BJ’s market will offer the same product sizes and pricing as BJ’s club stores, as well as the same omnichannel services such as curbside pickup and same-day delivery. The store will allow BJ’s to test new assortments, displays, product demonstrations and convenience initiatives.

“BJ’s market will serve as an exciting new innovation lab for BJ’s Wholesale Club,” said Bill Werner, EVP, Strategy and Development at BJ’s Wholesale Club in a statement. “We are bringing the same great savings and value our members know and love but delivering a convenient location closer to home.”

A number of other retailers are opening smaller store concepts as the retail industry searches for new and innovative ways to deliver convenience in an increasingly omnichannel world. Target has been experimenting with increasingly smaller concepts since 2020, when it began exploring sites for 6,000-square-foot stores — half its then-current minimum size — as the retailer put more emphasis on curbside pickup and store-based fulfillment.

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Department stores have been playing with shrunken footprints as a way to showcase cycled inventory. Bloomingdale’s has positioned its Bloomie’s concept as a chance to show off hyper-curated merchandise that can change several times per week. Macy’s has a similar concept for its Backstage store-in-store concept, setting aside a space with a changing assortment of fashion, gifts, housewares, toys and other goods.

Some smaller concepts remove the store altogether, such as Wawa’s dedicated drive-thrus, which offer a limited selection of items and only allow for curbside or window pickup. Others were created to better suit different geographies: IKEA is opening two planning studios in the Los Angeles market focused on the needs of city-dwelling customers. The shops don’t stock any inventory and instead are designed to provide inspiration and smart home solutions through appointments with design specialists, with the option to have purchases delivered.

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