Skeumorphic Supermarkets

According to Wikipedia:

skeuomorph/ˈskjuːəmɔrf/ is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that were necessary in the original…Skeuomorphs are deliberately employed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar, or are simply habits too deeply ingrained to wash away

Skeumorphism, like an example of the Baader Meinhof Phenomenon, is something that once you’re familiar with, you’ll keep on coming across again and again.

Apple love skuemorphs in their software design, or at least they have done to date. Apple’s calendars and note function are a great example of it – all stitched leather, wood paneling and lined note paper – as is the company’s seemingly irrational devotion to the hideous font that is comic sans. They don’t dedicate themselves to it for typographic reasons, but because, as the Wikipedia entry suggests, there is a psychological comfort for the user in a font which mimics something they are used to – their own hand writing.

I noticed an example last night, too. In my local branch of Tesco. It’s currently undergoing a large renovation and reorganisation, but some of the early changes are beginning to become apparent.

For example, the change to the way vegetables are merchandised and presented to the customer – somewhat closer to a local market stall then a national chain of megastores:

fruit and veg

fruit and veg 2

The way the shop is changing from a branded house, with aisles full of products, to a house of brands – a ‘super market’ in an almost classic sense – a roof over many different shops and services run by different people or brands, rather than a classic monolithic retail organisation:

hall and hoole

There are lots of people too. Lots and lots of people. People offering samples, offering help, but more importantly, offering reassurance.

staff 2

staff 1

It’s an interesting move for Tesco to make and at an interesting time.

Tesco, after decades of success is beginning to slow.

We’re still in recession, despite marginal growth figures released recently – most high streets have hundreds of empty shop fronts, and every where the British public looks there are signs of corporations acting badly – from how they treat their suppliers, to how they treat the inland revenue. Shops, keen to stay at the forefront of technology are removing check outs and replacing them with automated check out stations… you know, the ones who insist you’ve got an unknown item in the bagging area.

Are these moves designed to make us feel like we’re buying from a local tradesman, that we’re supporting the local economy and less like we’re buying from a faceless corporation?

If so, will these moves work?

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