M&M does downtown

M&M Meat Shops has been selling frozen packaged meals in suburban malls for 25 years. But now the Kitchener, Ont.-based specialty food chain, which has more than 400 stores across the country, is testing a new concept - not just another line of seafood skewers or stewed beef, but a different kind of retail experience altogether.

M&M Meat Shops has been selling frozen packaged meals in suburban malls for 25 years. But now the Kitchener, Ont.-based specialty food chain, which has more than 400 stores across the country, is testing a new concept – not just another line of seafood skewers or stewed beef, but a different kind of retail experience altogether.

In view of the explosion of urban condo development, the company launched M&M Meat Shops Uptown in, uh, downtown Toronto. The first location is at Front Street and Blue Jays Way – a short walk for 20,000 busy urban professionals looking for high-speed meals. It features a computer kiosk for downloading recipes, extended hours and in-store consultants, plus serving platters, gourmet sauces and more single-serving meals. Says M&M’s president and COO, Gary Decatur, ‘We’re capitalizing on the condo boom, right in the heart of that market.’

The store opened Nov. 2 with a fundraiser for the Daily Bread Food Bank, which benefits from the sale of reusable shopping bags until Dec. 31.

Decatur says M&M is looking to open 12 to 15 more shops in Toronto, followed by Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal.

M&M developed a promotional flyer, calendar and website (MMUptown.com), while Toronto agency Taxi 2 arranged a billboard beside the store.

We asked John Torella, senior partner, branding, retail marketing and communication at Toronto-based J.C. Williams Group, and Susan McGibbon, founding partner of Toronto-based brand experience lab Chemistry, to weigh in on the new concept.


CONCEPT

Torella: Retail leaders like Tesco in the U.K. and Metro in Germany have responded to the need to service the growing segment of urbanites and opened smaller, convenience-driven retail outlets. M&M Meat Shops’ new concept is a reflection of this important segment, and they’ve done it with a unique brand concept that focuses on specialty frozen foods and accessories. As well, the opportunity to talk to food consultants is a huge competitive advantage. The concept is a winner that will drive accelerated growth to other urban areas.

McGibbon: M&M Meat Shops is right to chase this exploding demographic. Putting prepared meals at the fingertips of the busy urban condo dweller is a great idea. From a business perspective, it is a fabulous growth opportunity. But certain elements of the brand do not travel so well from suburban bungalow to urban bunker.


DESIGN/BRANDING

Torella: The sleek store design reflects the dynamism of the city centre and is sure to be in sync with younger customers’ lifestyles. The reusable shopping bag and fundraiser help create word-of-mouth advocacy. It’s a great mix of traditional and new media.

McGibbon: The finishes inside the store are dark and elegant, but the sign is bipolar. We have the orange and blue M&M, very much a consumer packaged goods logo, alongside a slim, white ‘Uptown’ on a silver background. There’s no reason why M&M could not have done its logo in white to make it more urbane. And ‘Meat Shops’ suggests a meat-only lineup when there are desserts, pastas and sauces too. ‘Meat Shops’ doesn’t cut it, as a product descriptor or a call to action.


MERCHANDISE MIX

Torella: The focus on express meals and single portions is right on, and the accessories and sauces add a sense of experience and know-how.

McGibbon: Accessories and gourmet oils hint at a more urbane palate, but the frozen entrees in generic white boxes are identical to what you’d find in a suburban store.


WEBSITE/ON SITE

Torella: The urban consumer is looking for information that can help them with their food/grocery needs. Computer access to recipes and meal planning and extra cash registers help enhance the total in-store experience.

McGibbon: The website presents as a consumer packaged goods brand, with none of the upscale cues found in the store. And without the ability to order online, what’s the point? Nice try, but not uptown enough for a downtown crowd.


The creds

Client – M&M Meat Shops

Mac Voisin, founder and chairman; Gary Decatur, president and COO; Chris Styan, marketing director

Web design – PGeSignature

Store design – Sketch Design

Thom Antonio, founder

PR agency – Strategic Objectives

Adriana Lurz, account manager; David Weinstein, media relations director

Agency – Taxi 2

Jeremy Gayton, VP/GM; Lance Martin, CD