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What Are the Different Sections of a Grocery Store?

By Ferdi Vol
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Grocery store products are placed into different sections. These sections are organized in such a way to make shopping easier for their customers and at the same time increase store sales. The layouts for organizing these sections are somewhat similar for every grocery store.

Most of the grocery store places its produce section near the entrance of the store. The meat, & fish are located at the back of the store. Delis, bakery are placed along the perimeter of the store. The center area is for beer & wine, dry and canned foods, paper products, office supplies & other grocery products.

Through this article, I am going to answer what are the different sections of a grocery store, explore their layouts, discuss different store terms related to food, and explain the reasons behind store section layouts. So, keep reading!

Different Areas of a Grocery Store

Grocery stores are always designed in such a way to make it easier for their customers to find what they are looking for and at the same time increasing sales. More sales mean more profit for stores.

Some stores have coffee shops, and deli with tables and chairs to encourage their customers to spend more time in the store and relax. The more time customers spend in the store, the more products they are likely to buy.

Some have a floral section at the front end of the store, which gives their customers the impression that everything in that store is fresh and organic. But no matter how big or small a grocery store is, it has some common areas, sections, and categories. A grocery store can be divided into three different areas. They are:

The Front-End of the Store

The grocery store departments that are near the entrance of the store are known as the Front-End departments. Usually, cash registers, customer service desks are located near the entrance of the store. Sometimes ATM and even a full-service bank can be located at the front-end of the store. This allows their customers to easily withdraw money for shopping.

The fruit and vegetable departments are also placed near the entrance. Grocery stores do that to make their customers think everything in the store is fresh and healthy. Sometimes there is also a flower department at the front end of the store. Some grab-and-go items are also placed near the entrance.

Center Area of the Grocery Store

The center area of the grocery store is where all the non-essential grocery items are located. At the same time pet foods, office supplies, cooking supplies, and other miscellaneous items can also be found here. Beauty and health products are also typically placed in the center area.

The products that are placed in the center area only make up a small number of a grocery store's total sales. The center area of a store is also known as the grocery department.

As the grocery department sales are not as large compared to other departments, they design their store layouts in such a way that customers spend more time in this department.

Grocery department products are placed at customers’ eye level and often with attractive packaging to encourage the customers to buy these products even if they had no intention of buying them when they entered the store.

The Perimeter Area of the Grocery Store

And finally comes the perimeter area of the grocery store. The departments that line the walls around the store are known as the perimeter departments. Typically, the perimeter departments include seafood sections, deli, and even a coffee shop.

Meat and dairy products are also placed around the perimeter of the store. But they are placed at the back-end to lure the customers deep inside the store.

Different Grocery Store Sections

The products of a grocery store are organized into different sections. All similar types of products are grouped together in each section, which makes shopping easier and efficient for customers. A list of common grocery store sections is given below:

  • The Produce Section
  • The Baking Section
  • The Prepared Foods Section/Deli
  • The Dry Goods Section
  • The Health and Beauty Section
  • The Office Supplies Section
  • The Beer and Wine Section
  • The Paper Products Section
  • The Canned Goods Section
  • The Beverage Section
  • The Cleaning Supplies Section
  • The Meat Section
  • The Dairy Section
  • The Fish and Seafood Section
  • The Front Section

These sections are common for most grocery stores. Smaller family-owned mom and pop stores may not have all the sections from the above list, but large stores especially chain grocery stores will have almost all of them. All the sectioned mentioned in the list is discussed down below:

The Produce Section

The producer section is where all the fresh fruits and vegetables can be found. If the grocery store doesn’t have a separate floral section, fresh flowers can also be found in this section.

The colorful bouquets, fresh and cheap seasonal fruits, and vegetables are placed at the front-end of the store. They are placed at the front-end because of the bright color and freshness of these items which make the store seem clean, fresh, and cheap. Typically, not so fresh, and pricier produce is placed at the back.

The Baking Section

The baking section has everything required for baking like flour, powdered sugar, cornmeal, and sugar. The items that can be found in this section also includes boxed desserts, nuts, and a variety of flavor essence for baking. Customers can also find bread, hot dog buns, cakes, dinner rolls, cookies, and other bakery items in this section.

The baking section is typically located near the entrance along the wall of the grocery store. The smell of the freshly baked goods triggers a sense of hunger among their customers even though they are not hungry. As a result, the customers might end up buying more foods that they had no intention of buying in the first place.

The Prepared Foods Section/Deli

Many grocery stores have a separate section where fully cooked and hot meals and different side dishes are ready for purchase. These foods are also served cafeteria-style. Customers can also find pre-packaged cheese and meats in this section.

Some stores have full-service delis where they will make foods like sandwiches on customer's orders.  The deli section is typically located along the perimeter of the store.

The Dry Goods Section

The dry goods section contains items like a variety of chips, crackers, granola bars, and cereal. Customers can also find candy, popcorn, and pretzels in this section.

The Health and Beauty Section

This section is located in the center area of the grocery store. From different health and beauty products like makeup, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc. to first aid kits, as well as feminine hygiene products, can be found in the health and beauty section. Customers can also find commonly used drugs like allergy medicine in this section.

This section is usually located right next to the pharmacy section if the store has one. Pharmacy section or not, every grocery store has a health and beauty section that sells basic health and beauty products.

The Office Supplies Section

This section comprises items like printer paper, pencils, sharpeners, erasers, pens, calculators, scissors, and other office products. This section is also located in the center area of the grocery store.

The Beer and Wine Section

In the United States, different states have different laws regarding the selling and buying of beer and liquor in stores. Many states in the USA imposed a total ban on liquor while only a handful of states allow liquors and beers to sell in grocery stores. Some states don't allow certain alcohol sales.

This is why not all grocery stores sell beer and wine. Those who do sell these items have a separate section. In the beer and wine section, there would be a lot of cases and bottles of liquor on the shelves. Beers are stored on refrigerators. Champagne, chilled white wine can also be found in this section. Typically, the beer and wine section are located along the wall of the store.

The Paper Products Section

This section is reserved for all types of paper products like paper towels, garbage bags, toilet tissues, paper cups, plates, paper bags, etc. This section is usually located far away from the entrance of the grocery store.

The Canned Goods Section

This section is reserved for canned goods. This section usually comprises more than one aisle and is placed at the center area of the grocery store. The items in this section include canned peas, tomatoes, green beans, mushrooms, and other canned vegetables.

Even canned fish, poultry and other canned meats, canned chicken or beef broth, canned chicken noodle soup, and tomato soup can also be found in the canned goods section. All types of canned products are grouped in the shelves to make shopping easy and efficient for customers.

The Beverage Section

This is the section where customers can find juice drinks, water, soft drinks, and energy drinks. This section is located along the wall of the grocery store. For some large grocery stores, the beverage section may include more than one beverage aisle.

The Cleaning Supplies Section

The cleaning supply section contains all the cleaning supplies cleaning brooms, all-purpose laundry detergents, air fresheners, bathroom cleaners, and other cleaning equipment. 

The Meat Section

This is the section where customers can get turkey, beef, pork, and chicken. Typically, the meat section is placed at the back end of the grocery store. They make their layout like that to make customers spend more time in the store and expose them to different items when they are on their way to the meat section.

Like other sections, the meat section is also organized in such a way so that no matter what customers want. Whether it is turkey, beef, pork, or chicken, they can find it easily. Sometimes grocery stores also offer special meats like Wagyu beef.

In most cases, the meat section comprises frozen and fresh packaged items. But some large grocery stores may have meat counters with full-service butchers. In that case, customers can get specialty cuts or things cut to order from the meat section.

The Dairy Section

The dairy section is generally found at the back of the grocery stores. This section is located near the meat section, along the wall. The section contains a variety of milk and milk products, sour cream, a variety of yogurt, different flavors of liquid creamers, a variety of cheese and butter.

The Fish and Seafood Section

This is where customers can find shrimp, fish, and food items that live underwater. This section is also placed at the back end of the grocery store, usually beside the meat section. The reason behind that is the same as the meat section, to lure customers deep into the store and expose them to various products that they might end up buying.

In smaller stores, the fish and seafood section may even be a part of the meat section. Like the meat section, most of the items in this section are frozen and packaged. But sometimes live fish and lobsters in a tank can also be found in the fish and seafood section. 

The Front Section

The front-end section is the heart of the grocery store. This is where the cash register and the customer help desk are located. The customer service desk is responsible for issuing rain checks and refunds.

Typically, ATM’s can be found in this section. For large stores, a full-service bank in the front section of the store is not uncommon. By doing so, stores make it easy for the customers to get more money that will be used in the store.

Grocery stores also place some grab-and-go items like water bottles, snacks, etc. at the front section of the store. They do that to get back the business they lost to smaller convenience stores. Customers can easily get what they require as they shop.

Products like candy, chocolates, magazines, and other products are placed at the front section, generally by the cash register. Stores intentionally place these items at the front section so that customers can pick them up easily while they are waiting in line. By doing so, stores are converting the waiting time into buying time.

Reasons Behind Grocery Store Sections Layouts

If you ever shopped in grocery stores, have you ever wondered why all the essential items like meat and dairy products are placed at the end or why vegetables and fruits are near the entrance of the store? This layout is not something random.

All the grocery stores follow almost the same layout where they keep their fresh fruits and vegetables near the entrance while the meat section is at the backside of the store. Milk and meat are some of the essential items that will end up in almost every customer’s shopping cart. These are also the most sold products in stores.

If milk and meat were placed near the entrance of the store, customers would just buy what they came for, check out, and be on their way. Grocery stores use this layout where the essentials like meat and dairy products are placed far away from the entrance to lure their customers deep inside the store.

So, while the shoppers are walking through the store to buy what they came for, they will be exposed to the attractive display of the non-essential items that are carefully placed at the eye level of the customer.

By doing so, they are tempting their customers to buy some extra products that they had no intention of buying while they entered the store. The more they can sell, the better their profit will be.

Another thing you might have noticed is that grocery stores always keep fresh vegetables and fruits near the entrance of the store. At the same time, they keep not so fresh and pricier vegetables and fruits at the backside of their produce section. As mentioned before, they do that to make the customer think that everything in the store is cheap and fresh.

Grocery stores place their deli, and coffee bars in one of the corners near the entrance of the store. The focus of these stores is to make money. And to make money, they encourage their customers to spend more time in their store. The more time they spend, the more products they are likely going to buy. 

But if their customers are hungry, they are likely to hurry while shopping. By having deli and coffee bars, grocery stores provide their customers with a place to eat, drink, and relax. And if their customers are relaxed, they are likely to spend more money in the store.

On top of that, they regularly change their store layout. If stores use the same for a long time, their customer will get used to the layout and end up buying only what they want.  To prevent that, stores change their layouts to make it harder for customers to find what they are looking for, thus making them spend more time in the store.

Products that are in high demand or special offer products are always placed at the end of the aisle. This allows them to lure their customers deeper and expose them to various non-essential products. And sometimes, they might end up buying products that they had no intention of buying.

Grocery stores also manipulate their customers' senses using some clever tricks. They always try to place their premium, best-looking, and most profitable products at the eye level of the customer. Kid products are always placed at the middle shelves so that they are at the kid's sightline. This results in kids forcing their parents to buy the products.

As mentioned before, grocery stores place their bakery near the entrance of the store. So, when customers enter the store, the fresh smell of baking goods hits their noses making them feel hungry even though they are not. This encourages customers to buy more food items than they initially intended.

As you can see, the primary reason behind grocery store layouts is not only for the customers ease but also to trick them into buying more than they initially planned to. This might seem ethically flimsy but if grocery stores didn’t adapt these tactics then they wouldn’t be able to reach their target sales and go bankrupt. 

Different Food Related Grocery Store Terms

Terms like “All-Natural”, “Organic Food” and “Grass-Fed” can be found on different food items in the grocery stores. These terms often lead to customer confusion as they don’t have a clear understanding of these terms. These terms are discussed below:

Organically Grown Foods

The term "Organically Grown Foods" means that the food items are made without any use of chemical pesticides, chemical fertilizer, and with any artificial treatments. Organic foods are extremely rare compared to non-organic food items. The USA government agencies regulate organically grown foods with a strict standard of testing and inspection.

Organically grown foods are also expensive compared to mass-produced non-organic foods. Only a few farmers grow food organically nowadays. Coupled with that the costs of organically grown foods being certified is what makes organically grown foods more expensive compared to non-organic food items.

Grass-Fed

The term "Grass-Fed" can be found on the meat packaging. It might sound appealing to customers as they might think the meat is organic. But this is not the case. The term "Grass-Fed" means the animal was only fed grass grown in meadowlands.

All-Natural

Sometimes foods are labeled as “All-Natural”. You might even find this term on products that do not look natural at all. The term “All-Natural”, according to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) means that no synthetic or artificial (Including food color) ingredients have been added to the food item that would not normally be expected to be in that food.

As you have probably learned by now, grocery store products are organized into different sections to make sure each customer can find their desired products easily and at the same time to attract customers towards other items as well to increase sales. While smaller stores may skip on some of these sections, larger stores have almost all the sections mentioned above.

I hope that this article “What are the sections of a grocery store?” was of some help to you. Have a great day. Thank you for stopping by!

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About the Grocery Store Academy
The Grocery Store Academy is a blog about everything that has to do with grocery stores. This is your #1 spot to find the right information for your needs.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol has worked several years in a grocery store and has a passion for good food. He's happy to share his passion with you!
About Ferdi Vol
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