Bienvenido (Welcome) a Soriana

Mexican food retailer Soriana amps up the shopping experience with a hypermarket prototype that transforms and elevates the brand

By Jenny S. Rebholz

Is it a supermarket? No. Is it a grocery store? No. It is a hypermarket. Bienvenido a Soriana Miyana Polanco, a 79,000-sq.-ft. premium hypermarket concept in Mexico City. This new hybrid marketplace features a vast selection of product categories, including high-end specialty foods, conventional groceries, and general merchandise from electronics and apparel to cosmetics and ATVs.

While The Soriana Organization (with three brands and 1,500 stores, 650 of which are under the Soriana banner) is the largest Mexican-owned food retailer, the company was being surpassed by its competition, both in product offering and experience. With more than 70 years serving consumers, the leadership knew it was time to refresh its brand, enhance its product offering and reinvigorate the retail environment.

The retailer partnered with Pasadena, Calif.-based D L English Design, a multidisciplinary design firm that focuses on innovative, consumer-driven experiential spaces.

The first hypermarket was the 79,000-sq.-ft. store that opened in the upscale Polanco neighborhood in June 2016; followed by a 110,000-sq.-ft. store in the San Pedro district of Monterrey in December 2016.

“We sought to elevate our brand and bring a fresh, distinctive approach to Mexican food retail: one that successfully blends general merchandise, grocery shopping and casual dining,” says Humberto Fayad, general director for Soriana Supermarket and Hypermarket Segments. “We engaged D L English Design to use their experiential design expertise in food spaces as a vehicle to help push Soriana to become the best-in-class in the communities that we serve.”

Inspired by the company’s refreshed image (including a new logo designed by Interbrand that uses the red, green and white of the Mexican flag), the design team began to look deep into the essence of the country’s cultural experiences. The team spent a significant amount of time touring Mexico with the client, uncovering the food culture of the area by visiting cafés, food halls, food retail spaces and markets. The design firm wanted to uncover ways to elevate the brand to the top of the markets they serve, and to catapult the brand beyond its competition.

“It was essential to create a distinct prototype and premium-level shopping experience for a brand previously perceived as ‘discount’ without the feeling of being too expensive for its existing customer base,” explains Deborah L. English, founder and president of D L English Design. “We wanted to create a more refined and updated image through new store layouts, exterior and interior design, lighting, environmental signage and décor. The goal was to successfully and effectively harness a hybrid shopping experience as a vehicle to transform and elevate the brand.”

Space planning was an essential component to the design success. Days were dedicated to developing the right adjacencies. Due to the comprehensive product offering from full-line grocery, prepared foods and a food court to apparel, electronics, cosmetics and a pharmacy, adjacencies were critical.

“We spent a lot of time making the extensive floorplan easy to navigate,” explains Nathan Charrissesin, creative director at D L English Design. Charrissesin hand-drew layouts and worked closely with more than 20 product directors analyzing possible plan configurations and adjacencies while these team leaders were being challenged to upscale product selections for the store.

One of the key components of the new store concept was the integration of a 5,000-sq.-ft. food hall. “It is something new to the experience inside the store and a unique feature that is [the] first of its kind in Mexico,” Charrissesin describes. “There are nine stations, thus its name ‘Avenida Nueve,’ serving everything from tacos and ceviche to international items, such as pasta and sushi, at an affordable price.” The food hall seats approximately 200 to 300 people and has been well received by workers and families alike, Charrissesin adds.

The team took the opportunity to integrate the concept of theater into key departments, as well as bring attention to particular product areas. This was achieved by identifying rooms for areas such as cheese, bakery, wine, etc.—rooms with character and intimacy that set the stage for experiencing that category. The cheese department includes “La Fabrica de Queso,” where customers are entertained by views of the cheesemaking process. While beer and spirits continue to be successful areas of the store, attention is now being directed to the ample wine selection, including a significant number of South American and Mexican wines. An interactive digital sommelier assists customers in navigating the aisles and then invites them to taste and purchase. In addition to the elevated wine offering, customers also have the opportunity to refill beer growlers.

Featured entry points into the space include the food hall and the fresh food focus, as well as another entrance that directs attention to general merchandise with a newly designed beauty department and a repositioning of the electronics area. A boutique approach was taken to the design of these areas to make each a distinctive shopping experience.

A clear main aisle connects these entrance points and easily directs customers through the entire store layout. Defined avenues and rooms, as well as flooring, lighting and ceiling changes, help direct people to different destinations. The team positioned spaces like the pharmacy deep enough within the footprint to provide shoppers easy access yet expose them to other items.

“The design is choreographed so that every venue becomes a stopping point,” Charrissesin says. “The store is quite large, so we created a legibility to the design for customers to navigate the space with ease and fluidity.”

Color, texture and light enhance the carefully considered floorplan to achieve character from one area to the next. Bright colors, including the logo hues, bold signage and familiar geometric patterns, such as latticework, enhance the architecture to achieve a modern Mexican appeal. From highly graphic representations seen in the black-and-white tile on the bar to colorful screens that conceal and reveal spaces, the finishes capture attention and provide intuitive wayfinding cues.

“Mexican-inspired latticework that separates departments creates a sense of discovery and surprise, and a dynamic between concealing and revealing the space,” English describes.

Wood porcelain floors and a neutral palette of grays and browns serve as the backdrop for the bold colors and add an overall warmth and welcoming appeal to the expansive space.

Dropped ceiling details and simple soffit lines move the eye up and down to direct attention, such as highlighting the kosher area with a higher soffit line. A variety of perimeter, spot and cove lighting applications also enhance the ambience throughout the space and achieve a boutique effect. Lighting at the center of the store was brought to a more intimate 11 ft. to focus on product and then raised at the perimeter of the building to 20 ft. to highlight the architecture. Specifying warm light sources in food areas, more neutral temperatures in the grocery area and then cooler sources in some of the other departments accentuates the product properly and adds to the storytelling quality of the overall experience.

“It was important to convey the essence of the Mexican retailer’s brand with an authentic voice through the accurate representation of Mexican culture and cuisine,” English describes. “We believe in creating relevance through purpose, story and style—the meaningful integration of local culture into the store.”

With each location, Soriana will continue to transform its shopping experience and its position in the marketplace. The company currently is working with D L English Design on three upscale Supermarket PLUS locations, scheduled for completion in 2018.

From discount to quality, it has a new competitive advantage that is strengthening ties with its loyal existing customers while attracting more people to convene, shop and linger.


project file

Soriana Miyana Polanco
Mexico City

The Soriana Organization

D L English Design

Ricardo Legorreta Vilchis, Soriana


Opto International Inc., Madix





Frazee Paint, Dunn-Edwards Paints



Formica, Wilsonart, Marmoleum

Daltile, Porcelanosa


Tiger Drylac, Prismatic Powders

Silestone, Caesarstone, Corian

Information in the project file is provided by the retailer and/or design firm.

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