March makeover: Free beauty care, but no more cheap ‘red-tag’ produce; here’s what’s up with all the changes at Svalbardbutikken

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Shoppers seeking sardines are searching the aisles, those seeking staples may no longer be able to make a connection and devotees of the sad-looking – but immensely popular among students and others – “red-tag” blemished produce are being denied entirely.

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Premium-priced fruit drinks are now stocked on shelves that have long been used to sell clearance-priced blemished produce at Svalbardbutikken. Store officials said the discount produce is likely to return when a reorganization of goods is completed during the coming weeks. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

It’s all part of a makeover of the full line of products sold at Svalbardbutikken, which is occurring as Longyearbyen’s only supermarket is also planning a major long-term overhaul of its facility. Some seem immediately popular among shoppers, such as the addition of a large wheeled baskets that allow many to avoid a coin-liberated shopping cart, and some that are the subject of numerous complains (such as the discounted produce) are likely to return when the transition period is over.

“There are plans for various changes in the store, and some are already under way,” Frigg Jørgensen, chairperson of the store’s board of directors, wrote in an e-mail interview. “This includes re-arranging and tidying the store. We are also conducting a full review of product line. Products that have sold in very small numbers and some products in product groups with high numbers are on the way out. The new baskets are aimed at meeting various customer’s need, including those who do not want to carry a basket, but think the (shopping cart) is too big.”

Among the merchandise Svalbardbutikken is hoping to expand are tourist items and cosmetics. The latter, seen as a lucrative offering to both locals and visitors, has sparked promotional efforts such as free treatments by skin care and manicure professionals visiting in recent days.

Meanwhile, long-term shoppers are needing longer periods of time to find familiar products that are no longer in familiar places. Non-perishable foods in particular went through a major relocation during the past weekend in an effort to group items (such as canned meat and fish, which were in two different isles previously) more logically.

Also, the changes are occurring as the store is stocking extra items for the Easter week holiday. Which means that while there is plenty of chocolate (unlike last year, when an absence of them due to supply problems resulted in embarrassing headlines), the red-tag items in the produce and other sections are absent. A plastic crate full of red-tagged lunch meat, microwave meals and similar items ended up lingering behind a service counter this week, for example, because there wasn’t room for them on the available shelves.

But Jørgensen stated discount devotees just need to be patient.

“Discounted products will return, (they have) been removed while things are in progress,” she wrote. “As mentioned above, there are ongoing rearranging and reorganizing and products, included discounted products may be presented differently.”

As for other items such as shrinkage of office supplies, the store “is under reorganizing and more efficient use of space. If there is anything people need, we might be able to order supplies,” she wrote.

Still, for those lamenting the loss of bargain-bin groceries for a bit, at least many of them will be getting some extra cash within days to help them pay for the pricier stuff when the annual membership dividend becomes available at the beginning of April.

“The membership dividend is four percent this year and is the same as last year,” Jørgensen wrote. “Last year the board recommended that an additional one percent was paid out. The final decision was made by the annual general meeting. Due to plans for new building/expansion of the store, and potential responsibilities connected to the parking area, the board is not recommending an extra one percent membership dividend this year.”

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