Oil & Vinegar Hasselt

Oil & Vinegar

Koning Albertstraat 42, 3500 Hasselt

[The Retail Design Lab wrote this case study based on an extensive analysis of (and in consultation with) the retailer in question using our tools and scientific insights. This case study is intended to be an instructive 'best case'].

The Oil & Vinegar experience shop is a culinary gift shop offering all kinds of products from the Mediterranean kitchen. An experience shop allows multiple senses to come into play. A retailer who wants to ensure that the experience is shaped in his shop must therefore consciously think about decorating and decorating his shop. This retail chain focuses on offering all kinds of oils and vinegars, but also sells many other related products.

Oil & Vinegar can be found in the Koning Albertstraat, one of the busiest shopping streets in the centre of Hasselt. The facade of the shop consists almost entirely of glass and invites you as a passer-by to step inside. 
Once inside, you can imagine yourself in a Mediterranean atmosphere and forget for a moment the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The first Oil & Vinegar shop opened its doors in the Netherlands in 1999, and this franchise formula has since grown into an international chain of shops. You can find the shops in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also in the United States and Brazil.

When visiting the shop you can find not only oil and vinegar but also spice mixtures, dressings, olives, mustards, pestos, sauces and pastas. You can also find a wide range of non-food products, such as matching bowls, plates and trays made of pottery or ceramics. There are also several books for sale. All these non-food products are also linked to the same Mediterranean atmospheres and food cultures in which the food products are found.

The most striking thing when entering this shop is the 'tap wall' or 'amphora wall', as the shop chain itself calls it. On this wall there are glass barrels with oils and vinegar where you can have your own bottle freshly drained. The glass barrels are reminiscent of amphorae (jugs from ancient Greece) and can be spotted from afar on the shopping street: curiosity is aroused among passers-by. Connected to the amphorae wall you will find a tasting table where visitors to the shop are immediately invited to taste the many products on offer. Oil & Vinegar thus responds to the senses and tries to enthuse the visitor to continue entering the shop and then encourage them to buy one of their products.

Upon entering the shop you walk over a dark oak wooden floor. The wall behind the amphorae is covered with light grey ornamental stones, which resembles an authentic stone wall full of character. The combination of the wooden floor with a wall completely covered with black and white photo of a typical Mediterranean landscape, creates a warm atmosphere.

The shop is seen as a gift shop which makes it appealing to a large public: both young and old can visit it. The products are more exclusive than similar products from the supermarket but remain affordable. So you can find something for every budget.

Once past the amphora wall, the dark oak wooden floor at the front of the shop turns into a dark grey tiled floor. A little further on, a cash register furniture is at the centre of the shop with an accompanying display case where, among other things, fresh olives are presented. Both pieces of furniture consist of light-coloured wood and are covered with reed on the sides. For safety and hygiene reasons, the display case has an additional glass screen at the front.

Above the cash register hang four cylindrical lamps that create a more intimate atmosphere by radiating warm light. Like the amphora wall, the wall behind the cashier's furniture is covered with ornamental stones. Further on in the shop, the tiled floor changes back into a dark oak wooden floor. At this location the wall with ornamental stones changes into a light green painted wall.

The retail chain divides its shops into different 'worlds': oil/vinegar, spices, salad/dressing, pasta &more, appetizers and sweet. The products presented in light oak veneer wall racks are literally in the spotlight. Each wall rack is warmly lit by one of the many spotlights. In the middle of the room there is a theme table on which previously special products are presented. This table separates the space into two, creating two aisles and thus creating a shopping route through different 'worlds'.

Just behind this theme table another grey tiled floor begins, these tiles lie all the way to the back of the shop. The shop appeals to both functionally oriented people as well as people who prefer to come and browse. For the more functionally oriented clientele, clear signage is provided, also above each product group. For those customers who prefer to browse through the shop, there is room for them to stroll through the shop and take the time to look around and taste what is around them.

Why is this an experience shop? 
The open character and the Mediterranean atmosphere of the shop is very inviting, allowing visitors to escape from the daily hustle and bustle. The Mediterranean music you hear, the large black and white photo you see as you enter, the aromas you can smell of all the products around you and the different materials you can feel, ensure that all your senses are stimulated and that you can be completely immersed in Mediterranean atmospheres.

Retailer story

Oil & Vinegar is a shop concept of which the first store opened its doors in the Netherlands in 1999. Currently, the culinary gift shops can be found in various countries, including Belgium. The store hat is discussed here is the Oil & Vinegar in Hasselt on the Koning Albertstraat. It is a busy shopping street, where the shop with its open facade tries to lure passers-by in. In all their shops, the chain tries to opt for an open facade with an inviting character, on a street where there is a lot of passage.

We are a culinary gift shop, for yourself or for someone else. The most important value of our shop is the distinctive quality of our products and the professional advice compared to the regular supermarket.
Our slogan sums this up: 'For Food Lovers'.

Marc Vanwetswinkel, manager Oil & Vinegar Hasselt

The Mediterranean look is a very important aspect, which can be found in all Oil & Vinegar shops. The focus is always on Mediterranean atmospheres, and this is also translated into their shop interiors, where the chain does everything in its power to make customers feel like they are on holiday. With the wooden racks and the wooden floor, the aim is to create a warm atmosphere that should also accentuate the Mediterranean atmosphere in this way.

In the shop in Hasselt, the wooden floor is alternated with a stone floor, because this was already present. Normally the floors are completely made of wood, but as the stone floor was still in a nice condition, and this turned out to be a sustainable solution, we chose to keep it.

Marc Vanwetswinkel, manager Oil & Vinegar Hasselt

The shop is divided into different 'worlds'. For example, we have a world for oil & vinegar, one for herbs, a part for salads and dressing, a pasta & more world, a part for appetizers and finally a part for sweet products.

To show all these products one can choose a clear routing. However, this is also often tailored to the shape and size of the shop premises.
In our fixed routing plan, for example, we always choose to place the 'runners' at the back of the shop so that the clientele also has to pass other products.

Marc Vanwetswinkel, manager Oil & Vinegar Hasselt

When setting up the shop racks, care is taken to ensure that the important products are at eye and grab height. A lot of attention is also paid to the gift packaging. Various products are given extra explanation by means of adapted signing. This is a sign with a beautiful photo and an explanation of the production process and the place of origin of the product in question. Not only the theme table at the entrance but also the rest of the shop contains various test stands. These ensure that customers can get to know the products in an easily accessible way and that an extra experience is created in the shop.

Oil & Vinegar has been using tastings in their shops since the beginning (1999). Actually, they were one of the first to offer this to their visitors.

Marc Vanwetswinkel, manager Oil & Vinegar Hasselt

Another important point of attention in the shop is the choice of music, which should also reflect a Mediterranean atmosphere. People play salsa music from Mediterranean countries and consciously choose not to play it too loud. Music is also directed outwards to lure passers-by and to make visitors feel in the right mood more quickly.

The shop occasionally works around certain themes. This is not always visible on the products or the furnishings, but is shown on a TV screen behind the counter furniture via videos. However, care is always taken to ensure that these continue to fit in with the Mediterranean atmosphere. In addition, the interior and the products are also regularly adapted, something that is always tried out first in test shops. At the moment the shop chain is focusing more on gift packaging and cross-selling.

The brand values of Oil & Vinegar are quality, authenticity, originality and exclusivity.
Most important remains the slogan "For Food Lovers" with which they try to say everything they stand for.

Marc Vanwetswinkel, manager Oil & Vinegar Hasselt

If you fill in the DIY Fashion store audit for Oil & Vinegar, you will arrive at the following result:

tool O&V
Type: Sagrada Familia

In this shop, the space (architecture of the building and the shop design) is equivalent to the product range. These two elements support each other in the retailer's story, but one is not more important than the other. Senses are stimulated, but this happens rather subtly, like a quieter seducer. The shop is balanced and inviting both in terms of form and content, which makes the threshold very low. The customer can both browse and shop pleasantly and purposefully.

Each type is accompanied by possible pitfalls

A possible pitfall with this type of shop is that little news happens, it is a shop like there are 12 in a dozen. The middle field in the figure is the image in which the majority of fashion retailers enter. Creating a more specific and personal experience can differentiate your shop from and give it a head start on the rest of the market.

We typically see this type of shop in the middle segment of the market.

Experience matrix

Although the sensory matrix is a design tool, we use it here as an evaluation tool to illustrate the use of the matrix.

zintuigenmatrix o&v

In the top row are the 4 brand values of Oil & Vinegar, followed by their type of product and the type of premises they are in. The table shows what Oil & Vinegar has bet on: which brand value has received which sensory translation. This tool can therefore be used during the design process to translate what the shop stands for into a suitable shop design.

+ & - points

When we test Oil & Vinegar against findings from research and literature, we arrive at a list of very strong points in terms of the shopping experience on the one hand, and on the other hand, a few points for improvement that are necessary to further enhance the experience in the shop and to consistently convey the story that Dille & Kamille wants to tell.


VISUAL MERCHANDISING - Oil & Vinegar uses many visual elements to advertise. They do this by putting a number of products in the spotlight by showing examples of gift packages, clear product designations and screens. (Fister, 2009).

COLOUR - Various warm colours are used on the shelves where the products are placed (Wastiels, Schifferstein, Heylighen, & Wouters, 2012). Together, these colours create a beautiful coherent and balanced whole (Bellizzi, Crowley, & Hasty, 1983). The use of colour fits in very well with the Mediterranean atmosphere that hangs in the shop.

SCENT - When entering the shop you can immediately perceive the scents of the products. These also help to create the Mediterranean atmosphere, invite you to taste them and make the customer linger longer in the shop (Spangenberg, Crowley, & Henderson, 1996) (Mattila, & Wirtz, 2001) (Knasko, 1989).

SERVICE - People are professional and knowledgeable. Staff members are thoroughly informed about the products they sell and are thus able to provide customers with the necessary service and information at all times. (Singh, Katiyar, & Verma, 2014).

MUSIC - To bring the Mediterranean atmosphere even more to the visitors, they have chosen the typical Mediterranean salsa music. In this way they respond to people's mood and indirectly try to create even more of a holiday feeling in a very subtle way. (Morin, Dubé, & Chebat, 2007).

SIGNING - Oil & Vinegar clearly uses different types of signage in all its shops, such as the striking chalkboard, information boards,... These are all located in a conspicuous place so that customers can find them quickly. In this way everyone immediately knows what they are looking for or looking for. (Sherman, Mathur, Belk Smith, 1997; Otterbring, Wästlund, Gustafsson, & Shams, 2014).

COLOUR - The ornamental stones on the wall in combination with tightly painted green walls immediately give you a Mediterranean atmosphere. The rough stone in combination with the smooth green paint gives you an immediate warm feeling.  (Fenko, Schifferstein, & Hekkert, 2010; Wastiels, Schifferstein, Heylighen, & Wouters, 2012). The green colour gives you a positive feeling, makes you feel at ease and stimulates strolling through the shop. (Akers, Barton, Cossey, Gainsford, Griffin, Micklewright, 2012).

TASTING - The tables with tastings on entry invite you to really get a taste before entering the rest of the shop. It is a large round table so you 'dare' to taste something because the table is large and offers a lot. After you have tasted several things from the table you will only enter the rest of the shop and you will want to buy this product more easily. You have the feeling that you are not doing anything wrong because you have tasted it and you have been able to compare the product. (Noppe, 2012)

MATERIALS- The wooden oak floor creates more atmosphere and the dark wood gives a warm feeling. The use of real wood is still associated and evaluated as warmer and cozier than a material in wood look or than the use of laminate (Jimenéz et al., 2016).

EYECATCHER- The amphora wall in front of the shop lures you in, because from the shopping street you can see the impressive wall with oil barrels. It is a real eye-catcher in the shop and the barrels are made of glass so you can see the different oils in the barrels. You want to know exactly what is inside and how it works, it is an experience in itself. (Chan &Chan, 2007)

TACTILE SENSE - All products available at Oil & Vinegar can be touched at any time by the visitor, which lowers the threshold for the consumer. In this way you have more feeling of trust. (Jansson-Boyd, 2011; Grohmann, Spangenberg, & Sprott, 2007; Lund, 2015; Peck & Childers, 2003).

CROSSCHANNEL - Oil & Vinegar also focuses on social media and has a webshop: online and offline co-exist to meet the customer's needs and expectations (Blazquez, 2014). The Mediterranean feeling and story of the shop chain are extended online and form a whole with the story in the physical shop so that the customer is always and everywhere immersed (Verhoef, Leon, Parasurama, Roggeveen, Tsirios, & Schlesinger, 2009) in the world of Oil & Vinegar. 

STORE LAY-OUT - There is a clear subdivision per 'world'. So you can clearly see that the oil and vinegar barrels are presented differently from the herbs. This makes it possible for the customer to experience the different categories in a targeted way in the shop, which makes it much easier to search for a specific product (Elbers, 2016).

PRODUCT VISIBILITY/PRODUCT PLACING - The most attractive products are at eye level, the less attractive and packaged products, such as packs of pasta, are on the floor. This creates a clear and calm image.

PRESENTATION OF THE PRODUCT - The racks are not overfilled. For example, there could have been many more units of the same product, making it look busier. They haven't done this, which makes the products on the shelves stand out more.


CONCEPT - The concept of sustainability is clearly stated on the website, but this is not really physically visible in the shop. They can see this concept more clearly in the design of the shop. (Kasulis, & Lusch, 1981) (Tsymbal, 2004).

ROUTING - During the busier periods in the shop, this can be quite small. It sometimes becomes more difficult for customers to pass each other in the rather narrow route without disturbing each other (Li, Lin, & Ho, 2015).

MATERIALISATION - The Mediterranean atmosphere should create a warm and cosy feeling. Generally they do this very well in their choice of materialization by playing with all kinds of wood species that create a positive and warm feeling with the client. However, they have had the frames of the racks made out of steel. This creates an industrial look. The material is rather hard and cold that partly takes away the warm and positive feeling. (Wastiels, Schifferstein, Heylighen, & Wouters, 2012)

DIGITAL COMMUNICATION- The electronic visuals behind the cash register furniture and at the back of the shop are not really an addition or added value to the concept they want to radiate. A still image is projected onto them, on which products can be seen. The screen at the back of the shop is also a bit lost. The striking colours of the screen attract attention, but because no information is given, there is little or no added value compared to the product range. So the screen does function as an eye-catcher that adds value to the experience of the shop. (Dennis, Michon, Brakus, Newman, & Alamanos, 2012). It is therefore clear that a good choice must be made where the screens will be hung and what will be projected onto them.

read our other case studies