(Jan. 16) It’s likely a rare event when a consumer can’t find what they want at a Bloom grocery store.

That is because consumers were instrumental in the stores’ makeup, based on results from a two-year study designed to determine what consumers want at a supermarket. The survey’s goal was to provide an easy, high-quality shopping experience, said Karen Peterson, corporate communications manager for Bloom.

Bloom stores are owned by Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion LLC.

Simplicity and quality are reflected in Charlotte, N.C.-based Bloom stores, Peterson said, and since the chain’s inception in 2004, feedback from consumers has been positive.

“Our guests love Bloom,” Peterson said. “We have designed stores with guests in mind, so there’s an intuitive layout and technology you wouldn’t find in a traditional grocery store. It’s based upon providing our guests with exceptional convenience, quality and variety.”

Bloom has experienced rapid growth in the last few years, opening 56 stores in Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina, after starting out with five units in the Charlotte area. Nine of the stores are brand new, but the others are former Food Lion locations that have been renovated. All are modeled after the same Bloom concept, Peterson said.

When a consumer enters a Bloom store, a few noticeable differences instantly distinguish it from competitors, such as the separation of perishable and nonperishable items and store maps on shopping carts, she said.

Also, to avoid the hassle of checking out, shoppers swipe their Bloom identification cards upon arriving and are given a hand-held scanner to itemize their purchases. They then swipe the card again and pay when complete, Peterson said.

“It expedites the check-out process, and allows you to keep close track of what you’re spending as you go through,” she said.

Produce departments, which average about 5,000 square feet, are near the front of the store and feature exotic fruits and vegetables, such as sugar cane.

Grapes and berries — considered stronger impulse purchases — are at the head of the department, and fresh-cut items are emphasized throughout. Fresh-cut fruits, including pineapple and watermelon, are chopped in-house, while the fresh-cut vegetables are shipped in from suppliers, Peterson said.

As Bloom continues to expand, customized features within stores also have evolved, thanks to continuous input from guests, she said.

“We’re very fluid, and change to meet guests’ needs,” Peterson said. “If we need to change something we will. There’s been much higher brand awareness since 2004.”

Interactive kiosks throughout the stores allow guests to locate products, prices, more than 2,000 recipes and other information, Peterson said.

The kiosks also enable consumers to print personal grocery lists, which can be set up by going to the store’s Web site — www.shopbloom.com — she said.

The Table-Top section, previously was arranged similar to a convenience store, with items like milk, bread, eggs and beer. It has transformed into a home meal solutions provider, offering meals, fresh salads (including fruit salads that are chopped in-house), sandwiches, pastas and an olive bar, Peterson said.