Tag Archives: retail store

What it takes…

Brands want to be innovative and catching with their customers. They seek to connect on an emotional level. Designers need to deliver concepts that can facilitate this goal. Creating such a strategic design takes a lot of very deep considerations – for the brand, its back ground, history, people, message,operations, sales, intent and culture – and for the customers, who are seeking innovation and a unique experience.

A good strategic brand concept  for a store translates into designs at all scales that are custom tailored to the brand, its expression to the customer and its operational requirements.We task ourselves to invent environments that facilitate truly unique consumer/user experiences.

I will illustrate this along the following case study:

My first substantial task with MAC Cosmetics was to create a new retail store environment for them. The brand is rooted in professional make up artistry with a strong emphasis on individual creative expression.

mac cosmetics design

MAC Cosmetics design

Our first considerations were explorations as to what the environments, in which make up artists work, looked like and what did and did not work.It was clear that we needed something that was adaptable and flexible to suit the individual needs and promote the artists. A sort of open stage with a flexible arrangement of functional fixtures and tools. In response we developed a modular fixture system that could be re-arranged to endless configurations by any one without the use of tools.we sketched, drew and built models until we knew what worked.

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For the feel of the space we wanted it to be unique to the brand and the products, so we needed something that linked the environment to the idea of products applied to skin. We wanted it to be recognizable that this environment is made to showcase make-up and no other product. So we considered the theme of skin and its organic characteristics. We invented a material to skin our modular fixtures so that consumer would have a memorable touch sensation when getting in contact with our fixtures. Those top skins were equally modular so they would not impact the flexibility of the fixtures below. In line with this idea we developed displays from an animated scenario of attractors that simulated the interaction around the fixture through customers. It created organic displays, onto which we organized product along elevation lines similar to the lines found on maps of mountains.

Image converted using ifftoany

 

 

 

 

counter top wireframe

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all displayers

 

The long design process eventually led to beautiful sculptural objects. Some of the we lit from below to accentuate their shapes.

 

eye testerlip mountain

lipstick copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further we developed accessories like hand mirrors with an organic look and touch to emphasize the theme of skin and beauty. The concept needs to apply at all scales. They were paired with sensor activated water fountains that emerged from the counter top skin creating another impactful organic moment.

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The space itself also needed to speak the same formal language so we created concept touch points through out the store such as areas where we”peeled” the floor off the ground to form an organic enclosure for privacy or  “melted” the ceiling to a softer, organic form or poured a thick 1″ layer of clear Urethane on the floor, to soften the hardness of the space. We choose finishes that contrasted and gave a dynamic quality to the space. The fixtures ended up being built from cement board and a custom formulated Poly Urethane. The space had elements of concrete and acrylic, rather neutral for it to function as a presentation stage for the sculptural fixtures.

 

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The whole effort of 4 months of design, 8 months of development and 4 months of construction resulted in an engaging, unique and innovative environment.

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MAC Cosmetics / New York

 

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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brand architecture

brand translated into architecture

shape from content

story telling details

finishes from context

The interior architecture is informed by the brand concept . The space is shaped by a structure of yarn into a minimalist decorative environment that speaks the language of precision, quality and detail. Careful consideration of lighting and product placement offers stunning effect with less to support the brand philosophy.

pas de calais

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Pas de calais, in Soho, NY since April 2013

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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Here is an excellent example on how good creative design solutions can make all the difference in retail.

omniform for objet carpet in zurich

Selling carpets is a challenging business. Samples take up a lot of retail space so that retailers are forced to either rent large surfaces or store them in classifier systems such as pull-out frames, drawers, or shelving, which do not exhibit their goods well to their customers. It requires a sales person to pre-select samples and never gives an overview of the entire gamut. This little store, I spotted in Zürich recently, is defined by a long and narrow foot print, which would have made it even harder to fit in traditional large storage/display systems for their carpet samples.

The designers found a stunning solution to the problem:  By rolling up the samples and storing them in a grid of wall slots the designers did not have to take away much of the depth of the already narrow store. It cleverly allows for customers to get a full overview of the product line, while being able to touch and feel the product (a necessity when it comes to carpets).

The ingenious idea though is the decision to keep the entire store front unobstructed, exposing the whole showroom to the outside and turning the sample display walls into window displays. By framing the store front window in addition the designers created a powerful display. Accent lighting sets the product display walls in contrast to a reduced monochromatic black and white interior allowing for the product to be the hero on display.

The designers understood well how to take advantage of the long narrow space, the large vitrine and the location. No coincidence that there is a traffic light not far from the store forcing cars to stop right in front of the vitrine on a red light.

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roll out strategy

When retailers decide to take their brand abroad they know they must implement  a strategy of brand identity that represents them at best and stays relevant in the very diverse world of global retail. For a while the formula has been to develop a scheme that prescribes a predefined look at point-of-sales and as many standardized guidelines as possible to assure consistency in the brand message wherever they would go to open a new store.

What we realized though after a few years of this practice is that the world of retail started turning into a dull and very uninspiring scenario: everywhere you would go, you would see the exact same carbon copies of store concepts. Merchandising and window displays were the same and consumers could not differentiate any longer if they were in a mall in China, the US, Brazil or the UK. On the other side the local markets felt like they were imposed a retail scheme that, while representing the brand at its best, did often not really click with local consumers.

What was missing was the integration of cultural context.

Today we are looking at international roll-out designs with a different perspective. We like to design retail scenarios that follow a strong brand concept, previously developed at the heart of the brand. However, the declinations throughout the world are developed with cultural relevance to the local markets. These sometimes small variations to the original concept are key elements to hit the love-mark with a customer. Consumers in foreign countries have different shopping habits. We all follow cultural rituals, we have learned from early on, influenced by our heritage and culture. So it is no surprise that things are done differently in Japan or in Saudi Arabia than in the US. It is more likely to create a successful retail environment by learning these behavioral variations and adapting them into the design concept.

When we took Mauboussin, the french jeweler from Place Vendome in Paris, to Casablanca such adaptation seemed necessary. Even though there is a long-lasting affinity between France and Morocco there is a strong difference in the cultural context as well as behavioral patterns. Led by tradition and religion the role of men and women are very different from the western model, hence the shopping rituals, especially for jewelry – often a prestige object to show affection between the two – had to be taken into consideration.

So for this store we made two major adaptations that I list here as example to support my theory above:

1. we included a women only tea salon. The idea was to encourage women to come on their own as we provided a “safe” environment for them. This unit is attached to the retail store, which enables women to meet with their friends and family without male company and combine that with a shopping experience, which otherwise would be less accessible.

2. we removed the cash desk from the sales floor. This creates a decent environment, where money transactions are being conducted in privacy, secluding the sensitive part  from the communal shopping experience. A very important scenario for male customers in this cultural context, who do not want their shopping partners to see what they are spending.

In addition we adopted local materials and construction techniques in some areas into the design to create recognition to traditional crafts and therefore connect to local customers on an emotional level. For example the facade was covered in broken tiles, a technique found in many residences in Morocco, enriched with sparkling pieces here to make it look precious. Interior walls were covered with Tadelakt, a rich plaster and application method unique to this country. Further we created lace covered moldings on the wall reflecting on the rich local culture of embroidery. All of this did not distort the image of the brand but instead gave it a meaningful interpretation. Now, 2 years after the store opened, we can attest that our strategy was successful as the store has become a staple in its hometown.

Exterior facade cladding realized with local broken tiles

Exterior facade cladding realized with local broken tiles

Interiors - Tadelakt and lace molding

Interiors – Tadelakt plaster finish and lace molding

Tea Salon

Tea Salon

Mauboussin, Boulevard Al Massira Al Khadra, Casablanca, Morocco

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brand upgrade

Following up on my previous post I feel obligated to mention the new Victoria Secret Flagship UK Store on New Bond Street around the corner, which just recently opened up. This strip, which is known for luxury retail, has now been conquered by a “masstige” retailer. Certainly this must be seen as their high-end version to justify this location. The upgrade is done with a chic facade all in black, showcasing theatrical window displays introducing a nightclub/cabaret theme that features the infamous angel models in stage light settings.

To encourage  full accessibility and break down any possible barriers of customer hold back towards expensive looking environments the proven formula of wide open doors leading into a dark mysterious space pumping with music, as seen in their sister brands such as Abercrombie&Fitch or  Hollister,  is also applied here. The customer sees the most glamorous part of the store from the entrance, the fragrance area, boosting crystal glass, mirrors and lots of reflections in the dark.  A grand oversized video wall of beautiful girls literally pulls anyone in, who cannot resist to the sexual undertone of this palace of senses. The cabaret theme carries throughout the store in variations, its darkness allowing to remain unrecognized while giving way to intriguing illusions of perfect beauty and sexual retail fantasies.

Retail theater at its best.

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Victoria Secret London

Victoria Secret london -video wall

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winter feel

I came across a beautiful store design concept the other day that I would like to mention here as a good example of a branded environment:

Salzburg Sportalm Kitzbühel is one of Austria’s best-known winter clothing manufacturers. When looking to develop a new corporate design for all future Sportalm retail outlets the client wanted to keep the interiors very sober and ‘reduced’, with an emphasis on black and white, since the clothes are colourful and cover a range of different textures.

SPORTALM-Vera Subkus 01

For the firm’s new image, the architects Baar Baarenfels came up with an abstract impression of snow formations. The walls – homogeneously clad with white Avonite – seem to be all of one piece thanks to the undulating forms and seamless finishing. “Cuts” in the surface are reminiscent of breaks in snow covers.

The environments are fully distinguishable and the shop fit successfully creates emotional connection with winter landscapes and the lifestyle that goes with it, pointing to the brand’s core product line of winter sportswear.
Sportalm retail store (Photo: Vera Subkus)
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connecting retail

When iconic hair company Bumble and bumble came to us with the request to re-imagine their founding flagship salon in New York their focus was on including a strong retail element into their offering. It was clear that the retail space had to be at the front of the store so it could be seen and accessed directly from the street independently of the salon hours. What makes Bumble and bumble so exciting is their artistry and creativity. So we were looking for a way to let this energy transcend into the retail space and at the same time not hide the salon behind retail and away from the street view.

The answer was to separate the two entities by a semi open retail partition that would function simultaneously as a product display wall. See-through and “woven” together by an abstraction of hair texture, which then became the theme throughout the salon design, these retail walls define the new retail area at the entry of the salon and are now iconic elements of the Bumble design language.

www.omniform.us

The re-imagined Bumble and bumble salon by regis pean+omni//form

the new retail area and the salon are both visible from the outside

Retail foyer of Bumble and bumble re-imagined by regis pean+omni//form

the see-through display wall forms the retail foyer of the
re-imagined Bumble and bumble salon

regis pean+omni//form for Bumble and bumble New York Uptown

hair textures abstractions throughout the Bumble and bumble salon

cut floor Bumble and bumble New York uptown re-imagine by regis pean+omni//form

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Moving the crowds- strategic planning_part 3

In my previous post “Leading the way!” I wrote about how strategic “attractors” can help pull the customers through space by providing a sequence of stimuli throughout the experience. Today I want to look at how care needs to be given equally to the layout of the path.

We believe that a store layout is more favorable when it allows for a customer journey without repetition.

Creating a round trip experience will keep the attraction and interest levels up. As they move through a choreographed sequence of experiences they will not realize their way through the store, unless the way is experienced backwards, even for some parts. The repeated path is usually without value for the retailer as the customer will have the impression “to already have seen it” and likely expedite their way through that area without any interest or interaction with a product.

A good example to this theory are IKEA stores. They have driven this idea to a point where it is impossible to turn back without loosing orientation. So customers are almost forced to complete the journey if they want to ever see daylight again.

IKEA store layout and customer path

The negative aspect of taking it this far is that not every customer possesses the same attention span and not being able to exit when you want can create adverse impressions and annoyance. IKEA may get some impulse sales out of a disoriented customer but the experience won’t have a positive perception. (see related article in “Daily Telegraph”) The journey should be offered, not forced.

Below is the layout plan of our store example from the previous blog – a jewelry store omni//form designed for the French brand Mauboussin in Singapore. We have mapped possible journeys from the main entrance as well as the secondary but equally important VIP drive way.

<omni//form for Mauboussin in Singapore>
customer journey mapping
red main, blue VIP

Even though the store is relatively small, it is organized to allow for a customer round trip with attractors setup along the entire journey.

Not every space configuration will necessarily allow for a comfortable round trip journey. Small retail stores very often are narrow and long. The trick is to get the customer to explore the entire space offering by setting up an attractor or a functional area at the very end of the space. When we designed retail stores for MAC Cosmetics with such conditions, we usually set up an attractor at the deep end of space .

This could be a stimulating light element, such as a large light box visual or video screen since humans tend to walk towards light in darker environments. Alternatively we would locate the cash register all the way in the back, so that we could be sure that the customer see the entire store offering before check-out.

A round trip journey can also be created by simply introducing island displays, if the space allows.

<regis pean for MAC Cosmetics in New York>
video screen at the end of the space as a far sight attractor
and island displays to encourage round trip journeys

<regis pean for MAC Cosmetics in Los Angeles>
light source and cash register at the end of space
island displays encourage non repetitive paths

<regis pean for MAC Cosmetics in Tokyo>
wall gestures and displays lead around the corner guiding customers through the space

store designs by omni//form, inc

www.omniform.us

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Leading the way

It is no secret that in store design way guiding is of utmost importance.  There is a whole science behind when and how customers make relevant decisions and what way they are taking through stores. The way customers navigate a store can not be left to coincidence even though all research and studies can never prescribe all the possible options a customer path can have. Because the goal is to get a customer interested, excited and emotionally connected to your brand to buy your product you have not yet won by bringing them into the store only. You must keep them interested all along the way.

As strategic planners for retail environments we follow a simple rule that has given us much success: we build a sequence of visual attractors throughout the store that pull the customer through the space. Visual stimulants are created to keep the interest up and raise the emotions when detected. They play with the ideas of discovery in the sense that the customer is seduced to come and see it from close up. They must be easily detectable, so ideally setup by themselves in high contrast. Lighting plays a big role in making them stand out from the crowd. When setup as multiples in sequence, it creates a controlled physical movement through space.

Here are a few examples of such attractors from a jewelry store for the french brand Mauboussin omni//form designed in Singapore, which we can use as an example for demonstration purposes:

first impression
a “wow” moment in the entry

Important is the first point of interest to engage the customer in the journey. If visible through the entrance door it can also create the most important customer movement: entering the store. In this example a big statement was created with a cascading chandelier  (light and height support the concept of attention grabbing) over product displays to create interest from outside in and lead the customer on a discovery path. Before they know they are engaged into the choreographed experience through the store.

“what’s back here”?
finish and lighting contrast boost the effect of the passage

“what’s in there”?
Treasure box display provocatively opened to invite viewing

“what am I looking at”?
intriguing mirror effects demand for understanding

“relief”!
inviting moments to relax

store design by omni//form, inc

www.omniform.us

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Adapt your concept!

Mauboussin Mandarin Galleries, Orchard Rd, Singapore

When French jewelry brand Mauboussin asked us to take the brand new retail experience concept we had created for their Madison avenue store to Singapore for a new flagship store, we knew we had to make some adjustments.The democratization of fine luxury, as the brand had initiated it in France to reach a wider demographic, seemed not to be the appropriate strategy for the local market in Singapore. Instead we felt that a more successful direction was to turn up the volume on the exclusivity and the french heritage, both aspects that seem highly valued by the local affluent customer. So we put personal customer service at its center and created an interior that is reminiscent of a french palais. But it would not be recognizable as Mauboussin, if it did not have twisted moments of surprise and playfulness in the details. In the end it is as important to show that Mauboussin is a french luxury heritage brand with a very young and fresh spirit at heart.

Mauboussin, Mandarin Galleries, Orchard Rd, Singapore

design by omni//form,inc

      

  

   

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