Atmosphere Is the Star

G-Star’s Manhattan store, above, reflects the brand’s design aesthetic.

Store atmospherics help G-Star maintain its cool, hip edge. In recent years, the Dutch denim brand has opened some 75 franchised stores, primarily in Europe. In 2007, the company is focusing on growth in the United States, where it currently has eight stores.

“We got involved because they make a great denim product, have a cool image and the marketing is very sophisticated,” said Tom Taylor, principal, Swimming Horses, Salt Lake City, which owns six G-Star stores in the United States, including units in Dallas, Manhattan and Los Angeles, and plans to open additional locations.

The design of G-Star’s in-store experience was carefully crafted to create the type of environment that would reflect the values and taste level of its young shoppers. A sleek design, and targeted music and video, help reinforce the brand and add to the atmosphere. So do special in-store performances by guest DJs.

To provide a consistent look and brand image across locations, the design of G-Star’s U.S. stores is controlled by the parent company in Amsterdam. The company ships materials to all new stores.

The same attention to consistency goes into its audio system. Initially, G-Star wanted to send a sound system from Amsterdam. But it was won over by the reliability and quality of an American brand, Harman Pro Group, so much so that Harman components are now standard for all G-Star stores.

In selecting an audio system, G-Star had some specific criteria. It wanted a single system that could handle its in-store music as well as the DJs in a simple manner. Also, employees had to be able to access the system without being able to adversely affect the settings.

“They needed high-level commercial sound,” said Rolo Casos, principal, Sonolux, Salt Lake City, which designs and installs G-Star’s audio systems (in stores owned by Swimming Horses). “With the DJs they bring in for store openings and other events, a high-quality, powerful system was a necessity.”

At the same time, G-Star did not want its store environment to be overtaken by loudspeakers and other equipment.

“They didn’t want it to impact the look of the store so ceiling-mounted speakers were necessary, with sound zones built in and controllable from the registers,” Casos explained.

About G-Star

The trendy Dutch brand G-Star is best known for its raw denim styles (G-Star Raw jeans retail from about $1,000). But in recent years, the company has been expanding its offerings, particularly its women’s wear collection.

With some 75 franchised locations worldwide, the company plans to open an additional 60 stores this year. It also wholesales to such U.S. retailers as Bloomingdale’s, Urban Outfitters and Metropark. The privately held G-Star does not divulge sales figures, but industry sources predict that it will generate $60 million in retail volume by the end of 2007, up 40% from last year.

Today, each store uses the same overall system from Harman. It is powered by Crown XL amplifiers and JBL loudspeakers (Control Contractor in-ceiling speakers), which work to deliver maximum intelligibility and control, ensuring that the correct content is heard in the correct part of the store. Subwoofers (JBL Control 19s) provide the lowend sound.

G-Star’s in-store music is provided by DMX, which updates the selection over the Internet. The company retains control over content. With the use of a zone controller (dBx ZonePro), employees can adjust basic volume levels without gaining control of or being able to override the system.

The equipment is totally unobtrusive. The speakers are hidden and the rack goes into an office, but with control possible from the cash register. Casos brings the rack pre-populated with the amps and controllers into each new store and makes sure that the speaker covers are painted the right color to blend in with the visual scheme of the store.

“The system is sophisticated, but easy to operate, flexible and can adapt to any need,” he said. “There is one setting for the normal DMX feed. And if there is a DJ, the store accesses the input panel at the register. One selection allows the DJ to plug into the installed system.”