Store Planning & Design: New Design Concepts Highlighted

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The key to efficient signage is understanding your target audience, according to Anne Marie Luthro, of Envirosell.

The store planning and design workshop track at SPECS/ 2008 provided an in-depth look into the industry’s latest design trends, as well as insights on sustainable green lighting and in-store best practices.

George Nauman, principal and chief merchandising officer of Columbus, Ohio-based Chute Gerdeman Retail, and Joel Hostetler, commercial operations manager of MS Consultants, Columbus, Ohio, kicked off the track with “Hot New Retail Concepts From Around the World,” a session that provided an extensive overview of new and innovative retail store designs both in the United States and abroad.

From the sleek and bright-colored Telus Mobility location in Toronto, which features a “hand-set runway” layout that invites customers to try out different wireless-communications products, to REI’s Boulder, Colo., location that brings sustainability to a new level with its three solar strategies (passive solar, solar thermal and solar electrics), attendees learned more about some of the most imaginative designs currently gracing the retail space.

“What makes a retail concept truly hot is its focus on customer perspective,” Nauman said. Both speakers stressed that adding even the slightest touches to cater to the target audience makes all the difference in the world.

Some retailers, however, have created buzz in a big way, such as the new 10022-Shoe concept from Saks Fifth Avenue.

“The company is telling its customers that the department is so big that it needs its own ZIP code, and it’s working,” Nauman said. A purple, iconic three-dimensional shoe sculpture stands out on the floor to draw attention to the new shoe department.

This concept is among those in the marketplace that is effectively using customer interaction as a selling tool through its strategic retail designs, which entice consumers to try on products and actively engage in the merchandise selection, the speakers said.

Other stores highlighted during the presentation included Marni, Tokyo; The World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta; HBO, New York City; BHV Homme, Paris; Ivanka Trump Boutique, New York City; Peter Mark, Dublin, Ireland; Umbra, Toronto; Longchamp, New York City; The Shop at Bluebird, London, and G by Guess, Escondido, Calif.

Signage and Merchandising: The key to efficient signage is understanding your target audience and learning how they shop. That was one of the points Anne Marie Luthro, VP of sales and marketing of New York City-based Envirosell, made during the session, “Signage and Merchandising: Making In-Store Communications Work.”

Teens, for example, are fascinated with observing both products and people—other shoppers and sale associates—in retail stores. That said, teen shoppers tend not to notice signage unless it makes a big statement.

“Retailers can experiment with bigger, louder or more cutting-edge signage with teens,” Luthro said. “And don’t be afraid to speak their language.”

Young shoppers tend to ignore signage with instructions, Luthro noted. “Teens pick up new things a lot faster than some adult shoppers because they seem less embarrassed to figure something out. For example, they will pick up an iPhone and play with the product until they figure out how to use it. An adult shopper, however, would prefer a sign with directions.”

Retailers that target kids should keep in mind that they quickly become bored with signs.

“Signage in a children’s retail store also has to stand abuse,” Luthro added. “Either create signage that can stand abuse or be prepared with three more displays in the back that can be rolled out immediately. Nothing is worse than a damaged sign or a broken sign.”

Luthro said retailers can reach customers in effective ways once they truly understand how they behave in stores.

Other Sessions: In the session, “The Science of Shopping 101: How Store Planning Affects Store Performance,” Envirosell’s Luthro took attendees through the store from a shopper’s perspective. She discussed best practices to further engage customers, such as watching how consumers react to a retail environment and listening to what they want.

During the session, “Great Designs Come From Your Customers—How Consumer Research Can Impact Design,” panelists explained that consumer research and information can also make a real impact on the store environment in helping drive purchases and consumer loyalty. The session panel was made up of Matthew L. Tullman, president and CEO of West Lebanon, N.H.-based Merchant Mechanics; Karen Meskey-Wilson, divisional VP store of planning and design, Macy’s Inc., New York City; and moderator Mike Pothast, director of Dayton, Ohio-based Design Forum. The speakers detailed how purchasing behaviors can be influenced by optimizing the selling the environment, while understanding the consumer’s state of mind.

In the session, “The Future of Design Documentation—Parametric Design & BIM [Building Information Modeling],” Robert Cox, associate at San Francisco-based Gensler, provided an extensive introduction to parametric design and its benefits for retailers.

Cox also discussed the future of BIM—the use of computer-based modeling to generate architecture that may be analyzed in context with building systems and contents—in retail and the advantages of using parametric design software for construction documents for new-store rollouts, prototype design and integration with cost data.