What Makes a Retail Space Successful?

Posted inBranding & Identity Design
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My mind is buzzing about store design and retail presentation. I realize that there is no single solution to successfully designing space and presenting product within that space, but rather a multitude of theories, variables, metrics, and strategies to putting retail space together. In the end, we’re trying to figure out how to best trigger the buying decision. But what exactly is the trigger? Is it ease of access or making an emotional connection? Is it about garnering press, i.e. a branding exercise that somehow later equates to a sale? Is it about familiarity and shopping experience?

Some believe it is about creating and reinforcing a consistent message where every initiative ties together in a grand scheme to grab market share. But sometimes, it can be about the small retailer seeking out and attracting its unique customer. In the end, it is about selling the product and bringing the customer into the shop, but there are many yellow brick roads that lead to this retail Oz. And when you factor in the complexity of buying assortments, balancing size availability and variety to maximize sales in tight economic times, you have a complex puzzle.

So when things get complex, I try to simplify. I personally enjoy stores where the focus is on the product. And it must be presented in a way that makes a strong emotional connection to me in some way with the product and, ultimately, the brand, no matter the price point or target segment. It has to be more than nicely folded, well-organized product; otherwise, I would buy it online. Sometimes, it can simply be a reshuffling of the product. Other times, it requires a wholesale makeover involving shop closure and remodeling. And in the case of some very talented friends of mine, it is somewhere in between working several nights in a row to convert an active retail space into one that better showcases the product and connects with the customer. I think it offers a nice case study.

Here are some shots of an unnamed store. Very standard, functional, and clean. Product is easily visible and one can see the full assortment in a glance. But is it missing something? Does it give you a feel for the brand or compel you to make a purchase?

Here is a shot of the same retail space a day or so later after some all-nighters. See a difference? Re-apportioning the hanging and shelving units against the back wall and re-assorting the clothes help create a sense of fullness. The way the jeans are laid in the display case mixed with shirts creates more visual interest and variety. Adding bins and a flat table with layered jeans highlights the product and branding. Notice the removal of the fixtures in the back exposing the unfinished wall with all its holes.

Here in a closer shot of that unfinished wall, you can see the rigging of the layers of different product in seeming disarray with Navajo rug. For me, it provides a more impactful visual image that I really believe increase the appeal of the clothes because I feel an emotional connection to it.

In these last two shots, we see the replacement of very clean, modern cabinets with long tables made of wooden pallets and reclaimed wood. The symmetry and crafted feel created by the tables with the center area of weathered, leather chairs and antique rug are inviting and create texture and feel – again, for me.

It would be interesting to get feedback. Obviously personal tastes affect aesthetics and any opinions are welcome. What makes a retail space successful?