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Retail Traffic

Trains, Planes and Roller Coasters

The entertainment-retail movement aims to provide leisure-time activities in a shopping environment. If along the way people stop to shop at the retail stores, so much the better.

Specialty retailers, however, often want more exposure to potential customers than what entertainment-retail malls and urban entertainment centers, with their focus on leisure activities, can offer. As a result, specialty retailers have begun to expand their offerings to alternative retail locations such as train stations, office buildings, airports, hotels, amusement parks and other gathering places.

The theory goes like this: If fewer shoppers visit traditional retail centers and spend less time shopping in traditional specialty stores, then retailers had better take those stores to where the people are.

Alternative retail locations combine the benefits of excellent traffic flow and up-scale demographics. At the same, however, the people passing through these locations do not expect to find retail stores.

Because people in alternative sites have work, travel or fun on their minds, stores must announce their presence and give people a reason to shop.

For example, stores in office buildings and transportation terminals must accommodate shoppers lugging briefcases and suitcases. In amusement parks, retailers must entice parents to buy some more fun after already spending money on the attractions.

To achieve these goals, retailers in alternative sites must rethink basic store design concepts.

Unconventional retail center design Take, for example, the Citicorp Center on the western edge of Chicago's financial district. Managed by Chicago-based Landau Heyman, the 39-floor office tower houses about 70,000 sq. ft. of public retail space on the first two floors. The retail space opens through a series of portals into an adjacent two-story structure that houses the Ogilvie Transportation Center (also known as the Northwest terminal), a major commuter hub for the city.

The original design of Citicorp Center's retail corridor aimed to move people through quickly and efficiently, up to the offices above or out to the train station. The people flow through like a rushing stream, according to Gar Muse, principal with Atlanta-based Cooper Carry Inc. The design firm was brought in by Landau Heyman to improve the design and hence the performance of the center's retail space.

"If you stand in the middle of the traffic flow, you'll get knocked around," Muse says. "With the original storefront design plan, traffic flow through the corridors prevented window shopping. Dark lighting didn't bring out the true colors of the retail products in the stores."

Furthermore, low storefronts topped by dark strips of spandrel glass reduced the visibility and effectiveness of storefronts.

"We got rid of the spandrel glass and raised the head height of the stores from 9 feet to 15 feet," Muse says. "We introduced transparent glass storefronts that open up the stores so you can see inside. Then we pulled the signage about 3 feet behind the lease line and placed it on gypsum-board bulkheads that are 10 to 15 feet high. We also designed custom blade signs that project out perpendicular to the storefronts, to announce tenants to people from a distance."

The designers extended the demising piers out beyond the glass fronts that sit on the leaseline. "This creates a neutral space that allows visitors to stop at the storefront and look inside without being run over by the passing crowd."

Cooper Carry renovated the dark common area corridors in front of the stores, installing new ceilings with suspended light fixtures above the darkest areas. "We also added other graphic signage elements directing people to the food court on the first floor," Muse says. "In the food court, we expanded the leasable areas, and named it City Station, after Citibank. Then we created a design around a train motif. It's almost a diner car approach, sort of a period piece about the industrial locomotive era in American history."

Inside the stores at unconventional centers Interior store design at alternative locations differs from conventional store design for many reasons. For example, the demographics of potential shoppers passing by alternative site stores may vary from those in conventional malls, thus requiring different design concepts.

Demographic considerations played a key role in the design of Audrey's Attic, a prototype store at the Pittsburgh Air Mall at the Pittsburgh International Airport.

"Audrey's Attic is a collectibles store carrying high-and low-priced national lines such as Precious Moments and Beanie Babies," says Peter Macrae, vice president and partner with Columbus, Ohio-based Retail Design Group. "The merchandise is geared to female shoppers, but we had to design the store to make men feel comfortable, because an airport shopping audience is predominately male."

According to Gregg Paradies, senior vice president of The Paradies Shops, one of the largest airport retailers in the country, 70% of all airline passengers are men and 30% are women.

As a result, Audrey's Attic needed a design that could sell to men merchandise intended for women. "We had to design a store that men would feel comfortable entering and browsing," Macrae says. "The idea is to attract men to buy something for their children or spouses."

A male airport shopper might buy gifts for his daughter, or contribute to a line of collectibles for his wife, Macrae says. Collectible merchandise of this kind is seen today as an investment opportunity.

"But the key is to make the store comfortable for men," Macrae says. "To do that, we used warm brown colors and woods to create a store that resembles an attic. The slatwall for the merchandise looks like the back of the exterior horizontal siding in an uninsulated attic. Architectural features include rough-looking rafters. The flooring is made of wide planks. The lighting is moody and dark, with exposed bulbs and pull chains."

Likewise, the fixturing is composed of storage containers normally found in attics: hatboxes, open trunks and old mismatched furniture.

The storefront appears to be the upper or attic portion of an old Victorian house. Cut-out silhouettes of trees along with a sloping shingled roof and dormer windows flank the entry. "As you walk in, it appears that you have walked into an attic," Macrae says.

Store as advertisement Unconventional retail locations offer retailers opportunities for branding as well as selling.

Catalog retailer Lands' End, for example, has operated a number of off-price stores in conventional settings for years. Recently, Lands' End opened a full-price store in the Minneapolis International Airport.

Airport demographics appear ideal for Lands' End. "In analyzing the demographics of their customers, the company found airport customers to be very similar - male, educated, in business, and well paid," says Denny Gerdeman, principal with Columbus-based Chute Gerdeman, the firm that developed the store design.

Lands' End doesn't view its airport store concept as a departure from catalog sales. Instead, through airport locations, the company aims primarily not to sell merchandise but to build brand image and to acquire names for its catalog mailing list, says Bob Welty, partner and creative director for Chute Gerdeman.

"Lands' End has found that 60% of the people receiving catalogs will order something," continues Welty. "Of those who order, two-thirds to three-quarters become repeat customers."

In other words, Lands' End believes it can build sales by sending catalogs to more people. To get new names and addresses, it will appeal to customers matched to Lands' End demographics in airport stores, show real product instead of catalog photographs, and try to sign people up for the mailing list.

The store design supports those goals. Welty's 1,600 sq. ft. design offers a respite from the air terminal, with its hard surfaces and harsh lighting. Waist-high, dark wood storefront walls flank a wide store entrance, and a soft-toned flagstone flooring set with rich dark wood fixtures invites customers into the store.

"Just inside the entrance, a large video monitor, easily visible from the common area corridor, tells the story of Lands' End and its products," Gerdeman says. "Interactive computer stations throughout the store enable customers to view and order catalog items that may not be available in the store. We also built in point-of-purchase elements that tell stories about the company's culture. Overall, the architecture and the environment inside the store create an image piece about Lands' End."

When the store is closed at night, Gerdeman says, the main video monitor continues to run and two interactive stations built into the storefront allow travelers to scan the catalog, sign up for the mailing list and place orders.

>From terminals to terminators Different kinds of alternative retail locations raise different kinds of design challenges. In transportation centers, for example, the goals include getting passers-by to notice the stores and providing a relaxing oasis apart from the hubbub of the terminal.

At an exit store connected to an amusement park ride or attraction, converse goals arise. "In a theme park, you don't want people to know they have left the attraction or experience and entered a store," says Michael Steveson, a principal with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based AAD (Associates in Architecture and Design), a firm that has designed stores for a variety of alternative retail locations including amusement parks. "Their emotions are running high from the experience. You want to tap into those emotions, which will lead them to want to keep a piece of that experience."

AAD applied these principles to the design of the exit store for the new T2-3D attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, in California. The attraction offers a 12-minute, three-dimensional movie experience with live actors.

The attraction is full of adventure, following the premise of the film Terminator 2. According to Steveson, the presentation lathers emotions to a fever pitch that goes beyond an interest in browsing retail products.

"As people leave the T2 attraction, they are so jacked up that we have to provide a decompression zone to calm them down before showing them the retail," he says. "We use a long exit ramp that leads from the theater to the retail area. The ramp strings people out, because they walk at different speeds. As they go down the ramp, they see glimpses of the store through portals. At the bottom of the ramp, the corridor makes a 180-degree turn, and they can see the store full on."

The first thing people see is a T-1000 robot, the character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, surrounded by mini hunter killer robots. The T-1000 appears to be firing a laser through a portion of the fixtures in the store.

A small sign lets visitors know they are entering the store: T2 Gear and Supply. "But it's not a sign like you see going into a mall store," says Steveson. "Here you are still in the attraction, and a full-sized sign would break the spell."

Another design challenge in an exit-ride shop is overcoming the tunnel effect. "The crowd comes off of the decompression ramp and naturally moves toward the door to the outside, taking those who might want to shop out as well," Steveson explains. "To solve this problem, we have split the aisles in the T2 shop. When you come out of the corridor, you see the T-1000 robot. Behind him is a line of fixturing and merchandise set perpendicular to the flow of traffic."

The flow of traffic splits at the fixturing, Steveson says, with some people moving around both ends and out the door and others stopping at the displays to browse the merchandise.

People can also enter from the outside of the store, where AAD has created a spectacular storefront that appears to be composed of liquid, intelligent metal (another nod to the Terminator 2 movie) forming itself into a building wall.

Wherever retailers go to find alternative sites, new store design challenges will arise, but the age-old principles will still apply. Circulation patterns must lead people to the stores. Storefronts and interiors must present an image tailored to the demographics of a particular audience. Merchandise must fit the image of the store.

It's different, but the same.

In an airport, office building, train station or other alternative retail site, retailers face the challenge of luring in customers who did not come to the locale intending to shop. Therefore, designers must create stores that not only entice passers-by who are rushing to catch a plane or hurrying to a meeting but also fit in with a non-traditional environment. In creating these spaces, designers must consider issues like ample aisle width to accommodate suitcases and the flow of crowds out of an amusement park attraction and into a shop.

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