By Alan Wolf, YSN

Besides offering services like merchandising and marketing, Mega Group, which encompasses the Canadian wing of BrandSource, also maintains a dedicated design team. Its mandate: to increase dealer sales by designing a store that sparks consumer interest while remaining practical and functional.

While Mega Design is sensitive to the unique needs of each dealer, its services are based on four universal pillars of store design that make for a more engaging shopping environment. So whether your business is north or south of the U.S.-Canadian border, embracing these four core elements can help spur sales:

Personality

Every retailer has a unique identity, and the first step for the Mega Design team is to determine what that brand personality is and how to make it stand out. To identify it, merchants are asked to consider what types of consumers shop at their store; what sales strategies are employed for each product category; and how those strategies can be presented creatively to drive traffic, support the store’s vision and boost the bottom line.

For example, 80-year-old Wiens Furniture wanted to demonstrate its expertise in high-end appliances through an expansion project. Rather than present row upon row of models, Mega Design assembled complete kitchen ensembles in order to focus on the quality rather than the quantity of the assortment, and to allow consumers to envision the premium products in their own kitchens.

The Space

Many independent dealers own their buildings which they’ve expanded over the years, often putting square footage ahead of store layout and navigation. Now, how can they break free of the maze?  

Mega Design builds on a location’s structural features to transform what could be considered a weakness into a strength, even an attraction. This includes enhancing each product’s exposure, redirecting traffic flow and finding logical locations and adjacencies for each category. For example, mattress and bedroom departments should be located together, while smaller grab-and-go products should be placed near the counter as impulse buys.

Any architectural element can be utilized to become a point of interest. For example, given a high ceiling, the upper wall can be used to present products that benefit from vertical placement, or to bring attention to signage. Even multiple floors, which can be off-putting or even discouraging for shoppers, can become an asset. At BrandSource Home Furnishings Serge Prévost, the use of unique lighting and oversized signage catches shoppers’ attention and encourages them to discover the second floor. As the saying goes, “Where the eyes go, the feet will follow.”

Similarly, when Déco Surfaces Sévigny obtained an old three-story bowling alley in Montreal, the design team placed high-traffic, inspirational categories like living and dining rooms by the entrance, created clear sightlines for appliances and floor coverings and minimized the incline of the ramps that connect each floor, leading to a grand top-level bird’s-eye view. Instead of hampering sales, the building’s peculiarities became a unique advantage.

The Shopping Experience

Given the convenience of online shopping, visiting a brick-and-mortar store had better provide its own form of entertainment. Otherwise, why would anyone leave the house?

The ability to see, feel and demo products is a primary reason for consumers to visit a physical store, which was the inspiration behind the pillow display within the Sleep Experience gallery at BrandSource Home Furnishings Sévigny. At Serge Prévost, the customer’s journey begins with an inspirational aisle featuring coordinated living room, bedroom and dining room collections. Adding drama to the vignettes are distinct flooring, a patterned ceiling and suspended lighting, plus a supporting wall that can easily be recolored or wallpapered. The presentation grabs the attention of customers as soon as they enter the showroom.

Likewise, live kitchen vignettes bring an element of excitement to appliances by demonstrating their full range of features. Fully-functional kitchens also allow for special in-store events like cooking classes or demonstrations by a professional chef. And, with the addition of barstools, the kitchen can become a unique meeting area where sales staff can build relationships with customers.

A more recent in-store element is the touch-screen, which allows shoppers to refine their search and provides an “endless aisle” of products while allowing for a less cluttered selection on the sales floor. It also serves as a virtual staff member that can keep shoppers engaged.

To complete the shopping experience and add an element of comfort to the visit, a café corner is available to customers at Serge Prévost. Besides refreshments, the café offers interactive games to keep kids occupied and an iPad that shows products, the retailer’s timeline and its role in the community.

Signage

Communication between the retalier and customer begins with the retailer’s website, extends to the storefront, continues inside the showroom and must remain consistent throughout.

Communication can be informative, directional or playful/inspirational. An informative approach can be found on BrandSource Sévigny’s storefront, where large-format lifestyle images act as aspirational ads to draw in passersby. Lifestyle images are preferable over product photos, which quickly become outdated.

Inside, a clearly displayed mission statement demonstrates the retailer’s commitment to the consumer, and a photo of Sévigny’s sales team establishes a sense of trust and rapport with the customer. Signage can also convey a message about the store’s current sales offers or available services.

Directional signage aids the consumer’s in-store journey while offering an appealing solution to maze-like building layouts. At BrandSource Sévigny for example, modern, oversized signs clearly point the way to the restrooms.

Used in a playful or inspirational way, large-format images can reflect the latest decorative trends and add a visual touch to the store’s design. At Serge Prévost, a mix between playful and informative images helps enliven the appliance department. In addition, “About Us” sections featuring photos of the company’s customers, staff and history, help personalize the business, bind it to the community and promote a sense of trust and confidence in the retailer.

Conclusion

Each merchant’s personality is different, as is their retail space and goals, and each new project can come with its own set of obstacles. But for the Mega Design team, there is no greater pleasure than finding solutions for each step of the design process and to watch the members’ dreams unfold before their eyes.  

Mega Group is the Canadian affiliate of AVB, publisher of YSN.