The sales area at BrandSource Canada’s Wiens Furniture & Appliances in Niverville, Manitoba

Mega Group’s in-house design director on the power of appearance

By Michael J. Knell, YSN Contributor

Strip away the frivolities and misconceptions and interior design has one goal in a retail environment: To help the store owner sell more product at a better margin.

That’s howCarole Vallières defines her primary responsibility as commercial design director for Mega Group, AVB’s Canadian affiliate, in a position she’s held since 2001.

“My role is to make the product stand out,” she said in an interview during the Canadian AVB affiliate’s most recent Reconnect Convention. “It’s about making sure that the product is well presented.”

Carole Vallières

Vallières is also quick to point out there are real and distinct differences between interior design, interior decorating and merchandising.

Interior design is about the cube – the space the store inhabits, she said. “I take care of that space and make sure the traffic flow will be easy throughout the entire space, making sure all of what you want to show in your store is accessible visually. I create the maze for the consumer to go through. The interior decorating will then dress that space.

“The merchandising will then decide the selling strategy,” Vallières continued, adding the designer creates a grid “and the merchandisers indicate which SKUs are going to be placed within the grid.”

Working out of Mega Group’s Greater Montreal offices in the suburb of Boucherville, Vallières and her team handle an average of 20 projects a year, which vary from updating a department to a complete store renovation.

She also firmly believes there’s a direct connection between a well-designed store and sales. “When we start a project, my first question is ‘How much do you sell?’” Vallières said.I need to know how much they sell per category, because that will indicate where their weaknesses and strengths are.” 

Sales are also extremely important to help gauge the effectiveness of a redesign. In her experience, sales climb anywhere from 15% to 25% in the first year after the redesign is finished.

“Normally, margins will also go up, because you’re now selling a sofa for $1,200 instead of $900 and the sofa at $1,200 normally has a better margin,” she said.

Vallières said most retailers she encounters don’t have a good understanding of what interior design really is, especially in a retail environment. “Members often think all I do is choose pretty colors,” she said. While she does indeed choose pretty colors, there’s more to the process, which is geared toward one goal: improving sales.

The newly redesigned Barber & Haskill store in Midland, Ontario, features consistent branding.

Elsewhere, at the recently redesigned Barber & Haskill store in Midland, Ontario, the newly combined mattress and appliance departments now share a large hallway border that is used to display promotion pieces. Vallières also made sure the retailer’s name and brand color are perfectly consistent from the website to the storefront, as well as inside the store.

Vallières believes a well-designed store builds customer loyalty. “If a retailer doesn’t renovate, traffic flow will go down and consumers will be less interested in the store,” she said.

Vallières suggests that owners consider redesigning their store’s interior every ten years or so. “Having said that, I always encourage retailers to update colors, materials, wallpaper and greeneries more often —anything that captures interest. After all, new is exciting,” she said. “The whole idea is to gain more traffic.”

Reprinted with permission from Mega Group’s POWER Newsletter

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