Crafting a New Experience

Aaron Brothers uses big data to help develop new prototype

Framing and arts supplies retailer Aaron Brothers is reinventing its stores with a new design that celebrates artistic expression and the creative process. The space, which has an urban, modern look, recalls an artist's loft and is set up to provide shoppers with all the tools they need to make better-informed decisions.

The store features three distinct zones that call out the brand's core categories: do-it-yourself framing, custom framing and art supplies. The Frame Workshop offers a hands-on experience: Customers can bring in their photos and artwork, choose a frame, a mat and then assemble everything on-site. The ready-made frames are arranged by finish and size and displayed on a sliding panel system. A "Use Our Wall" section allows shoppers to compose frame groupings that can be recreated at home.

The Custom Framing area offers private consultation areas for custom jobs. It also has a window into the professional frame shop.

A Southern California-inspired, colorful wall mural draws customers back into the space, where art supplies are housed in the new Art District, which houses everything artists might need. The space includes a Brush Bar, where brushes are organized by paint medium.

Aaron Brothers worked closely with Chute Gerdeman, Columbus, Ohio, in developing its new store experience. The chain applied a new quantitative research tool developed by Chute Gerdeman, called CG Fusion, that combines customer and financial data, resulting in a clearer picture of how a retailer can most effectively respond to changing customer needs.

Aaron Brothers applied the tool to identify what categories offered the best growth potential from existing customers — and who the most vulnerable competitors were in those categories. The resulting data led the chain to expand two strong categories, including art supplies, which were also given a more prominent position in the store. Gifts, which had previously been made up of mostly impulse items at the cashwrap, were also given a dedicated area with upgraded fixtures for jewelry and accessories. The data also led Aaron to maintain core categories and edit assortments in categories that offered less opportunity.

According to Chute Gerdeman, looking only at sales data would have pointed the chain in the wrong direction. Instead, CG Fusion helped Aaron Brothers determine where its core customers wanted the retailer to go. And it supported the recommendations with monetized options.

To date, Aaron Brothers has rolled out the new design in West Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Irvine, and Hermosa Beach (all in California), with more on the way.

"The new stores have far exceeded our financial expectations," said Jim King, CEO, Aaron Brothers, which is owned by Michaels Stores.

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