Green Lifestyle at Eco Shoppe


The store has a boutique-like feel, with fixtures laid out to create merchandise stories.

The environmentally minded city of Austin, Texas, has gone a little bit greener with the opening of Eco Shoppe. The new retail concept, owned and operated by Vitamin Shoppe, features an eclectic mix of merchandise, information and resources to help customers live more sustainable lives.

“With the opening of Eco Shoppe, there is now one destination delivering products, services and education for living an eco-friendly, healthy lifestyle all in one place,” said Steve Rolfes, director of business development, Vitamin Shoppe, North Bergen, N.J. (See related story.)

Designed by Kiku Obata & Co., St. Louis, the 4,400-sq.-ft. store is attractive and contemporary-looking, with natural woods, a soothing color palette and a boutique feel.

“The idea is to show how green living can benefit you personally and make it something you want to do,” said Kiku Obata, whose firm’s responsibilities on the project included brand strategy and identity, signage and graphics, lighting, and merchandise segmentation and strategy.

The selling space is divided into four areas—Purify & Renew; Create & Thrive; Care & Comfort; and Enrich & Delight—and each is called out with versatile fixtures, fresh colors, and inspiring imagery and graphics. A community space, Learn & Discover, is in the rear.

“We developed the categories of merchandise based around the need and benefit,” Obata explained. “It is organized in terms of lifestyle versus category of product.”

The products at Eco Shoppe were selected with an eye to their green credentials, modern style and sense of design, along with their benefit to everyday living.

The Purify & Renew area is home to such products as water filters, green cleaning products and spa items, while Create & Thrive includes kitchen items and a garden section with compost bins, seed kits and the like. Care & Comfort includes organic bedding, baby and pet care products; Enrich & Delight features tabletop decor, pillows, jewelry and gift items.

“We created merchandise stories for each category so that it makes sense for the items to be grouped together,” Obata said.

And each area has related ideas and information on how shoppers can fit into the eco-friendly lifestyle.

In line with its green orientation, Eco Shoppe was designed to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) standards and is aiming for Silver certification. It uses sustainable and recycled materials, including reclaimed-wood flooring. Many of its signs use a specially made “seeded paper,” which goes through a manufacturing process where wildflower seeds are embedded into the paper (made of 100% post-consumer recycled content). The soy-based ink printing is done in-store with an eco-friendly printer that doesn’t hurt the seeds.

Once the store is finished using a sign, it is cut up and given to customers, who can then plant the paper and watch it grow into a flower.

Lighting: Lighting was a critical consideration because it accounts for a major chunk of a store’s energy use.

“We wanted the store to appear bright and cheerful,” said Kevin Flynn, executive VP, Kiku Obata & Co. “We looked at a lighting design that would not only highlight the product and create an atmosphere compatible with the store’s overall design concept, but also use energy-efficient sources. Also, for long-term maintenance we wanted to minimize the number of lamp types.”

The design employs two basic lamps: a T5 fluorescent lamp (4100K/85CRI) and a Par 30 39W metal halide fixture. The perimeter walls are highlighted by continuous linear fluorescent wall wash fixtures that give even wash of light across the product while creating the illusion of the space being larger than it is.

Recessed fluorescent strips provide ambient lighting. The metal halide recessed accent lights were used to create sparkle and highlight special retail displays. In the cove area in the rear of the store, a combination of fluorescent and metal halide fixtures works to give an expanded sense of height to the store and to draw shoppers back.

The overall design was achieved using 1.59W/SF (watts per square foot), 37% below ASHRAE 90.1-2004 guidelines and 15% below the IEC 2006 code, which is enforced in Austin. The design also incorporates daylight sensors at the front of the store that control the lighting in the first 15 ft. of the space.

Eco Shoppe made its Austin debut in August, followed by a second location in Walnut Creek, Calif.

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