Building collaborative relationships between design visionaries and construction teams was the fundamental theme underscoring the tips for success shared in the SPECS Planning & Design workshop session “Going from Prototype to Reality, Without Losing the Sizzle.”
The logical first step, suggested Brady Harding, VP project architecture, Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio, is to test design through a concept store, ideally staged in close proximity to the retail headquarters, then follow with a tiered rollout of flagship stores in major MSAs, mainstream models in key secondary markets and modest design refreshers in tertiary markets.
Throughout the process, the critical challenges are staying on task, on budget, on time. To do this without “stifling creativity,” observed Matt Kobylski, director of real estate and construction at the fast-casual dining chain Pollo Campero, requires hands-on management and attention to details.
“Stay away from volatile [building] materials with cost fluctuations or [questionable] availability,” Kobylski cautioned.
Few retailers have mastered prototype execution as well as Disney Store, where design is all about the brand. Jonathan D. Endicott, VP global store design and construction at Disney Store USA, rounded out the SPECS presentation by outlining practices that have contributed to his company’s success, including:
• Define what goes on the priority list and what goes off. For Disney, brand is priority No. 1, followed by schedule and cost.
• Build a fully operating “mock” store and learn from its problems.
• Develop a comprehensive tool kit of everything required to meet the overall schedule.
• Commit to the “big” idea and evangelize the concept so everyone knows what is important and why.
• Plan for chaos, manage to order, and fail on paper first, not in construction.
• Follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of stores will roll out virtually on autopilot; focus on the 20% that have site anomalies.
Pop-up stores: The unique challenges of designing and building pop-up stores were addressed in the SPECS Planning & Design session, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.”
Chain Store Age contributing editor Connie Gentry opened the discussion by explaining that the definition of pop-up retailing embraces stores that are open for hours, days, weeks or months — basically any time frame less than one year. The newest craze, referred to as “Flash Retail,” involves stores that are open for one to 24 hours and are usually promotion-driven concepts. Pop-up stores that last days to weeks in duration are typically intended to engage consumers, create brand buzz, test markets or introduce new products.
The most recognizable format in the pop-up genre, seasonal stores, are more closely aligned with traditional retail, where the primary objective is simply to sell merchandise. Halloween stores are classic seasonal concepts and Bob Schank, president of Masquerade, Inc., presented lessons learned over the 29 years that his company has been opening Halloween Adventure stores throughout Northeast and Mid-Atlantic markets.
“Controlling expenses is critical in the pop-up business because there is no time or margin for error; you have to maximize sales every day,” Schank advised. To help keep the rollout as efficient as possible, the flow and adjacencies are basically the same across all Halloween Adventure stores, even though the formats and store footprints may vary dramatically, from inline shopping center spaces, to street-front retailing and, in some unique cases, even large big-box formats.
Among Schank’s recommendations are to hang signs in the windows as soon as possible after the sites are selected to begin to create awareness even before the store opens. And to minimize costly liabilities, he advised conducting a formal walk-through of the space prior to taking possession. The walk-though should include recording any pre-existing facility issues in photos and on a sign-off sheet so the landlord cannot hold the pop-up tenant accountable for prior damage.
Similarly, obtain official meter readings for utilities on the day of occupancy and the day of termination to ensure accurate billings, Schank recommended.