It’s not your father’s Shopko. Following a six-year retrenchment during which it shrunk in size, was acquired (by Sun Capital Partners) and went private, the discount retailer has burst onto the scene with a new-generation prototype designed to appeal to its core customers: female shoppers—driven by value, convenience and family. The updated format, which debuted in Suamico, Wis., also is easier to shop.
“It’s much easier to see where merchandise is, which translates into a more convenient and easier shopping experience for our customer,” said Michael MacDonald, chairman and CEO, Shopko, Green Bay, Wis. (see related story, page 22). “And the more we can save time for our customers, the more we improve the value equation for them.”
The new design is warm, welcoming and stylish. Residentially styled aspirational elements are balanced with practical components that maintain traditional discount-store efficiencies.
“Shopko wanted to create a new format that would really appeal to their target ‘mom’ shopper,” said Brian Shafley, creative director, environments, Chute Gerdeman Retail, Columbus, Ohio. “They wanted to create a shopping experience for her that would be reassuring, convenient and fun. Everything in the store was done through her perspective.”
The design team’s efforts included a complete re-think of the store experience, from the brand identity and exterior architecture to the interior design, floor plan, fixtures, graphics and adjacencies. Even the shopping carts have been upgraded to be smaller, lighter and easier to maneuver.
“We opened up the box,” said Bess Anderson, director, visual strategy, Chute Gerdeman Retail. “We created a floor plan and adjacency plan that is based on the way customers buy.”
The first step in the rebranding effort involved the redesign of the retailer’s logo to better reflect the retailer’s female-focused positioning. The previous logo had a sharp-edged, masculine look, and was done in a heavy font with bold primary colors of blue and red.
The new logo, in all uppercase letters, is more stylish and sophisticated, and easier to read. It has a more feminine and fashion-forward look, and is done in a neutral bronze hue.
Inside, the central entryway was designed to make the space feel more like a department store. The feel is enhanced by department-store presentation techniques, including more open and inviting displays.
To create a more textured and visually appealing look while also ensuring merchandise density, high-capacity fixtures housing hard goods were placed around the store perimeter. The apparel businesses, located in the center of the space, feature lower-level fixtures that are within customers’ sight lines.
“Previously, everything was at the same level,” Anderson said. “It was a sea of features. We created a family of fixtures that give different heights and are positioned in such a way to encourage browsing and discovery.”
In a major change, the fitting rooms, previously on the perimeter, are located in four different zones, with two banks in the women’s area, one in girls, and two in men’s and boys.
“By locating the fitting rooms into banks we created back walls in the apparel areas,” Shafley explained, “which gave us room to merchandise product.”
Dramatic focal points are positioned at the entry of each of the major departments. The focals help break up the big-box feel and make the store easier to shop.
In keeping with Shopko’s professional health-care services reputation, the prototype features a pharmacy, full-service optical center and walk-in health clinic. The health-care area is located up front for customer convenience.
“The overall area has a very comfortable and friendly look to it,” Shafley said. “The pharmacy includes a private area for one-on-one consultation with pharmacists and a lounge seating area.”
Color plays a key role in helping to segment the departments. In addition, large-scale graphic patterns were designed specifically for each category area. The graphics add an artful accent to the overall environment and serve as a highly stylized category backdrop.
“Each department makes a fairly bold color statement,” Shafley said.
To up the store’s appeal with its target customer, residential cues—armoire fixtures, overhead lamp shades, coffered ceiling elements, crown molding and white woodwork—are used to highlight merchandise and provide a familiar, but aspirational tone to the space. An oversized picture rail runs around the perimeter of the store.
“Lifestyle-driven photos are displayed in oversized picture frames that sit on the picture rail and lean against the wall,” Shafley said.
Shopko will open three full-line stores this year, all based on the new model. Key elements of the design are being retrofitted in existing locations. As to the store’s initial performance, Shopko’s chief executive is pleased.
“The first-week numbers are great, but they’ll become more meaningful as we sustain them over a period of time,” MacDonald said. “Operationally, things came off without a hitch, and we’ve gotten lots of customer feedback and e-mails that tell us people love it.”