Whether it’s a high-end specialty store or a big-box discounter, flooring can go a long way toward setting the right mood — and making shoppers feel comfortable. “It’s naturally innate in us to look down at the ground,” said Nathan Lee Colkitt, CEO, Colkitt&Co., an architectural firm with offices in San Diego and New York City. “If we get the lay of the land, we feel safer and more comfortable.”
Ninety percent of a person’s visual field is below the eye sight line, Colkitt added, which helps make retail flooring “hugely important.” It is, he said, the single most important finished material in a space.
“We are all always in contact with the floor,” he added. “And we take it for granted.” Slowly, said Colkitt, retailers have been making more use of floors as image creators and information providers. A shift in flooring design or use of material can take a shopper from one area to another, with no signage or fixtures needed.
“You can demarcate a space using the floor,” he said.
One of the biggest areas of change in flooring is the emergence of printing techniques that enable the transfer of almost any image onto ceramic tiles and other materials. Also now available are “through color” tiles, meaning if the tile chips, the retailer won’t be left with an exposed white spot.
For Puma’s store in the SoHo section of Manhattan, Colkitt and two project partners carried through the urban theme of the space and imprinted a manhole cover on the ceramic tile floor in the fitting rooms. The flooring in the fitting room for a new Puma store in Miami will resemble a pool. “It will feel like you are walking on top of water,” Colkitt said.
Meanwhile, new vinyl tiles in wood veneer are becoming popular in supermarket deli and produce departments for their easy care, with vinyl tiles that look like slate being embraced as a cost-effective alternative to the real thing.
“Retail clients are now able to use different materials, such as porcelain tiles or less expensive vinyl, but with the same design,” said Gaston Olvera, project director for MBH Architects, Alameda, Calif. This is helpful for retailers with tiered stores — they can have