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Dots Rolls Out New Look, More Stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Dots is on a roll. The Solon, Ohio-based value-oriented fashion chain, which has grown to more than 400 locations in 25 states, plans to open 150 stores during the next three years. The new locations will feature Dots’ updated format, which debuted in June, at Steelyard Commons, Cleveland. The 5,300-sq.-ft. store is brighter and more upscale-looking, and offers a more invigorating and fun shopping experience.

“The new design brings the brand to life, and allows the store experience to reflect the product,” said Christian Davies, VP, managing creative director, FRCH Design Worldwide, Cincinnati. “This is really a natural evolution for Dots.”

Dots’ new look was three years in the making, and started when the privately held company made a big push to better understand its customers. The company hired Insight Research Group, which conducted focus groups, surveys and even accompanied customers on shopping trips to Dots and its competitors.

Through the resulting feedback, the retailer gained a portrait of its typical customer. That picture helped shape the new store design.

“Dots aligned its brand positioning with its core target customer, and that served as the launching pad for the design,” Davies said.

The design team came up with some key brand values that would inform the design: sexy, fresh, inspiring and, most important, girlfriend.

“The girlfriend factor is really alive and well in the Dots environment,” Davies said. “Customers have a great relationship with the store managers and the other associates, and there is an amazing atmosphere in the store.”

Although Dots targets a broad age range (from 18 to the late 40s), its customers share an affinity for affordable fashion. Most items at Dots are priced under $20.

“These are confident women who like to rotate their wardrobe and get noticed,” said Monica Gerhardt, VP, account manager and strategy, FRCH. “They are passionate about style but clearly on a budget.”

The new design indulges the customer’s passion for fashion without her having to feel guilty about it. It is stylish and contemporary, with robust color accents, but totally in keeping with Dots’ value positioning.

“It also allows her to express the social aspects of the shopping experience,” Gerhardt added.

The store is easier to shop, with a layout that creates a clearly defined path from the front of the space to the rear. Defined by overhead spotlights, this center aisle acts as a fashion runway for customers.

“The runway creates clear sightlines and allows for lots of face-outs of product,” Gerhardt said. “Customers can see a good number of head-to-toe outfits as they walk down the aisle. It’s a perfect showcase for products. It’s also easy to change out and rotate the product so that the merchandise is always fresh.”

The runway aisle is marked with an off-center bright-pink line.

“We discovered that this particular degree of color has a timeless resonance for this consumer,” Davies said. “It’s bold, feminine and sexy, and it also communicates the idea of fun and celebration, which spoke to Dots’ fashion party and social atmosphere.”

To that same end, a zone was created in the center of the space to maximize customer and salesperson interaction. The dressing rooms are on one side of the aisle and the cashwrap on the other.

“The center zone is all about the fashion party and interaction,” Davies said.

The familiar bright-pink hue is found in two ceiling arches installed on either side of the center crosswalk.

“The arches are simple and powerful, which is the same strategy we used with all the design elements,” Davies said.

The fitting-room area has been given a makeover to allow customers a bit of privacy. It is set off slightly from the rest of the store by an accessory wall, which is located in front of the stalls.

“It’s very easy now for a salesperson to help a customer complete her outfit,” Davies said. “We also put a huge oversized mirror on the wall.”

The format also features a new lighting design that adds more drama to the space. Spotlighting is used to help balance out the fluorescent lighting.

The fixture package is big on interchangeability.

“There is a commonality in terms of parts of components,” Davies said. “All the hardware attachments work on the wall and floor fixtures. We went from 20 to 30 pieces a kit to just five.”

In another change, the overall fixture strategy shifted from an emphasis on rounders for showing product and side-out presentations to more face-outs and table displays. The designers also streamlined the cashwrap, making it more engaging.

Shopper reaction to the new design, which has rolled out in some 15 locations so far, has been very positive, according to FRCH. As the concept is fine-tuned, parts of it will likely be incorporated into existing stores.

Project Resources

Design: FRCH Design Worldwide, CincinnatiFlooring: Centiva, Florence, Ala.Lighting: Villa Lighting, St. LouisMillwork: Leiden Cabinet Co., Twinsburg, OhioFixtures: ADCO, QuebecVisual merchandising tools: Matrix Fixtures, Hastings on Hudson, N.Y.

“We’re working on a kit of parts approach for retrofitting,” Davies said.

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CompUSA may get a new look

BY CSA STAFF

ADDISON, Tx. After opening a new format store last month, CompUSA may be changing the format of its other stores, depending on customer demand and product interest.

According to reports, the elements found in the prototype store, located in Texas, will be incorporated into other CompUSA locations across the United States.

The nearly 7,700 square-ft. relocation site includes an Apple shop featuring Mac computers, iPods and Apple accessories, and a full-length LCD TV wall.

Additional expansions include extended gaming, which includes an entire wall devoted to the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms, plus a PC gaming setup to test equipment and play new titles.

While businesses can get their share of support with a specialized services section, all consumers can visit the store’s redesigned IT support area.

“This new store aligns CompUSA’s vision to better serve its three core customers, the technology enthusiast, educated professional and small and medium businesses,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the retailer’s sales and operations evp.

CompUSA announced in April that it would narrow its focus to three core customer groups rather than try to serve a mass audience.

The move was part of a comprehensive restructuring, initiated last February, that included an overhaul of senior management and the closure of half its store base as the privately held chain looked to improve sales and profitability.

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Walgreens withdraws from CVS provider plans

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. After many months of talks over low and below-market payment rates by CVS Caremark for four prescription plans, Walgreens has withdrawn as a pharmacy provider from the plans.

Patients affected include members of prescription benefit plans managed by CVS Caremark for ArcelorMittal, Johnson Controls, Progressive Casualty Insurance and Wisconsin Education Association Trust.

Most of the affected members live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services, the managed care division of Walgreens, released the following statement:

“This is not where we wanted negotiations to lead,” he said. “We’re sorry that our pharmacy patients and CVS Caremark’s clients are caught in the middle, and we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition for our patients to another pharmacy. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work on resolving this issue with CVS Caremark.

“Leaving a benefits plan is an extraordinary step for us, but it demonstrates how extraordinarily low our payments were from CVS Caremark. We can’t continue accepting reimbursement rates that are drastically below market, while offering patients needed special services such as 24-hour pharmacy access and drive-thru pharmacies.”

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