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Ultra Diamonds Sparkles

BY Marianne Wilson

Ultra Diamonds has unveiled a contemporary prototype that provides the ideal home for its sparkling merchandise. The design showcases the breadth and diversity of the jewelry retailer’s assortment, while putting a stylish new spin on the space.


“It also makes the environment more inviting and accessible,” said Gordon Eason, creative director, JGA, Southfield, Mich. 


The design made its premier in Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, Central Valley, N.Y., in a remodel of an existing Ultra Diamonds store. It has since been rolled out in three additional locations. 


“It is our new prototype, and our plans are to continue to roll it out,” said Kris Land, chief marketing office, Ultra Diamonds, Chicago, which operates 155 stores nationwide. “It has exceeded our expectations, and we are very pleased.” 


Sleek, streamlined fixturing and unexpected decor accents give the 1,917-sq.-ft. store an updated feel and modern edge. Key to the new format: a series of large, 360-degree walk-around cases. The cases allow for a high degree of visibility and the opportunity to showcase collections or categories, while breaking down the standard selling model. 


“The cases also provide a ‘side-by-side’ selling opportunity, meaning that when a customer is shopping, the associate is standing next to her, as opposed to across a counter,” Eason said. 


The walk-around cases, which are illuminated with LEDs, help minimize the sense of enclosure and give a feeling of openness to the overall store.


In the central space, a long showcase acts as a checkout and service area, and provides associates with a 360-degree of customers. 


“With this layout, the associates are never far from the customers,” Eason said. 


The showcase also offers a more traditional jewelry-buying situation. It has a contemporary design with alcoves and peninsulas that allow for focused category presentations. 


“The showcase is asymmetrical. It goes in and out,” Eason explained. 


A utility rail, located a couple of feet down the ceiling, runs around the perimeter of the store. Oversized graphics and illuminated vertical display cases hang from the stainless steel bar. 


“With the bar, things can be moved and shifted very easily,” Eason added.


Lighting: Overscaled, hanging light fixtures are used to highlight the walk-around cases. Suspended glistening rods over the center showcase add sparkle to the texture of the environment. 


“LEDs are the primary lighting solution and used in all the showcases,” Eason said. “It is excellent lighting for diamond illumination.”


Secondary lighting is also very important in jewelry stores. For simplicity and ease of installation, the design team used track lighting with ceramic metal halide lamps. The tracks are positioned above the showcases. The general illumination was kept to a minimum to enhance the drama.


“The overall effect is really good,” Eason said. “The brightness is exactly where we wanted it to be.” 


The store has a warm neutral palette that is made up of light and dark shades. Carpeting adds to the inviting feel. It is also used as a decor element, with contrasting squares in a lighter color positioned under the decorative legs on some of the fixtures. 


The fixtures are fabricated with plastic laminate in wood-like grains, in both a silver-wood hue and ebony-wood hue. 


The new prototype respects Woodbury Common’s tight criteria with regard to exteriors. The store has a series of bump-out display windows that the designers accented with a frieze band that identifies the different brands and merchandise housed within. Improved lighting adds drama. 


“We were able to execute more of a visual presentation in the windows, creating backdrops that support the story inside,” Eason said.

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Taking Lighting On the Road

BY CSA STAFF

GE Lighting devised an innovative way to educate retailers about lighting trends and products, and has been on the road since February with its GE Lighting Revolution Tour. Chain Store Age talked with GE’s Cate Gutowski about the tour, its objectives and what lies ahead for retail lighting.

This month marks the conclusion of the GE Lighting Revolution Tour. Can you briefly describe the tour and its objectives?

Lighting has changed more in the past five years than in the past 50 years, and the GE Lighting Revolution Tour has been a great way to demonstrate innovative lighting solutions. Each year we typically have around 9,000 customers travel to the GE Lighting Institute at Nela Park (Ohio) for lighting education. However, the benefit of the GE Revolution Tour is that we can reach more customers faster. 


The Revolution Tour has been on the road since February, and has enabled customers in more than 40 cities in North America the opportunity to interact with the hands-on displays of our new LED products and other products of ecomagination. The goal of the Revolution tour is to provide education on energy-efficient lighting technologies, as well as the upcoming legislation. 



What did you glean from the tour with regard to the current state, and future, of lighting?

From the cities I visited, I’ve seen that customers are struggling to find new ways to reduce their energy usage, and they are looking for help. Many customers have done projects that they consider to be low-hanging fruit, for example T12 to T8 linear fluorescent conversions, and now they’re looking for their next big opportunity for energy savings, so naturally they are looking at LED. 


One of the common challenges that we heard while on the tour is that retailers want to invest in LED and other energy-efficient technologies, but they are struggling with how they can get their CFO to commit to fund it. We’ve been listening to these problems, and we’re working with GE Capital on solutions to help. For example, we are hosting our 3rd Annual LED for Retail Conference at Nela Park Nov. 2 to 3, and this will be one of several key topics that we’ll be addressing for customers.



What trends should we all be watching for?

We are now at the front edge of a new solid-state lighting age. For years, GE technologists at our Global Research Center have envisioned all-LED rooms and spaces, and now that vision has become a new reality. Earlier this year, we introduced our new line of LED Edge Lighting fixtures. These new, design-forward fixtures feature an ultra-thin light guide with built-in LED technology that will offer full dimming capability and unique architectural styling. We’ve had tremendous response from customers on this new product line. 


In fact, there has been a lot of excitement around the 2×2 ceiling troughers, as well as the suspended fixtures that appear to float in thin air through a dramatically framed light source. This new technology allows lighting designers to eliminate hot spots, which has been a common issue among today’s fluorescent options.


Will LEDs continue to be at the forefront of our lighting discussions in the years ahead?

LED has evolved tremendously. In the past, LED only made economic sense for applications such as signage, refrigerated display cases and traffic signals. Over the past three years that I’ve led our national accounts sales team, I’ve witnessed firsthand how a variety of retailers and restaurant customers globally are adopting this technology for a multitude of applications, such as accent lighting, cove lighting, display cases, parking lots and now for general lighting. 


We’ve executed on a variety of large-scale LED project installations and, years later, those LEDs are still burning with low failure rates. The technology is amazing, and it will only continue to improve and provide more opportunities to enhance design.

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Preserving an Urban Treasure

BY Katherine Boccaccio

An active post office no more, The Old Post Office Pavilion has secured its survival over the decades via a myriad of commercial uses. 


Originally built in 1899 and situated between the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C., the Old Post Office was abandoned by the Postmaster General in 1934 and was eyed for demolition by more than one U.S. president. However, thanks to the efforts of philanthropists and local history activists, the 10-story building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and, beginning in 1976, an extensive makeover added retail, restaurant and office uses.


The key feature of the property is a 315-ft.-high clock tower that makes the structure the third tallest in Washington, D.C. For decades, its views of the city have rivaled those of the Washington Monument and, today, its 270-ft. observation deck is still the main attraction. 


“D.C. is home to some of the most unique views in the country — many of which can be discovered at the Old Post Office Pavilion or at the top of our Clock Tower with its 360-degree vista,” said Rodney Dyer, general manager, Old Post Office Pavilion.


An expansive interior atrium — home to federal offices and 100,000 sq. ft. of specialty retail, entertainment space and a food court — serves as a daytime pull, as do daily clock tower tours by the National Park Service Rangers. Tour guides point not only to the expansive views, but to historical exhibits housed in the tower and to the official United States Bells of Congress, which ring every Thursday evening and on special occasions.


Discussions of a full-scale redevelopment of the building raise questions about future uses. There have been overtures from several hotel operators, such as Donald Trump’s Trump Hotel Collection, which has proposed transforming the historic building into a 300-room luxury hotel, meeting center and museum. Until redevelopment plans are finalized, an eclectic lineup of restaurant and small-shop operators continues to drive traffic, among them Bagel Express, Ben & Jerry’s, Georgetown Deli, Bike and Roll bike tours and rentals, City Electronics, Finishing Touch accessories and Toy Land. 


Management and leasing of the building is handled by Hill Partners Inc., based in Charlotte, N.C.


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