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STORE SPACES

First Look: Casper at Nordstrom

BY Marianne Wilson

Nordstrom is partnering with the online start-up that disrupted the mattress industry with its bed-in-a-box product.

The department store retailer has teamed up with Casper to open in-store Casper pop-ups in select Nordstrom stores. Called [email protected], the shops will feature the Casper mattress (available in two styles), along with the brand’s pillow and sheets, including the launch of its newest offering, a sheet made of Belgian flax linen.

In addition, the pop-ups will feature a curated assortment of home and wellness essentials for morning, evening and sleep.

“Sleep and wellness is such an important part of our lives and we wanted to create a unique destination devoted to helping our customer find everything they need to achieve the best rest and relaxation possible,” said Olivia Kim, Nordstrom VP of creative projects. “[email protected] is all about introducing our customers to the best of what’s out there, and we are excited to partner with a like-minded brand like Casper that leads with innovation and a strong customer experience.”

The Casper pop-ups at Nordstrom will be open through August 26.

Casper’s partnership with Nordstrom comes on the heels of its brick-and-mortar expansion in Canada. On the home front, Casper opened some 15 long-term pop-ups across the United States last year. In February, the brand opened its first-ever permanent location, in downtown Manhattan.

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STORE SPACES

The Death of Rollout: Reframing retail expansion

BY Robert Ausdenmoore

As the planned store closures by Starbucks and Chipotle makes clear, the pendulum certainly seems to have swung away from the growth of store counts simply for growth’s sake. With traditional retail rollout models in their waning days, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

One Size Fits No One
One of the most debated causes of the recent retail closure epidemic is that of earlier over-expansion in the decades that preceded it. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the number of shopping malls grew by over 300% from 1970 to 2016. As mall counts grew, so too did store counts for their specialty retail and department store tenants.

Many retailers (and their design or architecture partners) were challenged with quickly creating and replicating a physical brand experience that would literally allow them access to new markets. Especially considering the availability of first-generation real estate during this time, speed to opening became the most important metric for success. Efficiency was often achieved through a modular, prototypical kit-of-parts that could be replicated in a copy-and-paste manner as new locations were planned.

As some organizations are now reining in their store exposure, that definition of success has been forced to adapt as well. With e-commerce’s explosion, stores aren’t just points of transaction, but a potential touchpoint in a larger customer journey.

The consolidation of a retailer’s presence means individual stores have to do more heavy lifting than ever to deliver the desired brand experience. Where speed was once the primary goal for any rollout effort, the notion of nuanced, site-specific design sensitivity is becoming just as prevalent.

For many, quality of experience has overtaken quantity of experience. As individual stores are now assessed more critically from their brand contributions (beyond just transactions), this can stretch the limits of even robustly tiered store prototype programs.

Seizing Localization Opportunities Early
One of the major tactics some retailers are using to create the site-specific design sensitivity mentioned above is the localization of their store experience to the community it serves. Even if fixtures and overall aesthetic often need to remain mostly consistent, there are strong opportunities for adding some local “special sauce” to an individual store location.

Mod Pizza. Photo by Team Schostak Family Restaurants

Emerging brands are perhaps especially at an advantage when it comes to localizing their store experiences. Brands in a growth mode can be more deliberate about the markets they want to target without the same sunk cost implications that large fleet retailers have to rationalize. They can also better earmark the elements of the store experience that they would like to align locally, versus those that need to remain uniformly the same.

Graphic systems remain an ever-flexible route for adding nuance to individual store locations. These can even be sourced at a local level or in direct collaboration with local artists. During Mod Pizza’s considerable expansion in the last half-decade, the company has retained a signature “Wall of Fame” element in most locations which displays photos and messages submitted by members of the community. Other interior design features and location-specific photography are (in most cases) drawn from local partnerships.

Holler & Dash. Photo by Mark Steele

Beyond graphics, material selection and unique, site-specific architectural elements offer other options for localization. Holler & Dash, for instance, is an emerging chef-driven, fast casual biscuit concept from Cracker Barrel. The company is plotting its course for broader growth, and has opened several locations in the last year. One of these locations is in West Midtown, Atlanta, near the former Westside Ironworks foundry.

The interior of the space utilized a number of brand-consistent features like exposed brick walls, legacy window frames, and poured concrete flooring. To better localize the unique location, though, an I-beam and railroad tie inspired front porch were created to celebrate the industrial origins of the community.

Balancing Exposure with Experience
For mature retailers with a large base of existing stores, localizing every single location would likely be a cumbersome endeavor with harder-to-quantify ROI. The selective deployment of elevated “flagship light” experiences, however, can be used to signal a particularly strong commitment to higher-priority markets.

T-Mobile, Miami. Photo by
Razorfish

T-Mobile, for example, has greatly increased their overall store footprint in recent years – oftentimes through expansion of independent, licensed store outlets. In parallel with some of this more traditional growth, though, they have also opened a half-dozen “signature stores” in high-profile destinations that include New York City, Chicago, Santa Monica, Miami, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

All of these stores offer an immersive T-Mobile brand experience, but each one has been uniquely designed to celebrate the respective cities that they serve. While the Times Square location takes advantage of large, exterior digital elements, for example, the smaller store in Miami Beach features an Art Deco façade to fit into local surroundings. Likewise, the Las Vegas store features a photo booth and concierge desk that feel right at home with amenities in resorts on the Strip.

As a result, T-Mobile has not only achieved steady growth of its baseline store fleet and subscriber count, but created a few major splashes that have driven press, industry accolades and a more apparent commitment to their “un-carrier” brand proposition.

Robert Ausdenmoore is an associate director in FRCH Design Worldwide’s specialty architecture studio. His primary areas of focus include the development of national due diligence, site survey and prototype implementation programs.

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Petco launches service-first store concept

BY Marianne Wilson

Petco is bringing an online platform it acquired into the physical space.

The retailer unveiled a new pet-care store concept, called PetCoach, in San Marcos, Calif., that offers personalized pet services, products and experiences — all designed through a veterinary lens — to address total pet health and wellness.

The new model brings Petco’s previously online-only, veterinary-led PetCoach platform to life in a brick-and-mortar setting — enhanced by digital and mobile tools — that gives customers 24/7 access to support for their pets. (Petco acquired PetCoach in April 2017.) It also is testing a membership offer, that for $9 a month, gives customers access to several free veterinary visits per year, along with discounted rates on other items.

With only a limited, extremely curated product selection, the store is focused on service. The on-site service offerings include grooming, training, veterinary care, nutrition consultations, day care, self-wash, mobile vet house calls and even dog walking. The space is designed to highlight the available service offerings, with clear visibility into each service area and gathering spaces for personal interactions and educational events.

According to Petco, every service and product in the store has been directly reviewed and approved by a veterinarian.

“Pet parents tell us they want expert advice they can trust and easy, seamless access to everything they need to take the best possible care of the pets they love,” said Petco CEO Ron Coughlin, who took the helm of the chain on June 18. “With PetCoach, we’re reinventing the idea of a traditional ‘pet store’ by providing complete care experiences — from grooming, training and day care to full-service veterinary care — that simply can’t be delivered by mail or by a mass retailer.”

Online, customers create custom pet profiles, book in-store service appointments (with tailored reminders). They can also access immediate professional pet health advice from licensed veterinarians, order from a vet-vetted selection of pet food and supplies, and search a library of content relevant to their pet, including their health and vaccination records, service history and more.

Petco has been expanding its offerings as it works to remain competitive today’s digitally-driven, competitive landscape. In the past year alone, it has acquired subscription-based pet product service PupBox, a leading pet insurance company and high-end pet food company JustFoodforDogs.

“The new PetCoach location serves as an innovation lab where we can test and learn more about what pet parents want and need to live their best lives with their pets,” said Petco executive VP, strategic innovation & digital experience Brock Weatherup. “The concept allows us to continue creating new, differentiated and personalized pet care experiences, all backed by our extensive veterinary expertise and support.”

Petco operates more than 1,500 Petco and Unleashed by Petco locations across the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico.

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