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Honey, That Store Looks Just Like Ours!

Furniture World Magazine


Ways to Develop Your Store's Character & Identity.

Most successful retailers are successful, at least in part because they fine tune the character and identity of their stores. In doing so, they send the proper message, attract and maintain increased market share, and most importantly experience significantly increased revenues.

As we move into the twenty-first century we see numerous changes in the way retailers around the world are doing business. Not only has the way we display and merchandise products changed, but so have our selling methods. Retailers are narrowing their product line-up and are focusing their marketing energies. "Micro-marketing," or targeting a precisely selected market base can yield tremendous benefits by helping to build and maintain increased market share.

A store's character and identity play an important role in attracting its targeted market. Customers easily tune into the messages that retailers send them in the form of media advertising, exterior store concept and colors, as well as important interior design elements. Store planning and departmental layout also tell potential customers a great deal about a particular retailer.

ACHIEVING CHARACTER & IDENTITY: There are many marketing strategies that will help home furnishing retailers in their quest for a well-defined identity. Below are several important, but simple steps you can take to develop your store's character and identity.

STORE, FAMILY AND REGIONAL HISTORY: You may be working in a store that has been in the family for many generations. Your store may even have a long history of community involvement. It is always a good idea to research store and family history. Vintage photographs and advertisements can yield a wealth of information. Perhaps, you will come across some early design elements or original graphics that can be stylized for your current market. Not only will it enhance your community standing, but it will increase your recognition factor too. As store planners and interior designers, we always start with store\family history when developing an identity package for a client.

Our country is a kaleidoscope of diversity and ethnic cultures. You can use your area's regional culture and history in much the same way as store\family history. A short research trip to the library is certain to produce many examples of regional culture on which to base your new character and identity. You may consider using some architectural details that are particular to your region of the country on your store's exterior. Or...you can even borrow the culture of another region. We all recall recently how 'Southwestern' culture swept the country, influencing everything from food to furniture styles. It was a true example of capitalizing on the culture of another region.

MERCHANDISE LINE-UP: When developing an improved character and identity for your store, it is important to remember that all selected design elements and characteristics be consistent with the product you merchandise. Style of merchandise and regional influences, whether from your region or another, play a large role in the integration of design elements that support your individuality.

For example, a flashy contemporary store design may be appropriate for a consumer electronics and computer store, but may be inappropriate for a home furnishing store that sells antique reproductions, or even traditional furniture. When taking steps to improve your store's character and identity be sure to choose elements that are suitable to the merchandise you are selling.

DESIGN CONCEPT: All character and identity packages begin with a good design concept. This is where you can use your artistic flair and imagination to have some fun. Remember that your concept must be consistent with, and appropriate for your merchandise.

You should always remember to include operational considerations in any design plan. A design concept that interferes with the efficient daily functions of your store is worth absolutely nothing to you.

Once you have selected an appropriate design concept, you can begin to choose and implement design elements that enhance and complement the concept. Use them with restraint, but regularity throughout the store. In the interior design and store planning industry that regularity is known as the 'rhythm of the elements.' It is this very rhythm that guides customers through your store, moving them from side to side. In the process, they are introduced to your various categories and merchandise.

Always, provide well-lighted signing that is consistent with your concept. Keep it simple and easy to read. You may choose to add a few select accent colors to your signing for excitement and drama.

COLOR: There is nothing that will pull your character and identity together better than the discreet use of color. Color is a very potent marketing tool that when used properly, will make the sale of your products easier. It is best to limit yourself to a few 'neutrals,' like warm beige or gray. Then you can compliment them with several well chosen accent colors.

Remember to harmonize your store's colors with its micro-market or region, and you will be on the road to cultivating enhanced individuality, character and identity. Moreover... I guarantee, you will not hear yourself say, "Honey, that store looks just like ours!"

CHARACTER & IDENTITY: The definition of character is "a stamp of individuality impressed by nature, education, habit or intention." This tells us that character need not be bestowed upon us. It can actually be intentionally developed. Retailers can cultivate appropriate characteristics to tell a select market group that they are a store with a strong and direct focus. Furthermore, character works together with identity to tell potential customers that you have the right merchandise, the right look and perhaps, even the right 'life style.'

Identity is "the persistence of all that makes up the reality of a thing." When developing identity it is important for retailers to maintain persistence of all characteristics that make up their special identities.

Character and identity are important to your business for several reasons. Working together as part of your strategic marketing plan, they provide direct communication to your micro-market.

Properly implemented, character and identity will help you to gain and maintain new customers.

With the appropriate exterior concept, one that exemplifies your store's character and identity, customers will have a very good idea about you, even before they enter the store. A well-defined identity package is an excellent "merchandise indicator." It will immediately tell potential shoppers who you are, and what you sell.

By cultivating your store's individuality, you will begin to stand out in the crowd. Your store will no longer be another knock-off, or "just another place to spend money." Your store will begin to experience an enhanced identity. One that accurately communicates its precise market position and direction.

Randahl Ramos s is a principal with Curtis Randahl Associates, a store planning firm based in San Francisco. Questions about store design/planning can be directed to FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at editor@furninfo.com.