I <3 Pet Store Signage

An impromptu stop at my local Pet Supply Plus reminded me of how much I love simple graphics. And pet stores, with their categorization by pet type is a no-brainer for fun icon driven way finding graphics. Other chains such as Petsmart and PetCo are just as adept at this. It makes shopping for pet supplies, and pets for that matter, more fun in my opinion.

In PSP they use simple one color (plus white) graphics with pet icons and simple copy such as “CAT”. In a world with overwrought design direction it’s refreshing to see something so simple make it to retail, creating a pool of calm in what would otherwise be a visually clamorous environment.

Breathe.

Ahh…

The store also had a cool community themed endcap, which presumably is customized based on each store location. DO THIS IN YOUR STORE!!! Our research shows that people want a better sense of community in their lives. This endcap is just an example. Do what is right for your store and your community…a coffee desk, amp’d up bulletin board, in-line display…inside…outside…but do something to break away from the big-box photocopy mode.

Lastly I’ll pick on all retailers for a minute. There was a neat Kurgo display that obviously someone spent a lot of great effort and money on, only to be marred by a bunch of repetitive paper call outs on the scanner plates. I don’t know what the answer is but please why do we have to do this. Maybe an extruded price strip across all the hooks and alternate between price and a “new” callout. Maybe don’t use white on the callouts, maybe black or chocolate to match in store, or blue or orange to match the brand. This is 100% just me though and my need for organization and simplicity. So don’t get too worked up over it.

The Kurgo display was pretty rad though with its subtle topographical easter egg on its shroud that keen eyes will delight in discovering. I’d love to find out how they did that (both made it and got it past the bean counters).

I love chain pet stores as a source of inspiration, especially for graphic design and way finding. Think about including them in your pool of resources for inspiration on your next brand or retail project.

And you can always pick up some food for your furry friend while you’re at it.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is a retail experience expert, lover of simple design solutions, and a cat person. His views are his own and he receives no compensation for give products, brands and retailers a shout out. Where he and his firm do get compensation is from bring awesome retail solutions to you. Contact Chris today to discuss your needs – store interior, store within a store, pop up, displays, fixtures….he and his team can help your brand create delightfully awesome retail experiences. 330-858-8926 or chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Advertisements

Organic Seed Display

This week I spied this wonderful organic seed display at Lowe’s, and wanted to share it with you.

The display is clean and simple, with a nice higher end feel for a temporary display. It looks well constructed. It even spins. I like the repetition of four panels to create the display, which keeps costs down. It was around six feet tall, and easy to shop.

The header graphics take up an appropriate amount of space, showcasing the brand, and “100% Organic” message.

The seed packets are well designed with a high-end glossy finish. Bright color graphics of plants and vegetables allow guests to quickly navigate the display visually. A great example of letting the packaging do its job instead of relying on fussy, and expensive supplementary wayfinding signage. The packaging also was unique for it’s “zip-loc” like closure. Sometimes you want to save seeds for future use. The closure is a brilliant addition to seed packets, which are usually paper and once they are open they’re exposed to the elements, or could get lost.

Note, in regards to organic seeds, it’s important that consumers purchase seeds that are free of neonicotinoids, a form of insecticides found in many commercially grown plants and seeds. The chemical is placed in the seeds and is subsequently in the plants that grow from the seeds. Neonicotinoids have been found to disrupt pollinators ability to navigate and ultimately survive. When buying seeds for your garden, we encourage you to purchase responsibly sourced seeds that are organic, free of harmful chemicals and are GMO free (i.e. non-genetically modified).

-Chris

Chris Weigand Design, LLC does not endorse Lowe’s or the makers of these organic seeds, or their display. But we do support any effort to create a healthy and sustainable environment for ourselves, our children and future generations.

Customer Service Is More Important Than Anything

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

 

A recent customer service experience reinforced in my mind, how important customer service is to your business. It doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, product maker, service provider – understand your customers and how to take care of them. That should be the number one rule for your business.

A Bad Buying Experience

In my example I was simply a customer looking to use a dealer parts coupon to get $80 off of a $1,000 set of run flat tires. Not a big deal, and I had cleared it with a service representative when I made the appointment. Turns out they wouldn’t honor our agreement when I went to drop my car off. They explained the price was already discounted (it wasn’t, I had checked pricing and got several other quotes which were in line with the dealer’s price quote) and I was getting a good deal (I wasn’t – install was $25 / tire and they were going to make me get an alignment).

So despite the fact my family woke up early and drove across town to help me drop the car off, I walked out, taking my business, and future business elsewhere.

Now whether you think I over reacted or not (I didn’t), it was so refreshing as a consumer to feel empowered. I don’t have enough time, money or desire to play games as a consumer. I had another tire dealer on the phone before I was out of the parking lot and they took care of me. The dealer lost a long time customer (we’ve bought three cars there) over an $80 discount.

Focus On Customer Service

Successful businesses build mutually beneficial relationships that encourage people to part with their money, goods or services in exchange for money, goods, or services. To me this is what customer service is: building, managing and maintaining those relationships.

Business is not just “business” if you want to be in business for long.

There are so many options for spending one’s time and money in this omni-channel world. Customer service is the most important aspect of business. Guests are more informed and have less perceived time more now than ever. Yes, they will linger or buy on a whim, but more often they do their homework and have the value of something in mind before they buy. They know what they want, how much they are willing to pay, and can likely rattle off a handful of places where they can get it besides you or your business.

The economy in this country is humming along at a steady pace. So there are people out there spending money, and they are empowered more so now than ever. Yes, it’s a two-way street. Customers should reward businesses that do a good job. But you can’t control that. What you can control is how your business operates and approaches customer service.

We work in the retail design business. The displays, fixtures and interiors we design enhance the experience of shopping for your guests and potential customers. I see our work as a subset of, or secondary to, customer service. We can design things that make guests go “wow”, making it easy and enjoyable to buy things from you.

But nothing we can design will compensate for bad customer service.

If you want them to come to you to buy what you are selling, then you need to make customer service the priority in your business. It’s where the rubber meets the road (pun intended).

-Chris

Chris Weigand is the president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a retail design agency that services customers by providing world class retail research, display, fixture, space planning, and interior design services. Visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call them at (330) 858-8926 to learn more.

Retailing: Putting the “Experience” in Retail Experience

I’m not afraid to admit it: I love shopping. I like parking, walking into a store, exploring and maybe even going home with a goodie or two. Shopping doesn’t even have to do with buying more stuff. Day dreaming in a store with an awesome retail experience can be fulfilling enough.

Anyway, so when the opportunity came to travel two hours south to Columbus for business, I made sure to schedule a stop at Cabela’s on the way home. Not only do they have awesome outdoor products, their retail experience is generally second to none.

Retail experience

The Columbus store is a relatively small one compared to others in this midwest based retail chain. Even smaller stores though benefit from their unique retail experience. They have real “store within a store” destinations including a den-like gun-room and bargain basement. I always enjoy taking a look at the large aquarium with native fish species represented inside, supplemented with informative signage. Behind the tank is a large “mountain” with stuffed animals (think taxidermy, not the things in your kid’s bedroom).

Hello beaver and mountain lion.

Exploring products

As with most stores I like to walk the outside “racetrack” then delve into each department. But first I made stop for lunch at the in-store cafe. I did not partake in the extensive offering of fudge, but I was delighted to sit and enjoy a smoked bison sandwich. It was really good, along with a side of potato salad. Sadly the potato salad was not made on-site.

Hunger satiated, I grabbed a shopping cart with the intent of picking up impromptu presents for the family. It was easy to find a variety of token needful things to take home: a compass, lip balm, a little bird whistle, even some jerky to snack on for the ride home. The selection was expansive and easy to navigate. For myself I scored an awesome rain coat on clearance. Each department has overhead signage, taking advantage of long sight-lines.

There are also a lot of associates who are willing to help out confused shoppers (i.e. me). As an aside, don’t forget that human beings are part of your shopping experience for guests. Make sure they understand your mission, are approachable and helpful. I had several dumb questions that were handled by store personnel with aplomb.

Omni-channel done effectively

Their catalog offers more products than you could ever put in a store of this size, so Cabela’s does a nice job of mating on-line with in-store shopping experiences. There are a half-dozen interactive kiosks peppered throughout the store. I took one for a test drive and found the familiar website experience supplemented with in-store specific options such as checking inventory, or even printing a ticket to help locate items in-store. Want something that isn’t available in store? Order it on the kiosk and get free shipping. I wonder if my item could beat me home if I was shopping further from home. Hmmm.

Cabela’s started out as a catalog merchant. As they moved into brick and mortar, retail experience has always been a foremost focus, and they’ve executed well in that light. Now as on-line and in-store start to meld it appears they’re able to leverage both areas of their expertise. As a retail designer it’s well worth a stop out to one of their stores to get inspired and get some ideas of how you can up the experience at retail. You may even go home with some jerky which isn’t a bad thing.

Check out the gallery below to see what we’re talking about.

Do you love shopping?

What are your favorite retail experiences?

Share in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a boutique retail design agency. He’s been creating experiences at retail for nearly 20 years. He’s been shopping for a lot longer than that. Visit their website at www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information or to contact Chris. We welcome the chance to share our love of retail with you, and help create wonderful experiences for your guests. We don’t work for or endorse Cabela’s, we just like shopping there and other great retail stores. Buy your jerky wherever you’d like.

Retail Design: Behind The Scenes

The average consumer likely doesn’t think about it too much, but a lot goes into all the displays and fixtures we see at retail everyday. Today I would like to provide some “behind the scenes” real world insight into the effort that goes into designing for retail.

Where Retail Design Comes From

There are a variety of resources creating the designs that go into every retail space, including in-house designers, architects, consultants, freelance designers and manufacturers. Often times two or more of these resources will team together to provide the final retail design solutions for a brand or retailer. In many cases in-house design teams have shrunk, or need additional capacity, so they will work with outside creative resources, building a highly capable creative team to work on a specific project. The brand or retailer client may not even know this is the case because the team will work seamlessly behind the scenes. Some design providers have no problem letting clients know they are leveraging the best and the brightest professional creative talent for their projects. As a professional designers we adapt our approach specific to every situation and client to assure the end result is the best it can be, whether anyone knows we worked on a project or not.

You Always Pay For Design, Even If You Don’t Think You Do

Like they say, you get what you pay for. For most of my career design was “free”. Clients would pit several design providers, often manufacturers, against each other. Then they would select the design they liked and give it to the cheapest manufacturer. Fortunately as we emerge from the economic downturn, and everyone has slashed creative staffs, brands and retailers are realizing that design isn’t free anymore. Or at least good design isn’t free. Projects are more curated, and carry a lot of weight in the success or decline at retail. Good design takes specific skills, creativity and knowledge. Why leave your business to chance just to save a few dollars? Invest in good design and it will pay you back ten fold throughout the process. The decisions your design team makes early on in the process impacts every aspect of your retail business.

As such, good clients now understand the true value of a comprehensive design approach, and are willing to engage, and pay for, design separately from manufacturing. Sure house accounts typically have a certain amount of design services built into their budgets, and a prospective client may get a round of free design consultation, but no longer should they expect that to be the case, indefinitely. The retail business can no longer support that model. So you can either pay sooner for design or pay later to fix problems. We prefer you pay for design.

We’re Constantly Working

Designers never shut off. We’re constantly thinking, designing, researching…looking for inspiration….looking for improvement.  We work in fits and flashes. Creativity can’t just be turned on, but often times that’s what we have to do to meet a dizzying array of due dates. For every billable hour I would bet there is at least one hour spent building the creative foundation that is applied to any given project. There’s a good chance your next retail design solution was born whilst a designer was driving somewhere or taking a shower.

We Love Retail

Speaking for myself, I actually love shopping. I love being in stores. The people, the products, the displays, for me it is a one stop shop to see all kinds of materials, designs, ideas in practice. Plus, despite being an advocate for the environment, I actually love buying stuff (just in moderation). When I  go “retailing” for a project I keep thinking to myself “This is the best job in the world.” So while most of us aren’t technically merchants or marketers, we love and understand retail. As designers we understand all the things that influence success or failure at retail: products, environments, consumers, manufacturing, marketing, merchandising and business.  We take a holistic approach and know how to work directly with everyone throughout the process. Often times the designer may be the only advocate for an interested party that isn’t in the meeting room.

We’re Judging You

If you have a store then we’re judging you every time we visit. But it’s a constructive judging. Really.

We know all of your dirty little secrets that consumers may not consciously pick up on. We can see when something was not executed according to plan. On the other hand we also celebrate really awesome retail designs and problem solving. And we straighten things up because deep inside we want the store to look as great in person as it did in the renderings. We’re also looking at everything from the parking lot to the entrance, and beyond to each department and display. We evaluate how well your brand communicates through your store. We get ideas and inspiration.

We don’t mean to judge, but we have to in order to make sure what we’re designing for you or other merchants is the best, relevant and effective solution possible.

Covert Operations

Last but not least this is the funnest part of the retail design job: covert operations. If we’re designing a display or fixture for a retailer, then we need to get into the stores and measure the existing environment and often times take photographs. It’s easy if you’re working directly for the retailer. You just call and get permission from your contact. More often than not my client is not that retailer. I’ve designed displays for virtually every major retailer in North America over the last twenty years and I know for a fact none of them would know me, but they know my work.

The reality is we have to go under cover. With tight deadlines looming, and tight-lipped clients not wanting to let their customers know they’ve outsourced design, we need to put our James Bond hats on. Like an overseas CIA undercover agent we’re alone and no one knows who we are. There’s no one to call.

We make every effort to speak with on-site store representatives to let them know we need to measure a fixture or take a photo for reference. This is often met with middling results, and depends on who you talk to. We spend a lot of time explaining that we’re retail designers to glazed eyes.

Assuming I’m not escorted off the premises, I will discretely walk the store and measure any necessary fixtures that my display will need to attach to or work with. I’ll  take photographs to use as reference in designing the new display. The advent of good cameras on cell phones is a life saver. Clients love seeing displays in actual store environments so I’ll snap some photos for that purpose as well. I avoid photos with people in them.

If you are a merchant, please  let responsible retail designers discretely measure and photograph in your stores. We earn our living making your store environment the best it can be for your store and the brands you carry.

There you have it, some insight into our world. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. Here are some examples of what we look for and output when we’re designing for retail. These are all older images so no retail environments were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Have any design “secrets” you’d like to share?

Have you ever been thrown out of a store? (I have by the way)

Share in the comments section below.

-Chris

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC a full service retail design consultancy. He is a professional industrial designer who’s innovative, consumer focused retail designs can be seen in virtually every major retailer in North America. Whether you have one store or 5,000 stores Chris Weigand Design would love to work with you on your next retail design project. Visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information or contact Chris at 330-858-8926.

Speed Wars May Trump Price Wars

“How Quickly I Can Get” May Be The New “Low Price”

I'm fine with it if they can get me headphones by 4pm today. image borrowed from amazon.com (we aren't affiliated with amazon, in case you were wondering.)

I’m fine with it if they can get me headphones by 4pm today.
image borrowed from amazon.com
(we aren’t affiliated with amazon, in case you were wondering.)

I read this article on the supply challenges of omnichannel retailing today.

While I’m no supply chain expert, I am a well-educated consumer, and have been known to dabble in retail design here and there. I find it a really exciting time for retailing as old models of doing business are being challenged and consumers are finally being empowered. Retailers and big companies are on the ropes, landed there by extremely fickle and budget conscious consumers, who require instantaneous gratification. (This is my theory at least).

This is my initial response (below) to the article, when posted on an online social media site. And I just wanted to follow-up with an example and a couple other comments, thoughts.

 

“I wonder if the day will come when the speed at which I can have something in hand will trump price as a consumer. It may even be here already.

Omnichannel offerings have basically leveled the playing field for consumers – if there is a product out there then I can most certainly find it in-store or online. So that lever is set. Next everyone is price matching – that lever is set. Oh look, here is the accessibility lever – when can I have it?

Amazon is working towards same day delivery. Retail stores since the dawn of time have provided same day delivery (i.e. I drive to the store and take it home) of in stock items.

The challenge for brick and mortar is to get me (consumer) what I want if they sell it, but don’t have it in stock on site…if they don’t sell it in the first place it’s a moot point.

So let’s say I’m Target, Wal-Mart or your store of choice and I offer 10 million products online, and a relative handful in stores. As a consumer, in your store, I need to know #1) what you can sell me both here and online and #2) how quickly I can get it. I’m just going to assume the price is right because the retailer is constantly battling to provide the best price – price is almost irrelevant in 2014, at least as far as our brave new world of retailing is concerned.

Right now physical retailers struggle with: communicating the entire breadth of their offering, making it easier for consumers to “showroom” in their own store and order online, and let consumers know how quickly they can get something delivered if they can’t take it home right there and then.

We will see all kinds of retailers leap frogging each other as they solve for this complex, yet pretty simple problem of speed to consumer. It will require them to rethink their supply chain and business philosophy a fair bit. Those who are willing and able will flourish. Those who won’t or can’t will mercifully be saved from having to service consumers ever again.

Very exciting.”

 

As you read further into the article, one thought I have is, maybe companies like Wal-Mart or any other large consumer product company have gotten too big – they may not be able to adjust quickly enough or at all. I don’t know. But the thought has crossed my mind. From the article:

“Durable goods retailers’ biggest concern is that marketing promotions bring about unintended consequences to their supply chain…Instead, durable goods retailers are increasingly becoming entrenched in a race to the bottom–pumping out promotions and price changes far more frequently than they should. Their model was never built to support a heavy promotional cycle, and as a result, even their supply chain is being affected by this hyper-promotional behavior.”

 

“Inventory accuracy is a prerequisite to any of these tasks, and retailers just don’t yet have the confidence in that inventory data to be effective.”

 

Maybe smaller enterprises that are more agile will be able to better serve their customers. Though their narrow product offering is their biggest challenge.

The key is for retailers to understand the playing field and understand what they can and can’t do.

Small retailers need to know their customers and attract them to their physical and online store from around the world. They must deliver exemplary customer service, story, brand and product that customers can not or will not get anywhere else. every aspect of their brand must sing at every consumer touch point.

Large retailers need to re-write their play book and stop being distracted by promotions and pricing. They need to outwit online retailers and take new innovative risks whilst shoring up their brand. Simplifying the process, every process, won’t hurt either.

Low prices are ubiquitous. And not all consumers care solely about price. It’s just not as much a selling point as the economy picks up, people buy less stuff (because they don’t want it or can’t afford it), and people start to challenge the push-pull model of consumerism.

Already speed, quality and brand are passing price in importance in my opinion.

Ultimately as a retailer it’s always about selling stuff. Don’t over think it, ditch the old school way of doing business and stop running scared. Work smarter, not harder, like the cliché says.

Headphone Shopping Example

We’ll keep an eye on things and expound upon things with additional thoughts in the future hopefully. Meanwhile here’s my one example from shopping earlier today.

My son needs headphones for Kindergarten next week. Apparently they need them to listen to the computer during class time. Cool. Sounds good to me. Only guidelines are no ear buds, and no need to buy $400 headphones. So what we need is something inexpensive but not cheap. I’m thinking something like the headphones all of us who are of a certain age got with our Walkman’s in the 80’s. Well we went to the local big box store. The only thing they had were one set of headphones that weren’t buds or $400 fancy headphones. That’s fine, but they were slightly bulky looking; the headphones get dumped in a bin at school so the smaller the better. And the price as $22 so that didn’t sway the decision either way.

Most people would have bought them and been fine. Well we now are going to cross shop two other stores. What could have been a 5 minute trip has turned into a two-day affair.

The point is the shopping experience wasn’t tailored to today’s realities and this opened up the opportunity for an anal retentive consumer like me to go shop elsewhere – I know perfection exists and I will find it. Let’s say most consumers aren’t insane like me; still how many did the retailer potentially lose because of a middling retail experience.

I looked online: they list 143 headphones available in store. We saw one set that came close (and we’ll probably buy eventually). If there were 142 other headphones sets I wouldn’t know because they were scattered in four different areas. The store lists 453 headphones available online. Wow. I guarantee even I could find a suitable pair from that retailer.

But the in-store experience did the retailer no favors.

We need to be able to showroom in stores.

Here’s a pretty good example. I’m sure there are more.

Retailers do this:

  1. make it easy for consumers to find the items they’re looking for in store and online
  2. communicate online and in store selection, especially communicate it in store – leave nothing to chance or customers will walk out and check next door
  3. streamline your supply chain to win the battle of speed to consumer and take care of your customers

Lastly, keep in mind, shopping situations vary. As a retailer understand all of your customers. If your supply chain is got its stuff together and is speedy you products may even be able to beat your customer’s home.

What do you think, on to something here or delusional?

How important do you think speed to consumer is?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below

-Chris Weigand

Chris Weigand Design, LLC is a full service retail and brand consultation firm. We love to shop, love to buy and love to design. Contact us today to talk about how we can bring creativity, simplicity and a new perspective to your retail stores. http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com or 330-858-8926

 

Visit Small Towns To Uncover Retail Gems

Look in any retail design trade publication and you’re presented with glamorous photographs of exotic retail locations sprinkled across the world’s largest metro areas. From big chains to small boutiques, seemingly if you want to see where it’s at in terms of retail design you’d better head downtown, or hop on a plane.

A recent vacation reminded me that you don’t have to travel to the big city to experience the best of retail. We spent our mid-summer family holiday in the town of Ellicottville in western New York state. It’s an international ski town that I’ve personally visited for the better part of thirty years; watching it adapt, evolve and grow. Despite the focus on winter, when the town is flooded by winter sport lovers from across the region (and Canada), it has grown into a vibrant summer scene also. And any time we’re in town we make a point of visiting the stores that line its main streets.

The village (part of the town by the same name) is very quaint and devoid of national chains. It’s a paradise for viewing independent retail up close and personal. Stores have come and gone through the years but vacancy isn’t too high right now so it is a great time to visit. There are several new stores to supplement the old standbys.

I took the time to visit most of the stores, and even talked to a few of the merchants to learn more about their awesome retail spaces. I suspect many of them are designing the stores themselves, and exciting those designs by the sweat of their own brow (one merchant said as much). Whether they do the work themselves, or hire someone (hint, hint) the key is knowing their brand and having that communicated in every way. Most of the stores we visited did this exceedingly well. As a retail designer I didn’t see much I would have done differently, and many things that I found beyond delight as a designer, and shopper.

Walking through the stores reminded me of how much I love shopping and retail environments. It made for a fun morning. An experience that can’t be replicated online. Nor is it easily translatable to mass retail.

So before you book your design team trip to New York City, San Francisco, London or wherever it is you go, consider driving through the countryside closer to home. There are a lot of great independent retailers creating really awesome retail experiences right in front of us.

Where are your favorite hole in the wall retail design haunts? Share in the comments below after enjoying the photos of Ellicottville.

 

-Chris Weigand

President, Chris Weigand Design, LLC

Chris Weigand Design is a full service professional retail design and branding consultancy. We work with companies of all sizes to design compelling design solutions that connect with customers. We love shopping, we love going out to stores and seeing what merchants are doing. We enjoy creating really awesome solutions for our clients. Contact us today at 330.858.8926 to find out how we can make your store a place that people love to shop.