Designing for Various Retail Environments

Recently Carrie Rossenfeld wrote and article for Globest.com dealing with current changes in the retail environment that are affecting how architects and designers approach a project. The title, The Changing Art of Designing Urban Retail Projects, is especially appropriate, not a little because retail store design is acknowledged as an art, but mostly because it offers a thought provoking comment on the current retail context near and dear to all of us working in the DC area; namely the shift from auto dominant to pedestrian dominant shopping. Anyone who visits this site knows that this is not the first time I have engaged this topic, it is though, the first time I am inspired to organize the various environments in which I work into a single picture as follows:

Past Trends

Urban Retail – This requires little description. It is Main street USA, whether in a big city or small. It is pedestrian dependent and spans American History from Colonial Willamsburg to Old Town Alexandria. It is an all inclusive spectrum of retail types and has become a model for current development.

Suburban Shopping Centers – Historically these followed suburban expansion after WWII supplying life’s necessities to newly mobile shoppers. A typical shopping center consisted of a grocery store, a drug store, some specialty retail, and a couple of out-lots. In time a big box was added, eventually becoming the force behind development until today we have acres of big box shopping centers. The type has come to include a range of retail offerings from outlet malls to ethnic centers merging into a sprawl-scape along major roads and axes, all depending on the car for shoppers.

 

Suburban Malls – These days almost relics, most of us have seen their rise and fall. The ones that are doing well are, some say, surviving because the others have failed. They are often in high income suburbs, connected with public transportation, draw international shoppers, boast multiple department stores, have expanded the types of anchor tenants they attract, and perhaps most important to this discussion, although dependent on the car for shoppers, the stores are designed according to a specialized pedestrian model. Local examples: Tysons Corner, Pentagon City.

 Present Trends

Mixed Use, also known as Emerging Urban, New Suburbanism, and the Mall Reborn (Don’t you love all the names?) – Of course, this is where the action is. From my standpoint – designing for individual retailers – it is where pedestrian vs. non pedestrian visibility collapses into complexity. David Kitchens, in the aforementioned article, drew attention to the challenges involved in designing for, and integrating multiple uses into a development project, telling us that “…residential, office or hospitality…needs to be intertwined with or added to existing retail..” The “repositioning” of Ballston Common and Landmark Mall were sited as local examples and in particular caught my attention because I have had inquiries from retail tenants being affected by the changes going on in these places. Architects and designers working in the mixed use environment must have confidence that they, together with stakeholders in the greater design environment, will produce a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. They must be willing to release some control, to admit a bit of “chaos.” Kitchens put it well when he said it is about creating neighborhoods. As an independent design firm working on retail projects in many different environments, I get this better than most.

Future Trends?

Industrial/Commercial/Business Parks – Defined by the National Institute of Building Science, Light Industrial “… can include but is not limited to spaces for printing, commercial laundry, photographic film processing, vehicle repair garages, building maintenance shops, metal work, millwork,..cabinetry work…” Think specialized showrooms, i.e., kitchen, lumber, restaurant supplies, catering, swimming pools, motor cycle accessories (Really, I had one inquire). Think those moving from online sales toward brick n mortor. Think those responding to “showrooming.” Recent experience has lead me to believe that this is an overlooked retail environment and as such an opportunity. From a store design standpoint, diametrically opposite to the complexity of mixed use, their retail presence is straight forward, direct and dependent on the car for shoppers. It is a sector starting to see the value of investing in professionally designed retail showrooms.

Describing these retail environments has been a fun exercise but I didn’t do it just for fun? I did it to make a point about designing a retail store to increase sales. Few would argue that designing a retail store is involved with issues of shopper behavior, in particular how it can be influence by a store design. I have accumulated an ever multiplying list of “Strategies for Designing Your Space.” and do a presentation on the subject. The article that started this survey, on the other hand, is about the other side of the issue, specifically how shopper behavior is influenced by the environment in which a store finds itself. Of course, real estate people would sum this up as “location, location, location,” a subject that shows up in business plans and marketing activities all the time. If, though, we understand the ideas set out in the article, the issue is more complex, suggesting that the current trend is for there to be little or nothing spontaneous or random about the macro environments in which retailers find themselves. Also, I have often found that in the process of macro planning developers have let go of micro constraints typically found in places like leases and tenant handbooks. This can be deceiving, leading a retailer to overestimate their control of a project. In local terms this means that a space in a planned urban environment like the Mosaic Retail District is a lot different than a space in Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria or in a strip center or industrial complex as well. I would urge any retailer thinking about their store design to consider responding to both the macro and micro point of view. It is what has motivated me to summarize the several retail contexts listed in this post.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

The New Overtime Rules

Most employers are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which includes the requirements for which employees must be paid overtime pay. This law has often been difficult for small employers. Many do not understand the rules covering which employees can be considered exempt from the law. This has resulted in both legal and regulatory… Read more »

The post The New Overtime Rules appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Most employers are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which includes the requirements for which employees must be paid overtime pay. This law has often been difficult for small employers. Many do not understand the rules covering which employees can be considered exempt from the law. This has resulted in both legal and regulatory actions against organizations of all sizes.

On December 1, 2016, the salary level test for FLSA changes. The other two tests to determine which employees are covered by the law (often called ‘non-exempt’) are remaining the same. The webinar recording here will help you to assess what your options are and how to make the needed changes in ways that will support and enhance your organization’s future.  In addition to giving you specific ways to define the changed salary level’s impact on your organization, we talk about steps to prepare now. Additionally, although the duties test and salary basis portions of the law are unchanged, we offer information on both with a focus on the most common errors small organizations make. A copy of the annotated slides from the webinar are on our Resource page here.

This webinar and the annotated slides cover businesses, non-profits, charities, and all employers. We hope you find them useful in preparing your organization for the new salary levels and for auditing your current compliance with the duties test to ensure you correct any issues there as well. If you need additional help, contact us about our monthly HR Consult options for more support.

The post The New Overtime Rules appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Entrepreneurs Benefit Everyone

This post first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 14, 2016. Entrepreneurship doesn’t flourish by happenstance. Hotbeds of innovation – like Silicon Valley, Austin, and Boulder – seem to have found the mix of characteristics and attractions that lure the country’s most innovative entrepreneurs. While those examples are known as tech hubs, they have… Read more »

The post Entrepreneurs Benefit Everyone appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 14, 2016.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t flourish by happenstance. Hotbeds of innovation – like Silicon Valley, Austin, and Boulder – seem to have found the mix of characteristics and attractions that lure the country’s most innovative entrepreneurs. While those examples are known as tech hubs, they have also become hubs for creative retail and great food. Businesses of all kinds tend to be attracted to innovation hubs and places that are “Top Ten” in other categories.

Businesses like to cluster with other like businesses. Old Town has a concentration of independent boutiques and shops in part because they like to be located near other similar types of stores. New, creative restaurants often pop up near each other, like the explosion of new restaurants along the U Street Corridor in DC.

The reasons for such clustering are well known. Entrepreneurs like to be near other energetic entrepreneurs and are attracted to vibrant communities. Innovators that consistently push the envelope are attracted to welcoming communities. These are places where the threshold for startups is modest, where people are accepting of diversity, and where new ideas can be developed, launched, and refined without ridicule.

On paper, Alexandria should fare pretty well as an entrepreneurial destination. We have many winning attributes; we’re inside the beltway, we have a historic authenticity that other places seek to replicate, and we’re home to top-ranked restaurants, just to name a few. The city is also the right scale – small enough to build meaningful connections and know your neighbors, yet large enough to have the amenities and vibrancy of a big city. All those things position Alexandria to attract innovative businesses.

However, innovators are not just looking at the city on paper or in a vacuum. They’re reading media coverage of the city and, frankly, may not be getting the best impression. Creative entrepreneurs are turned off by statements such as, “We don’t want anything that attracts more people,” or, “Alexandria already has too many restaurants.” This rhetoric implies that Alexandria is not interested in opportunities to grow its tax base and be a regional destination for innovative businesses.

The harsh reality is that our local economy is either growing or declining; it does not just stop and mark time. We, as a city, need to recognize the impact of our words and our deeds and how those may be interpreted by interested businesses. We cannot afford to be seen as a city that disdains innovation.

We have organizations dedicated to strengthening entrepreneurship and providing individual support to small businesses. These include the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, the Multi-Agency Permit Center, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, and neighborhood business associations. These organizations alone are not enough; new businesses must feel the support of the entire community.

All of us have a role to play in making Alexandria an attractive destination for the most promising businesses and creative entrepreneurs who enhance our economy and quality of life. Who could be against that?

The post Entrepreneurs Benefit Everyone appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Entrepreneurs Benefit Everyone

This post first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 14, 2016. Entrepreneurship doesn’t flourish by happenstance. Hotbeds of innovation – like Silicon Valley, Austin, and Boulder – seem to have found the mix of characteristics and attractions that lure the country’s most innovative entrepreneurs. While those examples are known as tech hubs, they have… Read more »

The post Entrepreneurs Benefit Everyone appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

This post first appeared in the Alexandria Times on July 14, 2016.

Entrepreneurship doesn’t flourish by happenstance. Hotbeds of innovation – like Silicon Valley, Austin, and Boulder – seem to have found the mix of characteristics and attractions that lure the country’s most innovative entrepreneurs. While those examples are known as tech hubs, they have also become hubs for creative retail and great food. Businesses of all kinds tend to be attracted to innovation hubs and places that are “Top Ten” in other categories.

Businesses like to cluster with other like businesses. Old Town has a concentration of independent boutiques and shops in part because they like to be located near other similar types of stores. New, creative restaurants often pop up near each other, like the explosion of new restaurants along the U Street Corridor in DC.

The reasons for such clustering are well known. Entrepreneurs like to be near other energetic entrepreneurs and are attracted to vibrant communities. Innovators that consistently push the envelope are attracted to welcoming communities. These are places where the threshold for startups is modest, where people are accepting of diversity, and where new ideas can be developed, launched, and refined without ridicule.

On paper, Alexandria should fare pretty well as an entrepreneurial destination. We have many winning attributes; we’re inside the beltway, we have a historic authenticity that other places seek to replicate, and we’re home to top-ranked restaurants, just to name a few. The city is also the right scale – small enough to build meaningful connections and know your neighbors, yet large enough to have the amenities and vibrancy of a big city. All those things position Alexandria to attract innovative businesses.

However, innovators are not just looking at the city on paper or in a vacuum. They’re reading media coverage of the city and, frankly, may not be getting the best impression. Creative entrepreneurs are turned off by statements such as, “We don’t want anything that attracts more people,” or, “Alexandria already has too many restaurants.” This rhetoric implies that Alexandria is not interested in opportunities to grow its tax base and be a regional destination for innovative businesses.

The harsh reality is that our local economy is either growing or declining; it does not just stop and mark time. We, as a city, need to recognize the impact of our words and our deeds and how those may be interpreted by interested businesses. We cannot afford to be seen as a city that disdains innovation.

We have organizations dedicated to strengthening entrepreneurship and providing individual support to small businesses. These include the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, the Multi-Agency Permit Center, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, and neighborhood business associations. These organizations alone are not enough; new businesses must feel the support of the entire community.

All of us have a role to play in making Alexandria an attractive destination for the most promising businesses and creative entrepreneurs who enhance our economy and quality of life. Who could be against that?

The post Entrepreneurs Benefit Everyone appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Why You Need a Plan….

The Alexandria SBDC is experiencing something this week that many small businesses see throughout their lifespan – the departure of a valuable member of the team. While technically an employee of our host organization, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Amy Shields has worked with the SBDC for several years to initiate new programs, spearhead our… Read more »

The post Why You Need a Plan…. appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

The Alexandria SBDC is experiencing something this week that many small businesses see throughout their lifespan – the departure of a valuable member of the team. While technically an employee of our host organization, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Amy Shields has worked with the SBDC for several years to initiate new programs, spearhead our website development, improve our reporting and analytics, and other contributions too numerous to mention. In short, she made us better. We hope that you have employees or partners who do the same for your organization.

What do you do when such an important part of your organization finds an outside opportunity that furthers their career in a way that they just can’t pass up? If your first response is tears, panic, throwing things against the wall, and so forth, you are not alone – that’s what we did. Take a few hours to nurse your wounds, have a cry (or a stiff drink) – whatever it takes.  It is what you do next that makes the difference in how your organization will continue to thrive – make a plan. Hopefully, you have had a plan all along – or at least the elements of a plan. Do you keep great records of not only your accomplishments and initiatives but also all of the steps that are taken to carry them out? That will make the transition much easier for you. As we have been doing for the past two weeks, you find yourself consolidating all of the information that you have into readily-accessible files that those who remain in the organization will understand and will know how to access. Don’t forget to get the user names and passwords!!! Have the person who is leaving explain their processes to you while you take notes – that will make it much easier for you to duplicate their actions in the future. Make a list of all of the wonderful things that person has done for your organization, and do not forget those things that happen infrequently (annual survey; domain name registration, etc.) – they are easy to overlook. Then figure out how these duties will be handled in the future – will they continue, who will take them on, what changes will need to be made?

Most important, take a deep breath. Will you shed a tear at the loss of a colleague to your organization? Sure you will! Will your organization change? It probably will, since small organizations are often a conglomeration of all of the talents and personalities of those most deeply involved. But, this person helped you to get where you are today – and the lessons that you learned and the contributions that they made, will help you, and those that remain, be even better tomorrow.

So, from the Alexandria SBDC, Godspeed, Amy! Enjoy your new challenges! We are going to be just fine.

The post Why You Need a Plan…. appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Why You Need a Plan….

The Alexandria SBDC is experiencing something this week that many small businesses see throughout their lifespan – the departure of a valuable member of the team. While technically an employee of our host organization, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Amy Shields has worked with the SBDC for several years to initiate new programs, spearhead our… Read more »

The post Why You Need a Plan…. appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

The Alexandria SBDC is experiencing something this week that many small businesses see throughout their lifespan – the departure of a valuable member of the team. While technically an employee of our host organization, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Amy Shields has worked with the SBDC for several years to initiate new programs, spearhead our website development, improve our reporting and analytics, and other contributions too numerous to mention. In short, she made us better. We hope that you have employees or partners who do the same for your organization.

What do you do when such an important part of your organization finds an outside opportunity that furthers their career in a way that they just can’t pass up? If your first response is tears, panic, throwing things against the wall, and so forth, you are not alone – that’s what we did. Take a few hours to nurse your wounds, have a cry (or a stiff drink) – whatever it takes.  It is what you do next that makes the difference in how your organization will continue to thrive – make a plan. Hopefully, you have had a plan all along – or at least the elements of a plan. Do you keep great records of not only your accomplishments and initiatives but also all of the steps that are taken to carry them out? That will make the transition much easier for you. As we have been doing for the past two weeks, you find yourself consolidating all of the information that you have into readily-accessible files that those who remain in the organization will understand and will know how to access. Don’t forget to get the user names and passwords!!! Have the person who is leaving explain their processes to you while you take notes – that will make it much easier for you to duplicate their actions in the future. Make a list of all of the wonderful things that person has done for your organization, and do not forget those things that happen infrequently (annual survey; domain name registration, etc.) – they are easy to overlook. Then figure out how these duties will be handled in the future – will they continue, who will take them on, what changes will need to be made?

Most important, take a deep breath. Will you shed a tear at the loss of a colleague to your organization? Sure you will! Will your organization change? It probably will, since small organizations are often a conglomeration of all of the talents and personalities of those most deeply involved. But, this person helped you to get where you are today – and the lessons that you learned and the contributions that they made, will help you, and those that remain, be even better tomorrow.

So, from the Alexandria SBDC, Godspeed, Amy! Enjoy your new challenges! We are going to be just fine.

The post Why You Need a Plan…. appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Retail store design is a language everyone can read.

2015-11-08 12.24.21Semiotics

Anyone who has ever seriously tried to design a logo for their business can tell you that it is not so easy, even for graphic designers who specialize in all things related to visual imaging. Certainly, any serious investigation will lead one to the subject of Semiotics, which might be defined as how meaning is created and communicated, or more simply the study of linguistic and non- linguistic signs. Without getting too technical, for this is a specialized academic discipline, it is worth noting that signs fall into three categories:

  1. Icons which are images of a thing itself, as in a picture of a dog and a real dog, or a map of a river and the actual river.
  2. Indexes which are relational where objects affect the sign, like fire (object) creates smoke (sign).
  3. Symbols which have neither similarities in appearance nor causal links, but are rather linked by conventional or cultural knowledge. In short the meaning can be quite arbitrary and is simply known, as in the group of letters that mean bus and an actual bus.

When considered in light of concerns about marketing and branding, ever present in the minds of most retailers, it is instructive to draw some parallels. First though, it is worth examining the terms which have been nicely summarized by Jacob Cass, graphic designer and author. He tells us a brand is “the perceived emotional corporate image as a whole;” an identity “is the visual aspects that form part of the overall brand;” and a logo “identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon. Knowing this, it is not difficult to understand the brand as the idea of a business. It is the semiotic meaning, or sign, expressed by the use of the icons, indexes, and symbols, all of which are visual or have a visual component, leading us to examine the visual image, AKA store design.

Visual Image

I am bringing this up because I think that architecture is semiotic, and more specifically, retail store design, which might be thought of and applied like a language. One that everyone can read. The Sherwin Williams Paint Store in the photo provides a clearly defined demonstration of these principles, and I must say that I spotted it at 50 MPH while rushing to an unrelated event in a Pennsylvania college town. The impact was direct, and completely comprehensible. I was late to my appointment because I turned the car around to get the photo. The symbol, of course, is the Sherwin William sign on the building. No doubt about who they are and what they are selling.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/telstar/151930908/in/photolist-4sjUaD-4ZMqA9-4ZHbKM-5uWtwt-cvvPYC-61K54M-8Vf3Zm-82hFSR-afWumj-eqFLq-9pkbo2-B6JH2-66dQ7oThe logo, not very big, relatively speaking, is both icon and index. When considered in the light of what we now know about semiotics it is complicated and communicates a lot of meaning using symbols in the form of company name and tag line; iconic images of the product, container, location; and an index demonstrating the application. It becomes a statement that says Sherwin Williams paints the world.

The “pièce de résistance” of the entire composition though, and a big part of the reason I stopped, is the larger than life paint sample cards installed as graphics in all of the storefront windows. According to our labels these probably qualify as icons but are also undeniably symbolic of everything we know about decorating and painting.

There is absolutely no question about the marketing message delivered by this storefront design, but there is another tactic operating here which has less to do with semiotics than it does with tried and true principals of good storefront design. It is what pushes this design into the stratosphere of marketing message delivery, and defines the point where graphics leave off and architecture begins. There is a basic rule that says, if you want a display element to be visible from a distance to both walk and drive by traffic, then it must be exaggerated. It must be bigger, brighter, more colorful than its surrounding. In this case the larger than life paint sample cards are the agent of a cohesive marketing message. The effect is magical.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Do’s and Don’ts of Business Development in Federal Contracting

The Alexandria SBDC held a seminar this week about business development in Federal Contracting, presented by John Boulware. The full PowerPoint presentation used during the seminar is available, but it is helpful to review his summary points about what to do, and what not to do, when trying to set up meetings and build relationships with… Read more »

The post Do’s and Don’ts of Business Development in Federal Contracting appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Dos and Donts of Business Development in Federal ContractingThe Alexandria SBDC held a seminar this week about business development in Federal Contracting, presented by John Boulware. The full PowerPoint presentation used during the seminar is available, but it is helpful to review his summary points about what to do, and what not to do, when trying to set up meetings and build relationships with government program managers or representatives of large prime contractors. The following are things to do, and what to avoid:

Do:

  1. Develop a clear role, purpose, or goal with each contact and client
  2. Maintain consistent effort in both information collection and client development – this starts with maintaining regular contact
  3. Make it about them – always
  4. Be a good listener and a good learner
  5. Treat information collection and client development as you would a client project – think in terms of milestones, progress reviews, and measurable results plus data capture
  6. Develop relationships with career managers who will be around long-term
  7. Once you meet with client staff find “excuses” to stay connected and help them
  8. When you talk with people ask questions about their work environment; show interest
  9. Look for issues and problems and then gather relevant information
  10. Provide solutions – even if it does not involve your firm
  11. Find ways to do small but legal favors for client staff – it gives you needed visibility
  12. Figure out ways to prove your reliability and dependability to client – builds KTR (Knowledge, Trust and Respect)

Don’t:

  1. Give up too quickly trying to get a meeting once you start trying
  2. Talk a lot about you or your firm – always make it about them
  3. Give a briefing at your first meeting – unless…
  4. Assume a problem means money will be available or that work will follow
  5. Fail to stay connected with those in your target client network – monthly at least!
  6. Dominate any conversation with Federal agency or large prime staff – guide it; listen
  7. Fail to replay information to show you understand
  8. Focus on one very senior person in an agency
  9. Send frequent or long emails to clients
  10. Expect too much from agency small business staffers and contract staff and don’t focus your energies on them
  11. Spend too much time collecting information
  12. Fail to record information obtained about the client

Following these guidelines will help prepare you for gaining business with the Federal government.

The post Do’s and Don’ts of Business Development in Federal Contracting appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.