Above is a local “Old Town” shop, what would be called a “Mom & Pop” shop. The name of the shop is more about describing the product than creating a brand identity. The sign, though in a prominent location, is not graphically pronounced because there is little or no contrast between the letters and the background. In fact, the street address attracts more attention than the sign because it is outlined in black. Yet, there is no question that this is a dress shop. The product in the window is nicely displayed and says it all. A shopper, looking for something to wear to dinner or a night out, might choose this boutique thinking that she could find a one of a kind dress, something that would not show up on another guest. In this neighborhood, she might also expect, personal service, quick alterations and if she was a tourist delivery to her hotel.
The same shopper might see Chico’s, just down the street, and walk right by. After all, here she knows what to expect. They are in every mall. The clothes are nice, the price is ok, but maybe she is not sure about the service, alterations and delivery. She also knows she could end up in the same dress as her friend. She opts for a new experience in an unknown shop.
For the sake of this discussion, lets conclude that my observations are correct and the shopper prefers the unknown shop. Where does that leave Chico’s? If we look closely, we will see that there is a whole other level of information in these two storefronts that is being overlooked. The merchandise and window displays look very similar. Is Chico’s missing an opportunity to go one on one, product to product with the local merchant. Is the brand overpowering the merchandise? What would happen, if they lost the big black and white signs over the door and window and just let the small signs at the bottom of the window remain? Would that level the playing field?
I actually chose Chico’s for this discussion. They appear to be trying some new marketing strategies. They have a television advertising campaign that features the product over the the brand. I have been reading that they are doing well in these tough economic conditions. It would cost very little to try the same strategy on their storefront design where conditions warrant. As store planners and designers we are not often informed about the success of our designs. The measuring is done at the cash register and, we only know if our projects are successful when we are hired to do another location.
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.