Creating an engaging retail environment is more important than ever, particularly considering the growing popularity of e-commerce. Leading Toronto-based design firm figure3 recently completed designing the newest location of La Maison Simons at Mississauga's Square One, which opened this month to considerable fanfare. We spoke with the company's Vice President of Retail Activation, Marjorie Mackenzie, to gain insight into the key principles figure3 uses to design award-winning retail interiors.
The Square One Simons store spans 106,600 square feet over two floors, and it features a variety of departments to break up the large space. The departments are bright and have an air of excitement -- a breakaway from the traditional department store which in many instances, has become tired. Ms. Mackenzie explained how Simons' CEO Peter Simons commissions unique pieces of artwork for each of his stores, and how the company's innovative, architectural interiors reflect the overall artfulness of the company's selling environment. The Mississauga Simons' interiors are based on the award-winning West Edmonton Mall prototype Simons store, which opened in October of 2012. The store was subsequently named 'International Store of the Year' by Chain Store Age.
Beautiful interiors can also lead to increased sales, according to Ms. Mackenzie, which is particularly important in an age when consumers can shop from computers and mobile devices without stepping into a physical store. Successful design firms are also increasingly using psychology and cognitive behavioural analysis to create engaging environments that also drive revenue growth. Design firm figure3 has laid out seven principles to designing a successful retail space, and these are set out below.
1) Open & Social: Open and social design is welcoming and affords lingering. People attract other people and we model our behaviour after what we see others doing.
2) Compelling: Compelling, viscerally attractive design ‘works’ better, according to figure3. Visceral design acts at the level of intuition, and is grounded in peoples’ basic biological preferences cultivated through human evolution.
3) Engaging: Engaging design entices people to interact with environments and creates a sense of ‘perceived ownership’.
4) Focused: Successful design focuses on the deep needs and fundamental desires of the people they’re designed for.
5) Compatible: Compatible design removes all barriers to ideal behaviour and fits seamlessly into the lives of the people they’re designed for. Convenience will always be valuable.
6) Constantly evolving: Designed environments require renewal to stay relevant. Successful design provides a canvas from which to be continually refreshed – delivering new, surprising and rewarding experiences.
7) Ownable: Great design is differentiated. Distant spaces with unique, ownable elements occupy a place in the mind that separates it from the competition.
Farla Efros, retail expert and President of leading consultancy HRC Advisory, said that some retailers may need to reinvent and reinvigorate their store layouts to cater to Millennials and Generation Z. These two groups will be critical for retailers doing business in Canada, she noted, and that in order to get shoppers into physical stores, the stores will need to be both "interesting and experiential".
Simons' stores arguably meet the above criteria, as well as Ms. Efros' comments. Simons stores are exciting, product is showcased in dedicated departments, and sales have been stellar. Peter Simons recently confirmed strong sales growth in Simons' newer stores, which include locations at West Vancouver's Park Royal and at Promenades Gatineau, north of Ottawa.
All photos in this article are of the new Square One store, and are courtesy of La Maison Simons.