Question of the month: What are the current trends in store design? Do

you expect these designs to be just fads, or will they be around for a while?

It is not enough in today's highly competitive retail environment for a building or space to merely function and provide pleasing aesthetics. Our designs must respond to trends and attract the customer at a deeper intellectual and emotional level.

The objective is to provide striking product imagery that remains ingrained in the customer's memory long after the shopping experience has ended. Designs must appeal to varied lifestyles, provide more conveniences and emphasize the "experience" of shopping. Our intimate understanding of the customer has become just as important as that of the retailer.

We are bombarded in our daily lives by thousands of commercial images via television, magazines, websites and myriad other promotional media. How does a retail store compete in this environment to lure and maintain its target consumers? The most successful design responses have incorporated branding, entertainment and convenience into the retail environment, resulting in some dramatic and gripping retail atmospheres.

What is branding and why is it so effective? Branding is the creation of an image that elevates a product beyond its basic function to appeal to a person's intellect and emotion. In doing so, the product develops an allure more intimately tied to an individual's personality. This level of product attraction not only catches the customer's attention but also remains ingrained in the customer's memory. Take Nike Town and The Gap, for example. One can purchase their products in a variety of places, yet by virtue of their brand image, customers return to these stores time and time again.

Entertaining the shopper is essential in retail today. Stores rich with entertainment keep shoppers on their toes and create a shopping experience that surprises, intrigues and allures. For example, FAO Schwarz surrounds both children and adults with highly entertaining and interactive toys. Nordstrom's Atlanta has allocated what has always been prime real estate - the center court - to a grand piano with a full-time pianist. Prime real estate is sacrificed but the enhanced customer experience is of greater value.

Convenience is now a primary focus of retail design. There are two types of consumers: left-brain shoppers - low-service, low-cost customers, also known as the "in and out" shoppers; and right-brain shoppers - those whose purchases are tied to the quality of the shopping experience. A strong retail design can provide for both types. Elements such as strong graphics, simple floor layouts and directional lighting are convenient to the left-brained shoppers. Spaces within spaces creating boutiques highlighted by romantic signage and theatrical lighting appeal to the right-brained shoppers.

Like all trends, trends in retail store design will constantly evolve. The more recent elements of branding, entertainment and convenience will likely be a commonality of retail design for a long time to come.

DESIGNER

INDepth

Jessica Marro

Thompson, Ventulett,

Stainback & Associates

2700 Promenade Two

1230 Peachtree St. NE

Atlanta, GA 30309

(404) 888-6600

jmarro@tvsa.com

www.tvsa.com

* Number of years

in the industry: 13

* Recent retail

projects:

Rich's department store, Athens, Ga.; Concourse A food court, Hartsfield Airport, Atlanta; Florida Mall expansion and renovation, Orlando, Fla.; Plaza Oeste expansion, Chile, South America.

* Upcoming

projects:

Haverty's Furniture Company, Mall of Georgia, Mill Creek, Ga.

PERSONALLYSpeaking

* Favorite retail store

Felissimo, New York: "Incredible combination of merchandise in a unique and enchanting space. Each floor and space offers a different experience."

Crate & Barrel, Chicago: "Fun space, tons of light, great merchandise. Simple use of materials and color."

* Favorite restaurant design

China Grill, South Beach, Fla.: "Great, fun, sophisticated atmosphere created with an array of materials, dramatic lighting and music."

* Most improved retail image

Haverty's Furniture Industries: "When our creative team completes the process of re-theming and branding their prototype design."

* Most admired industry figure

Philippe Starck: "For having fun and mak- ing us all think about the endless possibilities."