The visual marketing of retail space In this special supplement featuring leading retail designers, Shopping Center World is proud to disclose the shape of retail interiors to come. >From space composition to creative fixturing, the showcased designers have provided the impetus for the clean, open retail spaces popping up in malls, strip centers and freestanding stores all across the country.

As the shopping center industry moves toward the new millen-nium, space has become even more of a commodity. The retail interior experts featured in these pages share glimpses of how space can be utilized most efficiently, how retailers can showcase their marketing identities in a cost-effective and eye-pleasing manner, and how retailers can use products themselves as design elements.

The designers' works featured throughout these pages exemplify a compelling balance between style, practicality and functionality. And more than ever, the design of these retail spaces echoes the signature stamp of the individual retailer's own brand image.

The following special section was sponsored by these firms: Forbes Shea Horst Design International JGA Inc. Image by Design Michael Malone Architects Inc. Nomus Interiors Inc. Pavlik Design Team Retail Planning Associates Robert G. Lyon & Associates Inc.

Without their generous support and assistance, this supplement would not have been possible.

-John Davis

Space composition Leading retail designers share their views Simpler, more open interior spaces, powerful fixtures that serve as the primary visual focal point, more flexible and modular interior elements -- these are among the strategies shaping the composition of retail space today. Also influencing the visual marketing of retail are a design's overall effect on product vs. space, more emphasis on the end customer and a stronger effort to contain costs, say the nation's leading retail design firms.

Restrictive construction budgets and higher profit expectations are driving retailers' current demand for simpler design solutions, says Fidel Miro, planning and design director for Horst Design International of Huntington, N.Y. These designs entail fewer interior walls, thus less money spent on construction, while maintaining retailers' established identities in the present competitive market.

"We are approaching solutions that call for larger, more simple and open interior spaces, with more emphasis on the way floor fixtures are designed," Miro says. "These more powerful fixtures are becoming the ultimate vehicle to substitute the physical shop definitions previously offered by walls. The visual focal point is being brought forward by the fixtures to the center of the sales floor, near or by the aisles. The aisles are also longer, encouraging consumers to walk their length for maximum exposure to merchandise."

Retail designers and their clients should concentrate on specialized floor fixtures that stage lifestyles and separate visual areas with definition and maximum visual impact, reports Miro. "Today's 'dot com' era is setting the pace for the transformation and creation of a new generation of store fixtures," he says, "some of which require a technical compatibility with computers, for use by customers. Some newer fixtures have TV monitors and interfacing devices that allow customers to listen with earphones, and graphics that use light as a communication tool."

Miro points to the METRO KIDS USA prototype store in the Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn, N.Y. For this project, Horst Design International contained costs by using just the existing walls, keeping them flat and simple. Designers then created a focal point and destination in the center of the store, where two triple-stacked robotic displays are incorporated into flanking, perforated, 18-foot-high molded steel panels, with corresponding merchandise displayed underneath. The robotic display helps void the open space and is constantly spinning and reversing to catch consumers' attention.

To enhance the central focal point and enclose department space, a PVC pipe frame structure with canvas banners was suspended from the building structure. A "halo" ring where rail-light cables support steel light prop fixtures was also utilized.

Horst Design International also controlled costs with assertive store fixturing at a 5,000 sq. ft. Universal Studios prototype store. Design developments center around Universal Studios' well-known world globe with spinning logo, and a circle as a basic design element. Layout features two forward flanking spaces for identity of the shop and for display presentation, followed by a 56-foot-square room with a large, 20-foot-diameter structural steel frame globe in the center that serves as a focal point and destination. Hanging props, TV monitors, and graphics relating to Universal Studios memorabilia and to the merchandise on display adorn the walls.

"All floor fixtures are conceived to attract customers," notes Miro. "Many incorporate lit graphics, electronic signs and electronic communications devices with headsets, allowing consumers to interact with the display fixtures and learn more about the merchandise. All fixtures have interconnecting parts and hardware for overnight layout changes."

Douglas Van Gundy, vice president of marketing for Nomus Interiors Inc., of King, N.C., confirms the trend toward stronger, more unique fixtures, coupled with vigorous graphic presentations that together create a mood and provide a home for the brand.

Reports Gundy, "Our designers are producing more unique variations of material used on single fixtures, such as various types of metals coupled with overlays and laminates of semi-transparent graphics to create a unique look.

"The days of typecasting certain products and apparel lines to dark or light wood or chrome fixturing are gone," he continues, "as graphics play a more important role in the fixturing that showcases a brand."

Gundy asserts that the current goal related to fixturing is to create an entertaining space on the store floor and to complement the merchandise. "While the fixturing should be aesthetic, it must also be highly functional in terms of capacity, since retailers are looking more closely at dollars per square foot."

For the Weather Proof Garment Co., a store within a store at Macy's East, Nomus Interiors produced a graphic presentation with strong images of storms, clouds, rain, snow and ice. The presentation was transferred onto high-capacity fixtures that feature the graphic images laminated across their headers. The result is not only a mood that helps support the company's story, reports Gundy, but a home for the brand that complements the product line.

Gundy says his company's solution for Fiorrucci -- an Italian designer known for his use of denim and bright colors of the 1970s -- featured many different types of materials in the fixturing. To connect with the history of the brand and its European roots, Nomus Interiors specified wrought-iron merchandisers and tables with filigree legs, horizontal surfaces of white lacquer, metal risers and hot pink-tinted logos.

Gundy notes, "We're producing fixture designs with a shelf life of about five years, with minor changes, eliminating the need to replace the units in just a short time. This strategy is being driven by the availability of new materials such as higher-quality metals and more innovative plastics and graphics. The available selection of materials for designers has exploded, allowing less tired, more unique and more durable fixture designs, which are right in line with the retail industry's need for more cost-effective solutions."

Emphasizing product vs. store Gundy's shop works closely with many brand-driven products, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. There are so many of these branded environments, or "stores within a store," with similar looks and feels, all positioned near each other, that customers are starting to get numb to the store design and are looking more closely at the product and brand, Gundy says. "Going forward, we will continue to mark a territory with branding, but instead of just a cool environment and brand, the product itself must be highlighted and emphasized by the design."

Michael Malone, president of Dallas-based Michael Malone Architects Inc., concurs that store design must highlight the product itself. "If you do store design well, the product emerges and the store goes away," he says. "However, the last four major retail concepts we created were for clients requesting environments so compelling that whatever was sold would become secondary.

"Because of the changing nature of the clients' products, the stores themselves had to carry the initial interest of the customer. The theming and excitement of the environments, intentionally more commanding than the merchandise, romantically fill in what buying the products will do for the consumer.

"The designs are aimed at promoting or marketing the companies or their brand images," Malone continues. "Though the stores are meant as retail businesses, their larger goals are expanding a brand. The stores' designs create a 3-D manifestation of a corporate culture in a place that's very different and exciting."

Perhaps nowhere was this challenge more evident than in the project Malone did for the Discovery Channel. "If I mention a clothing brand, you could conjure up a lifestyle associated with the product," he reasons. "But if I mention a TV station, a whole new set of variables are needed to tell customers about the store's mission."

"For the Discovery Channel," he continues, "the store is intended as a link between the customer and the products in the store, using designs to explain to consumers how they would use the products in their daily lives."

Recently, the Discovery Channel embarked on the development of multimedia, video and cable technology products for home use. The client believed the line could be presented only in an environment supportive of the Discovery Channel's overall marketing strategy and brand identification, Malone reports. The store environment also had to be changeable to allow guests to experience the full diversity of the network's offerings and wide variety of associated products and services.

Among the elements that accomplish this goal for the 4,500 sq. ft. Discovery Channel stores at the Orlando International Airport in Florida and the Galleria in Houston are lighted panels that identify theme areas centered on specific channel programming (e.g., Wings, Paleoworld, Sci Trek, Animal Planet and Wild Discovery). Large-scale video walls, interactive computers, multimedia displays and a saltwater aquarium help reflect the channel's diverse programming.

The centerpiece of the prototype stores is a "soft-tech" media center with interactive towers: These are user-friendly, electronic "trees" with stand-up computer terminals and video screens that allow customers to access the Discovery Channel's multimedia technology in a fun format, says Malone. The media towers also help delineate the store and break it into departments based on programming or interest groups such as geology or astronomy. A large-format TV monitor plays actual Discovery Channel programming throughout the day.

The new store design also incorporates slate flooring and wall surfaces imported from India, fixtures of powder-coated steel and American cherry, and carpets and fabrics with subtle nature themes and patterns.

"Initial results show the wisdom of this marketing concept: The Discovery Channel is successfully merchandising tangible, 3-D extensions of its programming. Consumers are not just watching the network, they're buying a piece of it," asserts Malone.

Another store environment intentionally designed to be more compelling than the products sold is Encompass, Shell Oil Co.'s entry into the specialty retail arena. Encompass helps market the company by presenting a 3-D manifestation of its brand in an environment where customers are not used to seeing such products.

"Shell felt it needed a vehicle to explain that the firm is more than a gas station," explains Malone. "It is a company involved in the lives of most Americans in a variety of ways. Communicating this message and having fun doing it were the primary catalysts for the store."

In a nutshell, with today's cheaper gas prices infringing on many oil companies' share of customer brand loyalty, Shell chose retail as the vehicle to tell consumers about its commitment to the environment, the millions of people it employs all over the world, its support of golf and racing, and other corporate stories. Wall murals, an aircraft and oil tank replicas, travel assistance, memorabilia, race cars, a T-bird, an aquarium with off-shore drilling rig, and other elements work together in seamless fashion with the store's architecture, graphics, icons and signage to tell the company's stories.

"Subconsciously, customers be-lieve that when they buy Shell toys, gifts and other merchandise, they are supporting Shell's corporate culture worldwide," Malone explains. "Yes, it's a retail business, but more importantly, the store's design and goal is to help customers identify Shell in the marketplace. Even if a venture like this loses money, it costs less to design, build and staff a store in a mall that gets 20 million visitors a year than to buy 60 seconds of network television time."

Big boxes soften and delineate space In the big-box sector, designers at Image by Design of Niles, Ill., a division of Dann Dee Display Fixtures, see a "softening" in terms of design materials and finishes to create more shoppable, individual environments. Wood accents, color and more attention to graphic presentation help define these more convenient shopping environments and assist people in finding specific products.

For example, for Jo-Ann etc's 50,000 sq. ft. prototype fabric, craft and home decor superstores, Image by Design created a graphics program that clearly identifies 35 classifications of merchandise; makes each department visible from the stores' entries; states and clarifies the stores' service programs; and delivers a handcrafted look with colors that complement the retailer's existing logo of purple, hot pink and teal.

Karin Pryor, Image by Design's executive director, says design strategies for the Jo-Ann etc stores include a hand-drawn icon program that identifies merchandise shops; large-scale, natural canvas banners that communicate a handcrafted look for the icons and identification text; and a wood-block print effect for the icon and background artwork. Colors from the existing logo were deepened to jewel-tone variations of violet, magenta and emerald. Sight-line organization in banner placement provides clear viewing within the space, and the banners were grouped to create a more substantial visual statement in scale with the big-box space. Improved organization of service-offering messages and their strategic, eye-level placement in floor units emphasize and clarify the services, says Pryor.

Flexible interiors Image by Design's managing director, Renee Ruffolo, also notes a trend toward flexible, modular architectural interiors that are portable rather than fixed, to help respond to changing needs and help maintain budgets. "Today's retailers constantly need to change their environments to suit the ever-changing requirements of their customers and their stores' merchandise," she says. "The shell of the space can be almost vanilla, if the architecture of the free-standing items including the merchandising elements, which must be moved around easily within the space, provides the visual impact, in lieu of costly construction."

Austad's Golf, for example, required such a merchandising system for its 6,500 sq. ft. prototype store in Omaha, Neb. Ruffolo reports that the overall design objective for the prototype was to develop a universal merchandising system that doubled as the major architectural elements for use throughout the store, and allowed for complete shop reconfiguration. The design also needed to create a lifestyle shopping experience for golf-related products, generate a contemporary look that was visually respectful to the "tradition" of golf, enhance the high-end luxury appeal of the merchandise, and maximize space usage to maintain merchandise selections while downsizing from current store area.

Image by Design responded with a wall fixturing system based on a universal wall mounting system with interchangeable panels and accessories, movable wall partitions placed to subdivide product categories, and cabinetry that acts as an architectural element in place of actual built-in millwork. Wall areas maximize usage for merchandising while the floor area is kept as open as possible. Even the floor fixturing is movable. Other concepts include high-impact, interactive elements positioned to create a lifestyle statement, traditional colors and simplified, freshened details.

"Budget is maintained for Austad's Golf with simplified architectural detail, a cost-effective lighting system, value engineered fixturing and basic finish materials," Ruffolo explains. "A higher-end look is achieved with a rich color palette along with strategic and moderate use of fabric wall covering, cherry wood trim and terra cotta floor tile."

Flexible interior spaces that allow retailers to be more productive within smaller areas is definitely a strong trend today, agrees Bart Forbes, president of Forbes Shea of Freeport, Maine. Forbes says this flexibility and more effective utilization of space is provided in part by store and fixture designs that reflect the special character of a client. Flexibility in design also allows products to be displayed anywhere in the store, without locking the retailer into any one merchandising strategy.

For example, for Lacoste boutiques, the merchandising displays designed by Forbes Shea accommodate any Lacoste SKU, anywhere in the store. Materials including wood, brushed metal and glass are selected to complement the brand's color schemes, providing a basic balance of color throughout the store and allowing an interchange of position and product.

In lieu of decorative walls, Forbes Shea designed an architectural wall that utilizes the Lacoste product itself as artwork, further increasing the utilization of space. Spools of colored thread used in Lacoste products are combined in a collage on the wall, which is "very brilliant against its white background and draws attention to whichever product is displayed nearby," asserts Forbes. "It's one piece of real estate used specifically to celebrate the brand."

There is also an "historic" wall at the cashwrap that features photos and memorabilia of the company's founder, Rene Lacoste, French tennis superstar of the 1920s who revolutionized tennis wear with his short-sleeved knit polo shirts. "The photos and historical memorabilia put a foundation to the breadth and strength of the product line established so many years ago, and help consumers identify with the brand," Forbes maintains.

"What the crocodile logo emblem is to the Lacoste brand, the architectural and historical walls are to the Lacoste stores of today," Forbes says, underscoring that these two design approaches strongly enhance the flexibility and utilization of interior space.

He adds, "Many of our clients are taking a much harder look at overall costs and are aggressively pursuing designs that deliver more flexible, cost-effective space."

Cost-cutting -- a driving force Economics are a major driving force behind the retail designs produced by the Pavlik Design Team of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Observes Steve Terry, chief operating officer for the firm, "Largely due to the consolidation within the retail industry and restriction in capital, there is a profusion of old, tired retail space that requires renovation. Clients want to update their space as efficiently as possible while still providing a powerful impression of renewal. There is an excellent opportunity through design to achieve this objective."

Two of the company's many projects that cost-efficiently provide a vigorous sense of renewal are Florida's Palm Beach Mall and Miami International Mall, reports Terry. The designs of both projects relate strongly to the vernacular of their region to create unique environments that are destination locations, and entail several design executions that are powerful yet inexpensive, Terry says.

For example, both project designs feature lightweight tower adaptations that use much of the buildings' original structures to help reduce costs. The illuminated towers act as destination beacons that reinforce the malls' presence, instantly identify main entrances from the parking areas and offer powerful signage tools.

Completed this past summer, the renovation of Palm Beach Mall also features a series of lightweight gazebos in the concourse and a centralized gazebo seating pavilion at the food court. A lightweight aluminum framework built onto the interior's existing high ceiling enclosed the open space, an "architecture within an architecture" that helped cut costs.

"Lightweight structures that are partially prefabricated offsite are not only cost-efficient, they allow clients to avoid mall downtime due to renovation construction," Terry says.

"The days of massive outlays of cash for renovation projects are long gone," he continues. "Designers have to provide stores and malls with new identities while respecting a tighter budget, and without interfering with daily retail operations. We all have to be more cautious about how funds are spent, and thus more creative on how we undertake our clients' projects."

One strategy that helped control costs at the Palm Beach Mall and Miami International Mall was a mandatory close working relationship between contractor and design team. "Store designers clearly know what they want, but when contractors fully understand the design goals, often they can suggest more cost-efficient methods of delivering those same goals. It can be a laborious effort for both parties, but a very effective process for everyone involved."

Tony Camilletti, vice president of JGA Inc. (formerly known as Jon Greenberg & Associates Inc.) of Southfield, Mich., concurs. "Client budgets are demanding more intelligent approaches to store design," he says. "Clients don't have the ability to spend what they once did, yet they don't want their designs to be affected. The designer's challenge is to be more definitive with the selection of materials and focal items within a retail space, perhaps by using fewer focal points that speak louder to the personality of the brand and environment."

Camilletti also notes that with ongoing retail consolidation, a nationwide retailer's store design must cost-effectively adapt to a variety of architectural environments. For example, AirTouch, a telecommunications products and services company acquiring many other telecommunications providers and stores around the country, required a design that could work in a variety of store sizes, shapes and locations -- whether an office building, regional mall, Main Street environment or urban strip center or freestanding structure.

For the 2,250 sq. ft. prototype AirTouch store in Birmingham, Ala., JGA provided a simple yet effective design concept featuring components that can fill any vanilla box and still consistently communicate the essence of the brand. A modular fixturing system, mural graphics that fall behind product presentations, and round-shaped shelves and display platforms all deliver a sense of proprietary information about the project, says Camilletti, and adapt to a variety of conditions.

Key to the concept is a flexible pole system that utilizes a series of modular components. Its extension attachment system works with any flooring or ceiling condition that AirTouch encounters.

Another objective of the AirTouch prototype store was to provide an unintimidating, user-friendly environment, which was accomplished with warm, neutral materials, wood veneers, light beige finishes, low-voltage lighting and a profusion of graphics targeting shoppers' needs in a customer-friendly manner.

Focus on the customer Camilletti asserts, "With AirTouch as well as our other retail clients, our firm feels strongly about creating environments that allow customers to feel in concert with the brand personality. The store design should evoke a 'Yes!' when consumers ask themselves, 'Is this the attitude I portray? Is this the level of quality that represents my choices and lifestyle? Will I be proud to carry this store's bag or wear the brand's emblem?'

"There are so many ways of accomplishing that goal," Camilletti continues. "For me to say that green or wood is 'in' this year is impossible." He believes, as do others, that each project requires time up front to determine a company's and store's strategic objectives before creating the desired experience for the targeted consumer.

"We don't believe in retail trends," asserts Jeff McCall, senior vice president and strategic client services director for Retail Planning Associates of Columbus, Ohio. "Each client's needs are different. If you look at our portfolio, no two retail solutions will be alike."

RPA's approach to store design is based solely on the targeted consumer's shopping behavior and the desired position of the retail firm, according to McCall. "We play on our clients' strengths and goals, which vary from one to another," he says. "Our job is to uncover those attributes and exploit them, so that when customers encounter a client's store, they can make a clear and instant decision about whether to enter it."

Diane Rambo, senior vice president and creative director for the firm, adds, "Design is an important tool retailers have at their disposal to execute their desired marketing positions. Just as they use advertising, product mix, pricing and location, retailers can use store design as another tool to respond to their desired positioning."

For the TotalCom telecommunications specialty store from Bell Mobility and Bell Canada, RPA research revealed an industry-wide barrier to purchase: consumer confusion. The firm's market analyses, store audits and consumer studies identified the need to educate Bell's diverse consumer segments at the store level. Research further unveiled that consumers would benefit most from a retail scheme that simply correlates the technology with real-life situations that require greater convenience, safety or speed. This approach differed from competitive stores by focusing on the application, not technology.

With lifestyle departments providing visual cues to orient customers, interactive touchpoints, live phones and video conferencing with off-site customer representatives, customers easily reach a suitable solution in the store. Customers follow a suspended serpentine ceiling fixture that reflects nearby lifestyle departments, while the interactive touchpoints blend advertising video footage into a modular-based, self-service information-gathering and sales process. A wall rail system features lifestyle graphics, color coordinated with specific lifestyle departments; the graphics panels also help hide stock for TotalCom's mall-based stores, traditionally short on space.

"The three completed mall-based TotalCom stores rank in the top three places of sales for TotalCom, out of 300 Bell Mobility and Bell Canada retail channels," reports Rambo.

For Modern Woman (USA), a plus-size women's apparel chain, RPA's research disclosed that several design and name changes had been made inconsistently, adversely affecting everything from visual merchandising to storefront design. RPA's repositioning strategy included replacing bland store design with one focusing on the store's fashion-forward assets, and addressing operational drawbacks relating to logomarks, graphics, fixture layout and more. Because Modern Woman relied heavily on markdowns to drive sales, RPA's repositioning also required subtle upscaling that allowed for aspirational buying but did not alienate the bargain-hunting core customer.

RPA established larger paths of circulation around fewer, more customized fixtures to stimulate more ensemble buying; created compelling sightlines and focal points with lighting; enlarged and furnished dressing rooms; selected pale colors for walls as well as fashions, which are more complementary to the plus-size target market; established a roomy seating and coffee comfort zone; and brought feminine curves into the overall new retail identity. Modern Woman's seven prototype stores have already shown a 20% increase in sales.

A core focus on the end consumer is the principal strategy at Robert G. Lyon & Associates Inc. of Schiller Park, Ill. Claims Joe Geoghegan, president, "We don't simply design store space. We analyze the demographics of the target customer, study the client's product, then devise a plan for connecting the two in an environment that plays a supportive role. Our efforts are tied directly into driving sales, not just developing a shell for products to sit within."

Geoghegan points to The Orvis Co. of Manchester, Vt., a mail-order and retail sporting lifestyle outfitter for which Robert G. Lyon re-created the retail experience in neighborhood strip centers and other sites outside of its traditional regional mall locations. After extensive research of the targeted customer's lifestyle and buying habits, the design firm unveiled that Orvis' customers have a strong identification with the brand in specific lifestyle categories. Researchers also showed that they are destination driven, preferring to drive right up to an Orvis store rather than seek it out in a mall.

"We worked closely with this client to absorb the environment of its customer," reports Randy Sattler, director of visual marketing and retail planning for Robert G. Lyon. "We thought we knew what the company and customer lifestyle were all about until we spent several days with Orvis in Vermont, where we really became enlightened."

The new neighborhood locations replaced the regional locations' basic carpeting and ceiling treatments with an old, dry-goods environment, including wood flooring with random planking, pine fixturing, open ceilings, clapboard treatments and historical graphics and signage that relate to the late 1800s, when the company was started.

A key design advantage of moving from the regional malls, where ceilings are low, to strip and power center locations, where ceilings are high and open, was the ability to dramatize the shopping experience by hanging sporting equipment like canoes and large-format graphics from above, Sattler says.

Robert G. Lyon assisted The Florsheim Group with a prototype design that targets a new market for the shoe company: customers years younger than its traditional, middle-age market. Called "@ease," the new store concept "has nothing to do with Florsheim and everything to do with the end customer," says Geoghegan. "These customers aren't looking for a pair of brown wingtips -- at least not yet."

Based on heavy research of the target group, the design firm created an atmosphere of wood, slate, distressed and perforated metal, concrete and loud music. "It's not what you envision when you think of Florsheim," Sattler says, "but the design clearly addresses the younger client group, which Florsheim had not acknowledged."

"The key is to dramatize the retail experience to communicate a lifestyle while focusing on the quality of the product," he continues. "That's a major-league effort across the board at our firm. At the same time, clients also want their space to be different and unique. There's a lot of repetition out there."

More knowledgeable clients Whatever the design, clients that partner more closely with their design firms throughout the design process get greater satisfaction in the end, asserts Camilletti. "Clients that are intimately involved in the design process know up front if they're asking the impossible. They understand the challenges and appreciate the results much more."

He notes that retailers need to be as flexible as possible with their designs so they can respond more quickly to the trends of merchandising, as well as to who they are as a brand and company. "This will require a higher level of understanding from retail executives as well as store employees, but that's where the future will be," says Camilletti. "Knowledgeable clients that adapt quickly to changing retail environments will make the greatest impact on the packaging of the brand."

According to Ruffolo, tomorrow's sales associates will have to become consultants who know and understand the consumer, and who sell service as well as product to support the lifestyle focus of the store design. "Time-starved customers will desire a more stress-free shopping experience, one that brings together all the aspects of the lifestyle they choose," she says. "It is becoming more important that this experience include sales associates who comprehend the store's positioning and can help consumers make buying decisions by understanding the lifestyle with which the customer bonds."

Says Malone, "Retail clients are coming to design projects with a plethora of focus group and marketing data, when years ago they might have had only a familiarity with this information. Today we're working for a knowledgeable customer, one who has different goals than just selling things. They know store design is an important tool; they know it is a powerful vehicle for leveraging their overall corporate culture and brand."