What makes a retail space special? Striking design, of course; great products, too. But to maintain an edge over competitors, retailers are finding they have to give shoppers other reasons for visiting their stores.

A Dick's Sporting Goods prototype store, for example, lets you practice your golf swing while, say, your daughter is perfecting her archery technique. Geoffrey, the new megastore chain from the Toys ‘R’ Us family, has children's hair stylists and photographers for family snapshots. Mazda provides espresso and PlayStations.

That's entertainment — retail style.

In the age of easy Internet purchasing and one-stop buying, retailers are doing everything they can to attract shoppers and their families — and keep them in the store for hours. With this in mind, designers are revolutionizing interior spaces by targeting the shoppers' imagination through texture, sound, color and movement.

“You have to always remember that you're creating an exciting moment for the customer,” says Russ Sway, president of the Institute of Store Planners. “When they walk into a store, you want them to say ‘wow’ to the products that have already existed.”

For most retailers remodeling is routine, often done every five to seven years to freshen the look and attract new shoppers. “It's important to redesign so that the new store down the street won't seem more appealing because it has a fresher coat of paint and trendier graphics,” says Robert Mooney, a former retailer who is now senior designer at Carter & Burgess in Texas. “They want to make sure that they keep up with the Joneses.”

On the following pages, we present some elegant designs and some practical ones that opened in the past year. These uncommon spaces have more to set them off than just attractive fixtures.

PRADA EPICENTER

OPENED: June

DESIGNER: Herzog & de Meuron

LOCATION: Tokyo

SIZE: 28,000 sq. ft

CONCEPT: Part futuristic, part jewel-box, Prada's newest epicenter blends shopping spaces with open spaces — providing in-house plazas. The transparent, crystallized setting is a hybrid of shapes — TV monitors resembling Hollywood's vision of aliens and amoeba-like table tops. The exterior incorporates steel mesh with hundreds of glass panels to create a diamond effect. Finally, lunar-sensitive slide projectors illuminate various shapes and change colors, from green-orange to icy blue when the moon is full outside.

DICK'S SPORTING GOODS

OPENED: January

DESIGNER: FRCH

LOCATION: Robinson, Pa.

STORE SIZE: 75,000 sq. ft.

CONCEPT: Dick's family-comes-first image highlights the sporting life for all generations-from preteen hockey players to weekend hunters to grandpas who fish. FRCH created a design that mixes stadium images with an outdoorsy feel, with added attractions including a driving range and a shooting range. Red brick columns, vinyl wood (which provides a dewy look) and stone flooring help set the mood. “We're trying to project the personality of family and give off emotional cues about the great outdoors,” says Paul Lechleiter, FRCH's head principal.

MAZDA

OPENED: December 2002

DESIGNER: Design Forum

LOCATION: Bountiful, Utah

SIZE: 19,000 sq. ft.

CONCEPT: Mazda's new, sportier prototype aims to bring in 20-somethings who had forgotten the brand. Showroom features include a café, a Sony PlayStation area and an Internet center. Concrete, glass, rubber and corrugated metal add a scent of testosterone.

BARNEYS CO-OP

OPENED: August

DESIGNER: Robert G. Lyon & Associates

LOCATION: South Beach, Fla.

SIZE: 9,000 sq. ft

CONCEPT: Using a retro approach to attract a young, urban demographic, RGLA and Barneys CO-OP's creative staff designed the duplex store with faux-vintage mini-refrigerators, recycled wood and colored silhouettes. The team incorporated floating light boxes and sky-blue mannequins. “The whole store is designed for shoppers with eclectic tastes and an appreciation for high fashion,” says Randy Sattler, RGLA vice-president of marketing and retail solutions.

GEOFFREY

OPENED: Fall 2002

DESIGNER: Retail Planning Associates

LOCATION: Jacksonville, N.C.

SIZE: 40,000 sq. ft

CONCEPT: Targeting mothers with hectic schedules, RPA pieced together an all-purpose center for Geoffrey, a mega-store that sells products from Toys ‘R’ Us, Babies ‘R’ Us and Kids ‘R’ Us. Offering more than just a short stop for Game Boys, RPA sectioned off various rooms for specific needs — a children's hair salon, a portrait studio and party room. “It's all about the store being a ritual in a family's life,” says Mark Artus, RPA's chief creative officer.