Atlanta, Georgia

Understanding consumer demographics

Today, retail design is more than just creating exciting spaces. “Understanding and designing for customer demographics has become the single most important factor in retail design,” says J. Thomas Porter, senior principal at Atlanta-based Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates (TVS). “It should drive every decision made in the design process.”

At TVS each retail design process begins with an in-depth study of the project's existing demographics coupled with the client's team review of whether the customer base will change or alter in the future. TVS has named this process “design through customer demographic,” or the DCD process.

TVS strengthened the DCD process with a continuing study of trends generated by specific demographic groups. The affect of diversity is another crucial component of the DCD process.

Understanding who the client's customer is and how they shop, both today and in the future, provides TVS with the ability to tailor not only aesthetic decisions, but more importantly, planning and leasing approaches to the project.

At Short Pump Town Center in suburban Richmond, Va., TVS worked with developer Forest City of Cleveland to create an entirely new concept that relates to the customer and the tenant mix.

Scheduled for a September 2003 opening, this upscale regional mall is designed as a two-level, 1.2-million-sq.-ft. open-air, lifestyle village. Oriented along a pedestrian promenade, the layout and occupants reflect the wide range of existing demographics, while taking into account the increasing number of future upscale customers. “This is a shopping experience designed for the Richmond customer of today and tomorrow,” notes Hank Spiker, a principal at TVS.

Another excellent example of the DCD process at work is Triangle Town Center in Raleigh, N.C. Opened in August 2002 and designed for The Richard E. Jacobs Group, this dramatic and inviting center reflects the community in every way, from the inside/outside shopping experience, to the lifestyle spaces created around and within the center.

“Each side of the enclosed portion of the center has its own personality, expressing the unique relevance of Raleigh. People enjoy the experience because it reflects their authentic culture and lifestyle. The customer takes ownership of the center as they continue to return to Triangle Town Center,” says Mark Carter, a senior principal at TVS.

Triangle Town Center also incorporated the expertise of Callison Architects, one of three founding members, along with TVS, of Insight Alliance, a strategic association of world-class design firms. Formed three years ago, the Alliance also includes Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo. “If a client chooses to work with the Alliance, they are provided with the combined talent, expertise, and resources of the world's leaders in retail, mixed use, hotel, and convention center design,” adds Porter.

Advancing the client's vision with a clear and focused understanding of their customer and related tenants has proven to be tremendously successful for TVS and financially beneficial for their clients.