C&A Brazil, São Paulo, Brazil

C&A had been Brazil’s drab and crowded fast-fashion store. Now it’s as bright and trendy as the market it serves
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Posted June 20, 2011
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As a fast-fashion retailer, C&A Brazil plays on the love of beauty and trendiness that’s part of the country’s DNA. But C&A store designs were always about the price points, packing merchandise so densely that shoppers had trouble moving around, getting to the racks, seeing all the goods.

Generally, that formula has worked. But in São Paulo’s Iguatemi shopping center, landlords requested that C&A provide a more fashionable environment in keeping with the mall’s upscale profile. Now, the upgrades in the three-story, 27,000-square-foot Iguatemi store have produced a design dripping with glamour and excitement, interesting architecture and strong visual merchandising.

Chute Gerdeman (Columbus, Ohio) elevated the in-store experience, drawing inspiration from “Espirito Brasileiro” – the soul and spirit of the Brazilian woman. “We created a space shoppers would want to frequent,” says Bess Liscio, Chute Gerdeman’s vp of visual strategy. “It’s exciting and inviting, with new fashion collections, almost daily merchandise changes and events and shows that made this the place to be.”

In a shopping center that features Gucci and Louis Vuitton, plus trendy local brands, the new C&A store became a shining beacon, throwing light out into the mall. And it became a much easier place to shop.

“We created a logic to the floorplan,” says Lynn Rosenbaum, Chute Gerdeman’s vp of environments. “We threw half the existing store fixtures out and replaced them with custom fixturing that clears out the sales floor but still has sufficiently large capacity.”

Significant structural changes included a dramatic new spiral staircase in the center of the space, visible from all over the store. “Previously, shoppers might not even have known there were second and third floors,” says Rosenbaum. “Now, the stairwell provides a circular journey of discovery, with great central sightlines on each of the three floors.”

Designers also referenced Brazil’s celebrated sunshine, “introducing the idea of sunlight into a windowless mall store,” says Jay Highland, Chute Gerdeman’s vp of brand and marketing.

That brightness begins right at the main store entrance, where a kidney-shaped cloud cut into the ceiling is filled with bright, elegant pendant lights. “We were hampered by low ceilings,” says Rosenbaum. “Creating coves of light was a way to get some height into the space and reduce the overhead compression.”

A highly polished tile floor reflects the light from above. And throughout are gold accents, “the color of sunshine,” notes Liscio.

Adding to the light and energy is a spectacular three-story digital wall wrapping the staircase, providing an ever-changing LED display of shapes, colors, light and motion. “The content is up to the retailer,” says Highland, “but we advised them not to make this a fashion runway or advertising billboard. Let the abstract patterns and motions do their job, pulling shoppers through the store and up the stairs.”

On the upper floors, Chute Gerdeman created a series of boutiques. In the shoe department, where C&A had been known for mass presentations, collections are now displayed by style. Sales associates are on hand to bring merchandise out from the stockroom.

Similarly, the lingerie area has become a semi-private boutique complete with a champagne bar. “It’s very European,” says Liscio. “Shoppers stay, they linger, they want to be in there.”

The entire third floor is the new kids’ department – the only children’s shop in the entire mall – complete with interactive play areas and two colorful licensed departments for Barbie and Hot Wheels-related merchandise.

This is not to say C&A Brazil has abandoned all its old concepts in favor of this new, higher-end look and feel. But, says Liscio, it does show the retailer some new and positive ways to express its brand in this trendy and demanding marketplace.

Project suppliers

Retailer: C&A Brazil, São Paulo, Brazil
Design: Chute Gerdeman, Columbus, Ohio
Furniture/Fixtures: Seven Continents, Toronto; Alu, New York; Madearte, São Paulo, Brazil; Mão Colorida, Paraná, Brazil; MiCasa, São Paulo, Brazil; Desmobilia, São Paulo, Brazil; C.O.D. Creative Original Design, São Paulo, Brazil; Arango, Miami; Kartell, São Paulo, Brazil; Maria Jovem, São Paulo, Brazil
Mannequins: Expor, São Paulo, Brazil; Seven Continents, Toronto
Lighting: Osram, São Paulo, Brazil; Tom Dixon, London; Tensoflex, Bogota, Colombia; Kartell, São Paulo, Brazil; Seven Continents, Toronto