Forty-six-year-old Danish shoe manufacturer and retailer Ecco has always cut a modest-sized figure on the retail scene, with stores averaging just over 600 square feet. And while these cozier spaces certainly have their place, they put severe limitations on the brand’s ability to show its full range. “We offer everything for the family, so in these stores, depending on the location, a selection has to be made,” explains Albert Kristensen, Ecco’s concept manager for international retail. “We haven’t been able to show it all.”
Until now. In a move marking a change of strategy and a desire to be a major city-center retailer, Ecco took a bold step last year with the opening of its new Cologne, Germany, flagship. The 4300-square-foot bootbox of a space dwarfs its nearest rival within the Ecco stable, a 1700-square-foot store in Copenhagen.
Arranged on two floors, the Cologne store puts the brand’s entire collection on offer and presents it to the world via a double-height, glazed frontage. Just inside the main entrance, formal footwear sets the stage before giving way to more casual styles as shoppers progress toward the rear. At the back of the store is the kids’ shop.
The second floor – strategically scented to evoke a fresh lawn – features an area for sports shoes and a discreet “golf universe.” There’s also a 250-square-foot, 12-seat, café-like area where shoppers can enjoy a free cappuccino or latte while they “hang out for a little bit, looking at the sports shoes,” says Kristensen.
The café’s furniture, with tables and chairs inspired by Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen, provides a strong hint about the store’s underlying design ethic. “Danish design is very simple and stark,” says Kristensen. “But what we have tried to do in this flagship is to blend Danish design, with its emphasis on individual pieces, with a more integrated environment to generate an international feel. We wanted the Danishness, but without the starkness.”
Ecco considers itself a premium brand and the Cologne store is meant to reflect this, as evidenced by the quality of the finishes and materials throughout. A light-colored oak ceiling pays homage to the brand’s Scandinavian heritage; the floor is formed of 23-inch-square Italian ceramic tiles. A couple of tech-savvy gizmos puts another modern stamp on the place: A touch-screen, wayfinding device guides shoppers to their desired destination within the shop, while a glass and stainless-steel shoe elevator, located in the middle of the main floor, is an eye-catching way of getting product to either of the selling levels from the stockroom.
Lighting is a mood-setter. Says Kristensen: “We have three different types: functional product lighting; ambient LEDs used at the front of the store and on some of the fixturing; and light that changes color in the kids’ shop.” Practically, this means that whether it’s the spots recessed into a black canopy high above the cash wrap, or the colored strip lighting used to define the open-sided wardrobe displays in the kids’ area, the focus is on “the right lighting, in the right place,” as Kristensen puts it.
While the Cologne flagship may be big, it’s not a one-off. This is a modular design that’s conveniently portable. Between now and 2013, Ecco plans to open more large-footprint stores, with New York high on its wish list.