Like any other fashion retailer, Guess? Inc. (Los Angeles) has to stay ahead of the style curve, keeping its assortments, presentations and stores up to date. But with more than 400 stores in the U.S. and Canada, the struggle to keep each location refreshed and modern can be a daunting one. The current economy makes across-the-board changes difficult. Frequent changes in fashion and taste make quick reactions challenging. And the brand was finding, too, that different locations were requesting different things from headquarters. If it wanted to maximize each store’s production, Guess needed to know what problems each regional director was having.
“We developed our Wish List program to encourage direct response from the field,” says Vember Stuart-Lilley, Guess special projects manager, retail development. “We asked our regional directors to tell us what they need.”
The program began as a way for the company to provide minor touch-ups and store maintenance across North America as needed. But, says Brett Horton, Guess director of store design, it has become a way to identify problems and make changes that seem major but without a major expenditure. “As business needs have evolved in the fashion industry, we now need a way to keep our stores relevant without a full remodel,” Horton says. “For a small investment, we can update and refresh our existing stores by focusing on key categories.”
From Chicago came the request for a bigger presence in denim and accessories. And the two-story, 12,500-square-foot flagship store on Michigan Avenue had become drab, with a palette of maple perimeter cabinets that needed updating.
“As a Wish List project, we looked at all of the existing conditions, fixtures and space to evaluate what we could re-use in order to be more environmentally conscious, time-effective and budget-aware,” says Horton. Thus, a thorough retrofit of such a big space seemed impractical. It might require a large investment and the closing of a very important store for several days. The preference was for something that would reinvent the environment; would re-use existing fixtures, lighting and flooring as much as possible; and could be completed after store hours.
“One of the most dated aspects of this store was the maple cabinetry,” says Stuart-Lilley. “We realized we could get a cleaner, more modern look by updating that.” The simple solution to cheap and painless updating was ProBond, a coating product from ProCoat Products Inc. (Holbrook, Mass.) that can be applied to any material. A “super white” finish was spray-painted on all the perimeter maple cabinets, floor fixtures and fitting rooms.
The product, says Stuart-Lilley, is quick-dry, minimizing the store’s downtime. It’s also durable, she says, which means it won’t have to be revisited soon. And it’s environmentally friendly. It has a low VOC level that’s well within LEED standards. And by reusing existing fixturing throughout the store, Guess reduced the demand for new materials and the need for solid waste disposal.
The retailer retained all the existing lighting and flooring and 95 percent of its existing perimeter and floor fixtures.
Within its new all-white environment, the retailer did some minor interior construction, expanding its handbags presentation from 24 to 36 square feet and adding new watch cases and towers and a new suspended, acrylic window unit from B&N Industries (Burlingame, Calif.). Designers also edged the white walls with a gray wood veneer material and added black and white flocking in various places.
“The application immediately created a more visibly spacious environment and a direct focus on our accessories and denim,” says Horton. And it was completed within four days at a cost of roughly a third of a typical remodel.