Mikasa was looking for a way to bring its products - ranging from dinnerware and tabletop to barware, weekend and outdoor accessories and art glass - to more than just couples registering for their first china pattern or looking to replace a broken gravy boat.
While the tabletop designer and marketer has traditionally operated outlet stores, it opened a full-price store with 4300 square feet of selling space in Woodfield Mall (Schaumburg, Ill.), segmented around showcasing the depth and breadth of the Mikasa family of products.
"This store strives to be about making living more gracious," says Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA (Southfield, Mich.). "It's not just about what's the next holiday or what's my next event, but about tools for living well."
Reinforcing Mikasa's reputation for design and style, the store features an art studio-like environment with departments organized according to lifestyle to reflect different shoppers' tastes and design styles. The five zoned departments include Asian-inspired "fusion," sophisticated "city" and the more rustic "country" areas, as well as the traditional product-focused departments of tabletop and stemware and Salviati art glass.
"The product-focused departments are more about selecting which design I want," says Nisch. "The other zones are more about selecting which lifestyle I want to live in."
To showcase these lifestyles within each department, fixtures and merchandise displays center around eclectic presentations of products rather than more conventional tabletop displays. "I wanted to make sure that every fixture communicated a sense of discovery, energy and creativity," says Diane Perry, Mikasa's director of merchandising for specialty stores.
Islands of slab-like fixtures at varying heights were favored over traditional gondolas or nesting tables. Perry used the top surface as the tabletop reference, pulling together a collection of products in a non-formal style, while additional products relating to that particular lifestyle are presented underneath. "So when shoppers come into the store, they feel like they can invent a table that reflects their unique personality," she says.
In other cases, Perry used etageres that are more visible within shoppers' sightlines to present a gathering of uniquely shaped or eclectic product styles. Wall fixtures are reserved for more traditional product displays, while Salviati art glass is in a gallery-like presentation.
"Each piece or small collection fits in its own fixed perimeter so that it's almost like seeing a painting in a frame," says Perry.
Breaking down the "do not touch" barrier often associated with tabletop retail, Perry used tactile and textural elements to invite shoppers to touch and explore the products. A tray made out of hyacinth grass may display dinnerware, while a linens program may spice up another display. To avoid the clanking sound of glass on glass that inhibits customers from touching the merchandise, small clear rubber cushions were put on the bottoms of crystal pieces.
"It's being aware of all of the senses," says Perry. "Like making sure crystal is going back on something soft and tactile, not on something hard."
Illuminated white shelving, textured woods and brushed silver metal fixtures provide a contrast to the smooth, high-finish products. On the walls, a brick veneer was painted in white wash.
Around the perimeter, stained walnut wood flooring further contrasts with the colorful products and displays, while white marble tiles in two sizes are used in the entryway and in the center of the store, underneath a vaulted ceiling. "Part of this was to add a bit of that Old World, heritage feel," says Nisch, "while the wood is much more contemporary and modern-looking."
Metal halide track lighting complements the studio design, while in the gallery-like setting for the Salviati art glass, designers chose fully adjustable recessed halogen lighting.
Adding a whimsical touch throughout the store are three chandeliers, constructed as handcrafted iron aperatures to display stemware, tabletop and accessories. "Mikasa has tabletop in its blood," says Nisch. "So why not use it as a decorative element in the space?"
The chandeliers can also be used for seasonal displays. At Christmas, red and green glassware, plates and goblets are featured.
"The whole environment is upbeat, celebratory and festive - not that kind of formal coldness that you generally find in the tabletop world," says Nisch.
Laszlo Regos Photography, Berkley, Mich.Mikasa's new multi-lifestyle store in Woodfield Mall is arranged in zones to reflect different shoppers' tastes, including Asian-inspired "fusion," "city" and "country." In a display from "fusion," items from several product categories are arranged in an eclectic presentation.
Client: Mikasa, Secaucus, N.J. - Susan Saideman, ceo; Joe Schkufza, director, store planning; Diane Perry, director of merchandising for specialty stores
Design: JGA Inc., Southfield, Mich. - Ken Nisch, chairman; Kathi McWilliams, creative director; Mike McCahill, project manager
Outside Design Consultant: Gary Steffy, Ann Arbor, Mich. (lighting)
General Contractor: Sajo, Montreal
Suppliers: Erco, Edison, N.J., Lightolier, Fall River, Mass., Halo/Cooper Industries, Peachtree City, Ga. (lighting); Buell, Dallas (floors); Waterworks, Birmingham, Mich. (wall tile); Builders Furniture Ltd., Winnepeg, Man. (fixtures); Matrix Fixtures Inc., New York (window pole system); Greneker Solutions, Los Angeles (storefront columns); Decor Group, Clawson, Mich. (graphics/signage); Wilsonart Intl., Temple, Texas, Pionite, Auburn, Maine (laminates); Veneer Specialists, Chicago (wood); Benjamin Moore, Montvale, N.J. (paint)