Today’s mass merchant retail sector is full of formidable competition. There’s Target, with its emphasis on trendy, cutting-edge fashions and home decor. Wal-Mart dominates on price, especially when it comes to commodities. Kohl’s serves the market with affordably fashionable home and apparel items.
Shopko has carved out a niche in the Midwest as a place for value, focusing on apparel, home and family basics, as well as health services. (It very aggressively markets its in-store pharmacies and optical centers.)
“Whereas Target is about ‘me,’ we want Shopko to be about ‘we,’ ” says Jane Carrott-Van Auken, Shopko’s vp, store planning, design and visual merchandising. “Our customer is conservative and geared toward family.”
But much of Shopko’s differentiation was getting lost in old, outdated stores that focused more on hardlines with little fashion inspiration or emphasis on aesthetics. “Our stores were too utilitarian,” says
Carrott-Van Auken. “And we hadn’t built a new store in eight years. It had become prime time to redevelop.”
So the Green Bay, Wis.-based company turned to design firm Chute Gerdeman (Columbus, Ohio), hoping the firm’s specialty in boutiques would provide some much-needed retail therapy. “Their stores were all gray and homogenized,” says Brian Shafley, Chute’s president and creative director, environments. “We wanted to give them some soul.”
In its old format, Shopko’s stores were divided into apparel and hardline, with customers directed in a loop around the store before coming to a bank of cash registers and the exit. “The layout didn’t expose the customer to any storytelling or focal points,” says Shafley. “It was just functional.”
So the new 80,000-square-foot prototype on display in Suamico, Wis., north of Green Bay, places apparel front and center with color-coded departments for men, women and children/infants. A new circular jewelry display anchors the store center, while three destinations along the perimeter, for cosmetics, family entertainment and furniture, radiate out from this core, creating “worlds of merchandise,” says Shafley. “The layout rocked Shopko’s world. It forced them to rethink how they put categories together.”
The designers also challenged Shopko to rename its electronics department, located along the back wall, as “family entertainment” to better appeal to women and open up the possibility for cross-merchandising. “All the things that would make a great Friday night, including popcorn, toys, puzzles, magazines and electronics, are together now,” says Shafley. “It helps reinforce the idea that Shopko’s about the family”
The retailer wants customers to feel its new format is a home away from home, so it added accent lighting, painted moldings, large picture frames, oversized armoires and picture rails that run the perimeter of the store. Large-scale graphic patterns and framed lifestyle imagery layered into the background also punch up the environment.
Featured visual displays create “windows on the aisle” to highlight new products or fashionable merchandise. “So you’re not looking at a sea of racks,” says Bess Anderson, Chute Gerdeman’s director, visual strategy. “And even if you only shop the aisles, you get a sense of outfitting as well as key items.”
Another customer-centric improvement is the four banks of fitting rooms added to each apparel department. In the past, Shopko’s fitting rooms were off in a corner, forcing shoppers to walk across the store just to try on a shirt. Now, each fitting room bank is defined by a horizontally striped design motif. The banks also give the retailer a backdrop for merchandising product within each department.
Shopko also breathed life back into its in-store health services. While it has offered those services since the 1960s, the businesses were clinical and offered few visual cues to attract shoppers’ attention. The new format places both optical and pharmacy in the front of the store and uses a sweeping curved wall to create a unified identity. Armchairs for waiting customers and warm, residential finishes were also added.
Perhaps the only thing designers didn’t touch was the product mix. Or did they? “Customers come up and comment on our new merchandise,” says Carrott-Van Auken, “but the fact is, it’s the same merchandise we carry in our other stores. It’s just re-merchandised, so they’re able to find items they couldn’t before.”
Client: Shopko, Green Bay, Wis. -- Jane Carrott-Van Auken, vp, store planning, design and visual merchandising; Andrea Kuhlemeier, project manager, store planning and design; Bill Zuercher, director, creative and graphics; Jim DePaul, director, construction, facilities and finance; John Harmon, manager, construction; Cindy Ruge, construction, project manager
Design: Chute Gerdeman Retail, Columbus, Ohio -- George Nauman, Principal; Brian Shafley, Creative Director, Environments; Wendy Johnson, EVP, Account Management; Adam Limbach, VP, Brand Communications; Bess Anderson, Director, Visual Strategy; Steve Pottschmidt, Director, Design Development; Katie Clements, Trends and Materials Specialist; Matt Jeffries, Designer, Brand Communications; Elaine Evans, Designer, Brand Communications; George Waite, Designer, Graphic Production
Architect: Progressive AE, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Laminates: Abet Laminati, Prince Frederick, Md.; Wilsonart, Columbus, Ohio; Formica, Cincinnati
Special Finishes: Burton Moldings, Richmond, B.C.
Ceramic Tile: Daltile, Blue Ash, Ohio
Flooring: Centiva, Florence, Ala.; Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pa.; American Tile Inc., Jeffersonville, Ind.; Durkan, Calhoun, Ga.; Beaulieau, Adairsville, Ga.
Wallcoverings: DL Couch, New Castle, Ind.; MDC, Elk Grove, Ill.
Paint: Benjamin Moore, Strongsville, Ohio
Fabrics: HBF Textiles, Cincinnati
Furniture: Emmons Commercial Interiors, Madison, Wis.
Display Accessories: Bernstein Display, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Econoco, Hicksville, N.Y.; Mondo Mannequins, Hicksville, N.Y.; Seven Continents, Toronto; ADF, Ladysmith, Wis.
Graphics/Signage: Great Big Pictures, Madison, Wis.; Yunker, Lake Geneva, Wis.; Wild Blue Industries, DePere, Wis.
Fixtures: Drieselman Manufacturing, Quincy, Ill.; DeLeers Millwork, Green Bay, Wis.; Vira Manufacturing, Perth Amboy, N.J.; Carlson Co., Madison, Wis.; Lozier, Omaha, Neb.; Madix, Goodwater, Ala.; Mii, Lincoln, Ill.; T&R, West Bend, Wis.; Randall, Bowling Green, Ky.
Photography: Image Studios, Appleton, Wis.