Because identity is inextricably linked with the past, Speedo International (London) wanted its first wholly owned store to reflect the full-spectrum of the brand's journey. The 2700-square-foot, two-level flagship on Neal Street in London's Covent Garden doesn't just plumb the depths of its performance swimwear. It runs ashore with the fun-loving beach clothes of Speedo's Australian homeland.
"In the U.K. and the U.S., the Speedo brand is known for its sports affiliation," explains Clive Hunt, a senior designer at Checkland Kindleysides (Leicester, England), the firm that handled the store design. "We wanted to create a global flagship that returned Speedo to its leisure roots in Australia." Since Speedo's birth in Sydney in 1928, the brand has been sold by the American and British retailers who licensed it. For the first time, the Covent Garden location unfurls as Speedo's own, nascent design: The ground floor resembles a sun-kissed boardwalk, enveloped in warm, sandy colors and lined with Speedo's leisurewear; the basement level, clad in cooler tones suggestive of water, houses the sleek performance-wear that has made Speedo famous.
Checkland Kindleysides left the unique infrastructure mostly undisturbed. But some features, like the storefront, couldn't slip by without a facelift. The new front, laced with anodized aluminum and lustrous stainless steel, features a frameless glass entry and a large display window. A new, stylized Speedo sign "more in keeping with the professional side of the corporate image" glows above the doorway -- an illuminated blue lozenge brandishing the characteristic red boomerang.
Customers entering through the glass doors have the option of turning right, toward clusters of merchandise, or continuing up a ramp into the center of the ground floor. This "boardwalk," made of natural timbers, serves a dual purpose: to eliminate the height discrepancy between the sidewalk and the floor levels, and to make the store wheelchair-accessible.
At the ground-floor entrance, four acrylic ceiling panels, decorated with melted resin and colored light, create a blue and aqua rippled-water effect. A Speedo juice bar fits neatly into its own niche opposite the entrance, a prime example of how the design concedes nicely to the disparate ceiling heights. Declaring "Speedo: Refuel," the smooth, light-colored bar is replete with smoothies, juices and coffees, all sporting the crisp logo. Colored lights, suggestive of fruit flavors, bounce off the black countertop for a bright, "punchy" look.
The curves of the lowered-ceiling sections also serve to guide customers through the ground floor, which features a new merchandising system consisting of a flexible gridwork with colorful, vacuum-formed acrylic panels in rounded, organic shapes. Lightboxes and graphics can be punched into the framework, affording design and display versatility.
The flagship space has been adulterated in one other major way: the location of the staircase that leads to the basement floor. "Basements can be problem areas for retailers," Hunt says. "We had to be able to grab people's attention and bring them downstairs." Speedo had the staircase moved to the center of the ground floor, visible from the front door and adjacent to the juice bar. An eye-catching backwall display, composed of bright, watery-looking lightboxes flush-fitted from floor to ceiling, acts as a visual undertow, drawing customers to the stairs and into the performance-wear section below.
At the bottom of the stairs, a wetsuit stands out against a luminous white mannequin; dark athletic swimsuits adorn the walls, precisely arranged on stiff torso-shaped hangers. Elliptical bench seats, which nest glowing lightboxes in the center of their soft fabric, seem to hover beside the dressing rooms. The dressing rooms themselves are pertinent nodes of the flagship, with doors resembling portals on a ship. While the dressing rooms upstairs feature beach graphics, such as the exotic sands of Copacabana and Malibu, the fitting rooms downstairs boast images of swimmers exploding through water.
Client: Speedo International, London -- Georgina Collicutt, international brand manager
Design Team: Checkland Kindleysides, Leicester, England -- Wendy Ingham, account director; Karen Robertson and Tony Bell, senior project managers; Lee Draycott and Clive Hunt, senior designers
Flooring: Amtico Intl., Atlanta Lighting: Into Lighting, London
Signage: Sygnet Signs, Leicester, England
Audio/Visual: Pel, London Fixtures, Furniture, Mannequins, Props and Graphics: Checkland Kindleysides, London
Photography: Adrian Wilson, Macclesfield, England