The Limited does not consider itself simply a women's specialty clothing retailer. It strives to be one of the major authorities on style and sophistication under the umbrella of its namesake company, The Limited Inc. (Columbus, Ohio).
As such, the company decided it needed to reposition itself and go after a slightly more sophisticated shopper. And, since The Limited considers the store a big part of the brand, it also needed a dramatic new design to coincide. Where better to develop its new prototype than at Easton Town Center in Columbus, right in its own corporate backyard?
Les Wexner, president and ceo of The Limited, developed Easton Town Center as a combination of indoor and outdoor retail, dining and entertainment experiences. The recently added Fashion District is an exotic mix of suburban mall and urban streetscape. The 8000-square-foot Limited store, developed to open at the same time the Fashion District debuted in October 2001, has become the prototype for the evolving Limited brand.
The street-side storefront is reminiscent of a vintage bank building, with canvas awnings and a dramatic double pane glass entryway. According to Ricky Ney, director of visual merchandising for The Limited, "Once our customer crosses the lease line, we've tried to show her an endless array of outfits and wardrobing through the entire store."
The store revolves around a three-room concept, in which different product stories are told from room to successive room, generating visual excitement. The first story, right inside the entrance to the long and rectangular store, is told by a large platform showcasing eight mannequins and several looks. These mannequins are an important new design element not fully utilized by The Limited in the past. Mannequins traditionally represent "style" for the young, professional American woman, so the design team went full speed ahead in letting the fiberglass ladies speak to the customers.
"In most of our current stores, we use bust forms, because that had become the trend," says Ney. "But clothing has been fast-tracking and evolving to be more body-conscious, to take on a sexier and more feminine point of view. It's all about system dressing and wardrobing, and the mannequins achieve that better than bust forms." Carol Barnhart Inc. (New York) manufactured the entire mannequin collection and added the unusual element of hands and feet, another new concept premiering in the Easton store. Completing the idea of system dressing, jewelry and hosiery can be shown on the mannequins, making them versatile options to help the customer visualize the entire wardrobe look.
A clean, simple background was needed to elevate the various story lines. According to Kathleen Baldwin, director of prototype design for The Limited, the front room is designed to show the newest and freshest looks. The striking, mannequin-heavy platform is the first element the customer sees. "Very often, you walk in a store and see mannequins dispersed evenly throughout, but we wanted a higher impact," Baldwin says. "That's why we have these big, centralized display platforms with all the different looks of the season. Grouping them together is visual eye candy pulling you into the store and leading you into the next room."
Also in the first room, a puck wall system showcases approximately 75 interrelated separates, hung facing out to display the whole outfit. The focal walls allow the customer to see several "looks" very quickly, says Baldwin.