Underground, Calgary, Alb.

VMSD Retail Renovation of the Year ... and More Award Winners
Posted September 13, 2010
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Retail Renovation of the Year: Renovation - Specialty Store, Sales Area under 10,000 square feet
Underground, Calgary, Alb.
Ruscio Studio Inc., Montreal

Robert Ruscio says if there’s one lesson to be learned from his award-winning renovation of apparel retailer Underground, it’s the importance of having a position.

“Retailers need to be the real thing and not the be all/end all to everyone,” says Ruscio, principal designer of his Montreal-based firm.

In the case of Underground, that meant taking an anti-mainstream approach to reflect a hip “underground” world with urban inspirations. Those references include subway grab bars and metal chains affixed to the flooring and ceiling for hanging clothes in the fitting rooms, yellow safety marker tape to demark the men’s and women’s areas, and a Calgary transit map as an in-store graphic. A collage of concert and event posters collected from three cities across Canada provides interest to the cashwrap area. “This was one way of making it real,” says Ruscio.

Those elements also set the tone without screaming in shoppers’ faces. “You can say ‘underground’ without saying Underground,” he says. “That’s what this demographic relates to.”

It also resonated with the judges, who appreciated the store transformation as an example of many things done well. “It raises the standard,” says Barb Beeghly, vp, FRCH Design Worldwide (Cincinnati).

Behind the scenes, one of the greatest challenges in this renovation story was taking the brand’s previous two adjacent spaces – a metallic-inspired space for men and a dark, dated one for women – and combining them into one unified environment.

Ruscio also worked with the retailer to create a more efficient and effective product presentation, including a hierarchy of signage and a new flexible fixturing system that celebrated Underground’s impressive denim offering, including Diesel, G-Star and William Rast. “You’re not just selling goods, you’re selling an image,” he says.

VMSD Retail Renovation Competition Judging Panel

Barb Beeghly, vp, planning and merchandising, FRCH Design Worldwide
Eric Daniel, executive creative director, WD Partners
Ken Pray, director, store design, The Kroger Co.
Jan Tribbey, vp, store design and construction, Victoria’s Secret Stores, Limited Brands

First Place: Conversion – Specialty Store, Sales Area under 10,000 square feet
Jenny Lee, Newport Beach, Calif.
Richard McCormack Design, Costa Mesa, Calif.
For more on this project, click here.

First Place: Renovation – Supermarket
Landmark, Makati city, Philippines
Hugh A. Boyd Architects, Montclair, N.J.
For more on this project, click here.

Honorable Mentions:

Renovation – Specialty Store, Sales Area under 10,000 square feet
White House | Black Market
Houston Galleria, Houston, Texas
For more on this project, click here.

Renovation – Specialty Store, Sales Area under 10,000 square feet
Li-Ning, Tianjin, China
Ziba Design Inc., Portland, Ore.
For more on this project, click here.

Renovation – Restaurant/Specialty Food Shop
Nisen Sushi Restaurant, Commack N.Y.
Horst Design Intl. Inc., Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.
For more on this project, click here.

Conversion – Specialty Store, Sales Area under 10,000 square feet
Healthy Spot, West Hollywood, Calif.
Akar Studios, Santa Monica, Cali.
For more on this project, click here