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Hold the Phone

The new AT&T store in San Francisco takes shoppers on a voyage of digital discovery with a tour of the Internet of Things

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Given the often kiosk-size nature of mobile phone and cellular service shops, a two-floor AT&T (Dallas) store measuring 24,000 square feet would be noteworthy in its own right. However, when that store is housed in a historic building in the tech mecca of San Francisco, then it will probably pull potential shoppers off the street to come in and take a look.

Located on Powell Street near some of the city’s most popular shopping and tourist attractions, the store is the telecommunication powerhouse’s largest flagship to date. On the outside, its neoclassical architecture boasts high arched windows along the length of the first floor. The surprises begin when the customer walks through the door: Within lies a store that is focused on much more than buying a smartphone or signing on the dotted line for a new contract. Instead, the first floor showcases AT&T products and services, while upstairs, a network of screens and interactive displays provide the shopper with a “connected life” experience.

Mimi Lettunich, president and executive creative director at Twenty Four 7 (Portland, Ore.), the agency that designed the second-floor interior, says the retailer’s goal was to provide a different experience than its past flagships: “They had phones and services downstairs, and they had this space upstairs, where they wanted to be able to show the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). Part of AT&T’s goal was to illustrate to the consumer what this means and how it can be used.”

Lettunich says that work on the project started in 2015, with nine months of research and strategy to understand the shoppers’ reaction to IoT. Armed with this knowledge, work began on creating the second-floor experience, as well as implementing a 48-by-6-foot curved screen on the mezzanine beckoning customers to head up a level, featuring custom dynamic content developed by digital agency MaxMedia (Atlanta). One of the graphics at the foot of the escalator, explains Lettunich, is a quote from AT&T founder (and inventor of the first practical telephone) Alexander Graham Bell, who said: “Come here – I want [to see] you,” the first words ever uttered using a telephone, acting as a signal of intent for visitors to this store.

For those who ascend to the second floor, the displays are about “entertaining and educating,” according to Lettunich, who adds that the location is focused on communicating to its shoppers that AT&T “fosters connectivity in all forms.”

“[The store] is kind of an invitation,” notes Steven Shaw, creative director, Twenty Four 7. “Consumers will determine what things will be used in the future. The staff at the store found it very difficult to talk to consumers without the right tools. What was needed was a place to engage the consumer in that conversation.”

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Ultimately, this store is concerned with a lot more than pushing mobile handsets. Lettunich says it’s a matter of finally letting consumers experience how to “make life easier,” “solve problems” and see “what’s next” with IoT technology.

Shoppers can certainly buy a phone, but for those in search of a combined digital and analog experience, the second floor is worth a visit. Jonathan Lander, director of strategic retail for AT&T best sums it up: “From making cities more efficient to providing entertainment at home and on the go, visitors can discover it all at the AT&T flagship in San Francisco.”  

PROJECT SUPPLIERS

Retailer
AT&T, Dallas

Design
AT&T, Dallas
Twenty Four 7, Portland, Ore.

Architecture
CallisonRTKL, Seattle

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Audio/Visual and
In-Store Technology
CDI, Atlanta

Interactive Development
MaxMedia, Atlanta

Ceilings
CallisonRTKL, Seattle

Fixtures and Lighting
RCS Innovations, Milwaukee

Furniture
Poppin, New York

Mannequins/Forms
Bernstein Display, New York

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