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In March 2010, two days of heavy rains caused the Pawtuxet River to overflow in Warwick, R.I., leaving the Warwick Mall with 7 feet of standing water and $80 million in damages.

After a cleanup and review of losses, the mall itself and several of its tenants – such as Target, Old Navy and Longhorn Steakhouse – took the opportunity to reopen with new and improved store designs.

For Macy’s, the anchor tenant, it involved almost a total, year-long renovation.

“There was little that could be salvaged,” says James Bellante, Macy’s senior vp of visual merchandising presentation. “We had to strip the whole store down to its studs, removing columns and interior walls, entirely replacing the floors.”

But getting rid of all that architecture became an opportunity not only to renovate this store but also to test some new strategic concepts for rolling out across the Macy’s nation.

“Our overall goal has been to open up our main floors with better sightlines and traffic patterns,” says Bellante, “and to expand and emphasize some of our key departments around a center core.”

Warwick is a one-level mall and the 186,000-square-foot Macy’s store has a larger-than-usual main floor. So the challenge became organizing and redefining that area, to drive eyes and feet to the brands and departments Macy’s wants to emphasize, calling attention to those merchandise categories with adjacencies, signage and visual merchandising.

Blocky interior walls were replaced by slab walls that define the center core but are broken up with decorative see-through screens. Aisles have been widened and ambient lighting levels have jumped way up.

One of the major new Macy’s initiatives is Impulse Beauty, roughly 1000 square feet of cosmetics and new niche skin-care lines in a combination of open-sell and Macy’s traditional assisted cosmetics counters. Gondolas organize the brands alphabetically around the perimeter of the department with assistance still available from “beauty advisers.”

In the expanded and upgraded shoe department, large fixtures and oversized tables offer a heftier presentation with a more modern aesthetic. Sofas instead of the usual fitting chairs add to the elegance. Other expanded departments include ready-to-wear, dresses, suits and men’s furnishings.

Groupings of mannequins hang out throughout the store, a larger collection than Macy’s has used in some time. “Customers ask us, ‘Would you tell us how to put outfits together and how to accessorize?’ ” says Bellante. “The whole store is an effort to make it easy for the customer to understand. We’re telling them – through merchandising, placement, lighting and scale – what we stand for and what we think is important, to define the Macy’s brand.”

Ever since the former Federated Department Stores acquired May Co. in 2004 and put the Macy’s banner over every door it owned across the country, Macy’s has been straddling the line between promoting itself as a national brand and emphasizing the more localized “My Macy’s” strategy. In the Warwick store, a new graphics package attempts to do both. Large-scale images of old Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades call attention to the brand’s familiar 150-year heritage. But there are also sepia-tinted graphics reflecting the local flavor – boats in the harbor and classic New England architecture, such as steepled churches, cottages and Newport mansions.

Many of these principles are expected to be in play as the company plans the top-to-bottom overhaul of its eight-story, 2 million-square-foot Herald Square flagship in New York, clearly the biggest retail design project of the century. Plans will be finalized this fall and construction will begin by early 2012. Not surprisingly, says Bellante, it’s expected to take several years to complete.

Project suppliers

Retailer: Macys Inc., Cincinnati (James Bellante, senior vp, Visual Merchandise Presentation; Victor Lewis, VP – Visual Operations, Macy’s; Robert Oronzio, Director of New Stores & Renovations; Robert Edgerly, Director of New Stores & Renovations; Tom Herndon, senior, Store Planning & Design; Cherie Brandt, VP Planning; William Johnstone, Sr. Store Planner; Jim Sloss, VP Design; Jim Kelly, Design Director; Ken Lay, Design Manager; Nadine King, Sr. Designer; Shonda McKinney, Designer; Joe Flaherty, VP-Construction; Paul Reeder, Director-Construction; Ray Atkin, Construction Project Manager; Pat Romano, Construction Administrator; Tim Stevenson, VP-Pre-Construction; Matt Copeland, Fixture Administrator; Carol Patton, Project Coordinator; Elizabeth Grossman, Project Coordinator)

Design: Echeverria Design Group Inc., Miami (Mario Echeverria, President; Rob Weber, Creative Director; Don Lockenbach, Architect; Ana Estrada, Project Manager; Marcela Gomez, Project Designer; Chris Cortes, Director of Production; Rodel Reyes, Lighting Coordinator)

Architect: TPG Architecture, New York

General Contractor: Buch Construction, Laurel, Md.

Lighting: LSI Industries, Cincinnati; Zumtobel USA Mellolite, Dorbirn, Austria; Lighting Control & Design, Glendale, Calif.; Lithonia Lighting, Conyers, Ga.; Barco Lighting, Kortrijk, Belgium; Jesco Lighting, New York; Cooper Metalux, Houston; Camman Industries Inc., Derry, Pa.; Nulco Lighting, Pawtucket, R.I.; LSI Ind., Cincinnati

Props and Decoratives: Hudson & Broad, New York; Elevations, South San Francisco, Calif.; Melvin Roos, Atlanta

Mannequins/Forms: Ralph Pucci Intl., New York; Adel Rootstein Inc., New York; Goldsmith, New York; DK Display, New York; Lifestyle/Trimco, New York; Bernstein Display, New York; Seven Continents, Toronto; RHO Mannequins, Montreal

Signage/Graphics: Adco Group World, St. Hubard, Q.C.; Color Edge, New York; Grafix Shoppe, Eagon, Minn.; Meisel, Carrollton, TX; Media Nation, Tustin, Calif.; Stevenson Color Inc., Cincinnati

Wall Coverings & Materials: Architectural Systems Inc., New York; Fifield Inc., Hingham, Mass.; DesignTex Inc., Cincinnati; Maharam, Cincinnati; Momentum Group, Irvine, Calif.; Knoll Textiles, East Greenville, Pa.; Pulp Studio, Los Angeles; Pionite, Auburn, Maine; Nevamar Ind., Shelton, Conn.; Arborite, Lasalle, Quebec; Formica Corp., Cincinnati; Chemetal, Easthampton, Mass.; Wilsonart Int’l., Temple, Texas; Arpa, Chicago; Abet Inc., Englewood, N.J.; Carnegie Fabrics, Rockfield Center, N.Y.; David Goldberg Design Corp., New York; Innovations in Wallcovering, New York; Elizabeth Dow, Amagansett, N.Y.; Concertex, Ridgefield, N.J.; Art People, New York; Wolf Gordon, New York; Donghia, Beachwood, Ohio; Phillip Jeffries, Fairfield, N.J.; Majilite Corp., Southampton, N.Y.; HBF Textiles, Chicago; Sherwin Williams, Rockville Centre, N.Y.; ICI Paint, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Benjamin Moore, Montvale, N.J.

Fixtures: Allegheny Store Fixtures, Bradford, Pa.; L&J Interiors, Bohemia, N.Y.; Monarch Industries, Inc., Warren, R.I.; Prestige Store Interiors, Toledo, Ohio; Stanly Fixtures Company, Norwood, N.C.

Outside Design Consultant: Lighting Workshop, Brooklyn, N.Y. (Lighting Design)

Audio/Visual : Audio Unlimited Oceanside, Hicksville, N.Y.

Ceilings: USG, Chicago

Flooring: Atlas Carpet, City Commerce, Calif.; Patcraft Commercial Carpet, Chatsworth, Ga.; Mohawk Commercial Group, Louisville, Ky.; J&J Invision, Dalton, Ga.; Shaw Contract, Maineville, Ohio; Bolyu Contract, Adairsville, Ga.; Masland Contract, Cincinnati; Bigelow, Louisville, Ky.; Beaulieu Commercial, Adairsville, Ga.; Designer Tile & Stone, Edison, N.J.; Innovative Marble and Tile LLC, Hauppauge, N.Y.
Mannington Commercial, Columbus, Ohio

Furniture: Dan Binford & Associates, Cincinnati: HLC Hickory Leather Co., Charlotte, N.C.; Wesnic Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.; Bernhardt Design, Chicago

Other: Se Art & Design, New York; Art 3 Gallery, Manchester, N.H.; Davinci Inc., Los Angeles; Cyro Industries of America Inc., Manchester, N.H.; Dupont Corian, Wilmington, Del.; Twin City Creative Mirror Inc., Burnsville, Minn.; Rosul & Assoc., Lakewood, Ohio; Dillmeier Glass Co., Garden City, New York; Durable Corp., Norwalk, Ohio; BCM Corp., Kedah, Malaysia



Embracing Whole-Brained Thinking in the Design Journey

Strategy needs creative, and creative needs strategy—yep, having both is really the only way of unifying all disciplines with a common vernacular with an eye toward building a strong creative vision that is foundational to the processes. Hear from Bevan Bloemendaal, former VP, Global Environments & Creative Services at Timberland, how to connect the dots between disciplines, claiming and creating a clear differentiation for the brand and ensuring that any asset (experience, product, ad, store, office, home, video, game) is created with intention.

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