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On the Shores of Veracruz

Upscale Mexican department store El Palacio de Hierro opens its doors in the spirited port city.




MEXICO CITY-BASED Palacio de Hierro, a high-end department store with locations throughout Mexico, has extended its reach to the port city of Veracruz, known for its beautiful beaches, colonial style architecture, regional cuisine and vibrant nightlife. Veracruz has its own culture and way of life, representing an opportunity for Palacio to bring a new standard of luxury to Mexico’s Gulf Coast.

In collaborating with the design team at TPG Architecture (New York), the retailer had to adjust its voice and character to seamlessly appeal to a new demographic. “Palacio’s calling card is its level of design and luxury. That’s the differentiator,” said Alec Zaballero, Managing Executive at TPG. “Palacio is a gift to the people of Veracruz. Palacio is telling them, ‘This is your store.’” While working with the retailer to customize to this market, the mandate remained consistent – every store must have the same level of design.

While Palacio had to learn to speak to the distinct character of Veracruz, the biggest accommodation was one of scale. The Veracruz store is smaller than other locations, only 126,000 square feet in comparison to a typical Palacio store of 300,000 square feet. To give the illusion of a larger space, a circulation strategy relies on aisles with gentle curves so customers never see the hard edges or corners of departments. This creates a mellifluous journey through what psychologically appears to be a much larger store.

Defined transition zones also add to the spacial effect while providing some local flavor. The portals leading from one merchandise zone to another were inspired by a historic Spanish fort famous for its archways. Trimmed in wood, these architectural elements serve as conduits from one area to the next. “The transition zones offer choreographed visual merchandising moments of inspiration promoting circulation through the store,” said Zaballero.

Ceiling treatments also help define different areas: In women’s, a floral cutout is used on ceiling drops and soffits while a rippling metal ceiling detail defines the cosmetics experience. The dramatic ceiling treatment around the grand atrium references a cenote, a sinkhole that exposes the groundwater below typically found in low-altitude areas like the Yucatán peninsula.

The loft, a mezzanine area housing home decor and technology products, takes on the feeling of an idealized, cool apartment. In addition, customers are invited into a family-oriented upper level food terrace with stunning views of the Gulf. A hand-laid mosaic depicting waves crashing on the beach stretches across the wall to provide an ideal backdrop.

Additional surface treatments further define in-store areas. In the women’s sections, artisans embossed palm leaf patterns into a stucco surface, while porcelain flooring tiles and wood trim provide a feeling of warmth. All of the surface treatments, paired with the grandeur of every entrance into the store, are branded statements letting customers know that Palacio de Hierro has landed on the shores of Veracruz.


El Palacio de Hierro, Mexico City

Design and Architecture, Lighting
TPG Architecture, New York

Stor, Ciudad López Mateos, Mexico

Porcelanosa, New York
Fiandre, Castellarano, Italy

Materials Inc., Hackensack, N.J.

Architect of Record
Grupo Sordo Madaleno, Mexico City


Eric Feigenbaum is a recognized leader in the visual merchandising and store design industries with both domestic and international design experience. He served as corporate director of visual merchandising for Stern’s Department Store, a division of Federated Department Stores, from 1986 to 1995. After Stern’s, he assumed the position of director of visual merchandising for WalkerGroup/CNI, an architectural design firm in New York City. Feigenbaum was also an adjunct professor of Store Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and formerly served as the chair of the Visual Merchandising Department at LIM College (New York) from 2000 to 2015. In addition to being the New York Editor of VMSD magazine, Eric is also a founding member of PAVE (A Partnership for Planning and Visual Education). Currently, he is also president and director of creative services for his own retail design company, Embrace Design.



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