On May 19, 2006, hundreds of people attended the opening of a new store on Fifth Avenue in New York. It was going to be a special event, but nobody imagined then the significance it would have years later. It was an Apple Store of more than 2,000 square meters and whose entrance was (and is) an impressive glass cube. The brand, then run by Steve Jobs and even more exclusive than now, left many speechless: Was all this necessary to sell computers?
Since then until now he has received more than 57 million visits, a figure similar to that of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, and it has become a true icon. Not only because it functions as a tourist hub – those who have traveled to the Big Apple have not been recommended to take a tour of it – but also because it is the clearest example of what it is and what is achieved with a ‘flagship’ (literally, flagship, the mother store), a phenomenon that is changing our most commercial streets and the way we shop.
Have you noticed the gigantic new bank offices? Have overstuffed sofas, designer lamps, coworking rooms and even areas to make and have a coffee. Or in the latest Zara stores? In Madrid there is a 4,000 square meter one on Calle Preciados, elegant and eco-efficient (they say it consumes 20% less light and 40% less water). In Bilbao they took over a historic building, the old BBK headquarters, in the middle of Gran Vía, and restored original elements such as eight pillars, the balustrade of the main staircase and the chapel, closed to customers. And the travel agencies? There are some so large that they invite you to sit and browse the catalogs for hours without being disturbed before hiring a trip.
“Is about turn the purchase into something different and rewarding», Explains Sergio Bernués, Marketing Director of SMEs and author of ‘El penalti de Panenka’. You have to make the purchase something memorable, worth telling. And that is no longer achieved only with merchandise. “Products are dead, the key is service”, Add. Pure stores, as we knew them until recently, are bound to change and become a “miscellany” that mixes various elements such as additional services, leisure, training, consulting … So do not be surprised to find machines recreational facilities at the hardware store or a bar at the hairdresser.
The appearance of the store is, therefore, the visible part of a deeper change that has a lot to do with the weight that our visual memory plays. Sometimes, more than the name of a shop, we remember the bookstore with typewriters, the corsetry with plants on the ceiling, or the restaurant whose lamps are cheese graters. With the appropriate interior design, we manage to “overturn the values of the brand and make the client perceive and feel identified”, adds Laura Liberal, coordinator of the Interior Design career at CREA Navarra.
Feel like in Chanel
For this reason, it is increasingly common to find spaces that are different from traditional shops, more cared for, with furniture that almost makes us feel in our living room. «It is a way of getting closer to the consumer. But in reality it is not the living room of our house … but of the house that we would like to have», Remarks Adam Bresnick, architect and professor at the Madrid School of Design.
What all this is about is to turn the purchase into an experience and thus compete with online sales. To offer a plus. “It is take care of the client again, something we had lost. A few years ago it was consumed a lot despite the competition, but now it is no longer like that, ”says Liberal. The idea is not new, although it is now that it is being developed throughout the planet. “This trend has its roots in the aristocratic haute couture salons of Paris,” explains Bresnick.
“The purchase should be something different and rewarding. And the key is the service because the products are dead »
Sergio bernués, SME Marketing Director
In fact, before the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, there have been other more exclusive examples that have created a trend, although not in the general public. There’s the “minimalist” Calvin Klein store designed by architect John Pawson in 1993. Or the more ornate one in Prada Soho, the work of Rem Koolhaas and OMA in 2000, in which there are a whole series of hanging mobile “gadgets” of the roof. “Today we all want to feel special, whether in the Chanel store, the Real Madrid store, or the Zara store.”
Now, making the customer feel special is not something exclusive to big brands. “Local commerce can also offer that differential value” to distance itself from electronic commerce, says Bernués. Going around the traditional store both inside and out is possible. “Any space can be adapted to this style”, explains Fernando Moral, director of the Department of Architecture at Nebrija University. «Every business has a story, a product and a philosophy to communicate. They all want to build customer loyalty and it doesn’t matter if it’s because of the quality of the product or the price, ”Liberal reasons.
A Zara-style butcher shop?
Nor do they need to invest huge amounts of money. “What you have to do is a proper choice of elements.” And which are they? What is it that invites us to return to that store and not to another? One is light, warm and at certain points. Another one is the placement of the products: no one likes to find the shelves jumbled. And, of course, the furniture. “It is not the same to ask for a loan sitting on a hard chair than to do it on a comfortable sofa”, exemplifies the Navarran teacher. Even so, in times of crisis and pandemic it is difficult not to wonder if this expense in aesthetics is worth it, if it is profitable. Bernués is clear: “Yes, but it must be accompanied by a change in mentality and in employee training.” Also, Bresnick applauds, “You have to think about the return that this investment will have.”
Now, not everything is valid nor should one fall into what already exists because it has worked for the neighbor. A small shopkeeper cannot remodel his butcher shop along the lines of a clothing store. “Good design must be capable of meeting the particularities of any economic activity”, Moral reasons. «Today it is designed according to the client that you want to attract, and we have it very identified. Everything must be oriented towards him », Bresnick accompanies. And the thing is that he is no longer only right, it is that –as Juan Roig, the owner of Mercadona says– is the boss in the broadest sense.
And how do you escape from uniformity? Emphasizing what differentiates one business from another and risking. “I try to convey to my students that, in addition to being open and listening to the client, they are self-demanding so as not to create traced premises and try not to be left alone with what there is, that they go further,” concludes Liberal.
Sofas, plants, lamps … the clues for the client
Have you noticed that your bakery has been filled with plants? And they are natural. Well, it is not that the owner has given for the gardening. It is an example of what the prestigious designer Iván Cotado has baptized as strategic interior design, which deals with shaping the identity of a business in objects and physical spaces. Your mission is to highlight the essence of the business, what defines you, what you want to convey and who you want to attract.
“If a customer feels comfortable, happy, in your store, he may not mind spending a little more than in another,” says teacher Laura Liberal. There are no written rules and the elements to use depend on the answer to those questions, but there are repeating trends.
For example, the use of light woods, which give “calm and turn the space into something more ‘happy'”. Or the importance of lighting. It is not necessary to use expensive designer lamps to convey our business idea. “What you have to know is what temperature (color of light) to use and where to place the lights.”