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Charisma by the square foot.

Store fixture manufacturers and store interior designers team up to create stores with well-defined personalities. Would you want to shop anywhere else?

When your grandparents needed boots or thread or a new hammer, they probably walked into the store of their choice, made their purchase and left. Before the advent of shopping malls, shopping was a relatively straight-forward procedure: locate, pay, leave. But store owners had something different in mind. They wanted the shopper to linger, while impulse purchases added up. In the time it took for shopping to become the great American pastime, its counterpart, merchandising, developed into an art form.

Goods no longer were just stacked for display. They became performing artists or props in an ongoing narrative in which the shopper is the star. The most successful stores cast the shopper in a favorite role: e.g., Eddie Bauer -- the rugged outdoorsman, Victoria's Secret -- the femme fatale, Williams Sonoma -- a gourmet cook. It's no secret that major stores have unique personalities and sell charisma by the square foot. The trick is to find a persona.

Five design companies who do just that, who conceive the character and identity for store interiors, were honored recently by the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers at a ceremony in Los Angeles. Grand prize winners were: Creative Retailing Inc. of Irvine, Calif; Fitzpatrick Design Group of New York -- a double winner; Norwood Oliver Design Associates of New York; Charles Sparks & Co. of Westchester, Ill.; and TSL/Merchant Design Group, Los Angeles. Prizes were given in six categories that included specialty stores and new and remodeled department stores.

These companies are experts at envisioning an interior as "Elegant and Sophisticated" or "Fun and Upbeat," but it is up to store fixture manufacturers to make the vision a reality. Whether a store interior is showy or seductive depends not only on the design, but on the materials and the skills with which they are used.

Go for the glitz

Mark Barshop is president of Standard Cabinet Works, Los Angeles, a store fixture manufacturer and architectural woodworker, and the winner of a grand prize for Caesar's World in the Forum Mall at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas. A good percentage of the company projects are in Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City, including Mirage and Excalibur, the newest casino hotels in Las Vegas. The casino industry is "glitzy and showy," Barshop said. Fake jewels, faux marble and fiberglass columns with gilded corinthian capitals often contribute to the effect.

Although the Caesar's World store is only 2,500 square feet, it is divided into three separate areas, each with its own theme. One has a 14-foot tower of dice spinning over fixtures that resemble stacks of gaming chips. Here the terrazzo flooring is in a roulette wheel pattern delineated by flashing Tivoli lights. Six-foot-high playing cards are strung across the ceiling and continue to where the decline of Rome is portrayed in the Colosseum with crumbling walls, animated flames and trompe l'oeil smoke.

Caesar's World was a fast-track project, Barshop said, and is typical of the casino industry in that "they wanted it up and running and making money as soon as possible." Standard Cabinet Works coordinated the installation of the special materials used, including stone and fiberglass fixtures, marble countertops and ornamental metals.

The warmth of wood

In contrast to Caesar's World, where wood use was minimal, nearly 40,000 square feet of Swiss pearwood and maple veneers were used to maintain a "warm and inviting" look in Dayton-Hudson's Burnhaven, Minn., store. James Hoover, owner of Commercial Store Fixture and Construction Corp., Grand Rapids, said the wood has a furniture-quality handrubbed finish, like the high-end furnishings a customer has (or might like to have) at home. Pearwood became an important design element throughout the store.

Working on a remodeling project has its own set of problems, Hoover said, because the store must be kept in service. Crews have to arrive before the customers and work behind barriers. They cannot travel through the store during business hours. "We would work in a 10,000- to 20,000-square-foot area on each floor, and play leap frog throughout the store, to keep things in order," he said.

Commercial Store Fixture was located on Detroit's Grand Boulevard for 15 years before moving to Grand Rapids in 1982 for "its good, solid labor market" and a 65,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The second floor encompasses 10,000 square feet where the company can lay out large architectural woodworking projects without getting in the way of the manufacturing process. "This enables us to see in advance how something special, like the 12-foot by-80 foot arch to the men's department, will look," Hoover said.

Back to the future

Six store fixture manufacturers were asked to create "a new approach to department store shopping" at Proffitt's in the mall at Johnson City, Tenn. "The design of the new Proffitt's store demonstrates a commitment to making the shopping experience easy and enjoyable," according to a company spokesperson.

Each department is designed as a specialty shop in a "street of shops" off the main aisle. A continuous skylight runs directly above "main street." Each shop is identified with an illuminated sign, and store entrances are friendly and approachable. Look, locate, pay, leave. Grandma would be very pleased.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:how store fixture manufacturers and store designers create stores with personalities
Author:Garet, Barbara
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Red ivorywood: rarer than diamonds.
Next Article:Reno woodworking company hits the jackpot.

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