Chiara Del Core 10 feb 2020 Articles 0 comments
The preparation of the store

Always considered a place of commerce, the city since its origins has hosted workshops and emporiums. In fact, the store boasts very ancient origins: the artisans' workshops were born as locations where production and direct sales took place. They presented themselves as small environments that included production and commercial activities in a single space. It is only later that there is a functional division between the laboratory, accessible only to the craftsman and the place of sale intended for the public, in front and overlooking the street. During the nineteenth century, the spread of industrialization caused a functional change in the old shop, declining it exclusively to a place of sale, where the finished product used to come from detached production spaces. In this period the "passages couverts" of Paris find their maximum development, covered galleries with a strong identity, which housed shops and cafes. These were sheltered and intimate places where lights, signs and shop windows were the protagonists and where we met to greet and socialize.

All the passages consisted of a metal structure and a glass casing which guaranteed the light to filter during the day. Floors, lamps and finishes were chosen according to the taste of the time, in order to convey the feeling of being in familiar places. The longitudinal distribution of the shops on both sides ensured the free development of long walks and the vision of the countless goods on display. Each store was structured according to its size and specific needs, while the layout strictly depended on the type of goods displayed and marketed. For example, in the case of food, these were kept inside closed and inaccessible windows for hygienic reasons, while the shops of precious fabrics and accessories were provided with display spaces with attention to the smallest detail. For this reason, the set-up and finishing choices changed depending on the nature of the goods, the message that was wanted to be conveyed and the public to whom it was addressed. The desire to merge leisure time with shopping and socialization proved to be of fundamental importance for the success of the passages which were very successful until the end of the 19th century with the advent of the department stores. The places that host them are large, sometimes spread over several floors and shops find space in buildings built for this purpose. These are areas where the public is free to move, to observe and touch the products displayed in large quantities.

The type of experience for the customer and also his relationship with the seller has changed: the furnishing accessories designed to materially divide the purchase and sale functions are now absent. The surface, the organization and the layout change and together the human relationship changes. The space of goods acquires a new function which is based on the triple relationship between commercial building - city and consumer - room. Each architectural and commercial choice must emphasize the goods and their purpose, inducing the consumer to purchase. The study of the lights and the free movement within the warehouse are the elements that determine the quality level of the design. The progressive evolution of department stores led to the spread of shopping centers, introduced in the 1920s. Interior design plays a definitive role in achieving optimal results, since we often find ourselves in front of sheds and large standardized complexes. These are highly articulated complexes that house different functional areas within them: supermarkets, shops, services, rest areas and entertainment areas.

The meeting and gathering place is par excellence, where different functions merge and where purchasing becomes one of the many activities that can be carried out there. For this reason, great care must be taken in designing the layout of each individual store, making good use of marketing and brand promotion. The set-up plays a fundamentally important role, in addition to hosting the products, it must amaze the visitor and encourage him to buy. The dizzying development of industrial production, the change in family habits and the possibility of reaching these commercial containers by car, even in peripheral areas, change the concept of purchase and the place where it takes place. The design choices are shaped by the changing social model and the setting up is interpreted as a means of communication capable of increasing the value of the product. Thanks to this concept, the first Concept Stores were introduced during the 1980s of the 1900s, where everything is designed in line with the brand on sale. It is from this moment that the design assumes the term of retail design and is characterized by the multidisciplinarity of the figures who work there. The project becomes communication, loyalty, involvement, technology and must be distinguished according to the brand and the target to which it is addressed.

Passage des Panoramas, Paris - Sophie Louisnard (Unplash)

Exterior and interior of the Bon Marchè department store, Paris - 1852
Photo: Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche - Archivio

The layout and its relationship with the market demand

Over the centuries, the public's approach to the commercial market and the physical spaces linked to it has changed significantly. In fact, if at one time the objective was to satisfy primary needs by gaining consumer confidence through product quality, today the situation is quite different. The trend is to satisfy an attentive public with secondary needs and looking for satisfactory consumer experiences. Added to this scenario is the emotional, emotional and active aspect of the user. From a design point of view, specific objectives correspond to a certain type of set-up that has undergone great transformations over time.
It is possible to trace a sort of development in stages which have followed one another in three successive twenty years and which have seen the project evolve in this way:
  • 1950 - 1970> PRODUCT ORIENTED
Tendency to place the product at the center of the project
Objective: to satisfy primary needs
Preparation without experiential paths, allows the free movement of the user
  • 1970 - 1990> BRAND ORIENTED
Tendency to place the brand at the center of the project
Objective: to satisfy secondary needs
Set-up conceived as an immersive space capable of giving a 360 ° experience to the public. Through the spectacularization of the goods and the correspondence between the image of the store and the brand identity, the consumer lives an experience thanks to contact with the specific brand
Tendency to place the public and its perception of the environment at the center of the project
Objective: to create new experiences and transform the user from consumer to consumer-actor
Preparation with attention to every detail and studied to create a brand vision. The exhibition space becomes one with the product on display

The idea that the potential of the product should be maximized through the setting up inside the store which constitutes a direct communication and marketing channel for the brand and the production house is becoming increasingly widespread. For this reason, the set-up becomes identity and must be able to make the customer experience. The approach to the project now incorporates innumerable disciplines which have as their main purpose the well-being of the buyer and which involve the contribution of different figures who collaborate with the architect. The graphic designer takes care of returning the correct corporate image, the visual merchandiser assembles the set-up according to the architect's provisions, respecting the corporate values, the light designer is predisposed to ensure correct lighting comfort. The project team must work to ensure visitor involvement through a specific and identity brand image. In addition, the goods and their exposure must be taken care of, ensuring ease of management and regulatory security.

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