Store of the Year
Santa Monica, CA, US
Gold Award: Hardline Specialty Store up to 3,000 sf
Use of Technology Award: Data Collection
In-Store Communications Award: Tablet-Enabled Bricks
A harbinger of the future of retail, b8ta is changing the experience for consumer electronic retail, the role of brick-and-mortar stores, and even the relationship between customer and manufacturer.
The store carries cutting-edge consumer technology products ranging from jewelry-style rings that can monitor sleep, heart rate, and fitness, to solar-powered, antitheft backpacks, virtual-reality equipment, and a foldable, hovering “self-photographer” camera that can follow its owner around. New products and their “makers” are featured on a monthly—sometimes even weekly—basis. For both established tech companies and startups who may not be ready to invest in their own brick-and-mortar retail spaces, the retailer provides a venue to present their products while gaining an unprecedented understanding of how customers engage with their products.
With a clientele that skews toward male, the store needed to appear friendly and open to all. The entrance, wide and open, invites demos and activities. Inside, the space is designed to allow customers hands-on access to all products, many of which have never before been featured in a physical retail space. Designed by Gensler’s San Francisco-based team, the 2,650-sq.-ft. space is starkly divided into light and dark sides. The light side, with porcelain flooring and stained white oak fixtures, is focused on individual products. The dark side, with engineered dark oak wood flooring and black walls and ceiling, is dedicated to more complex interactions and immersive experiences. The balance of dark and light finishes creates drama and puts the focus on products and experiences. Freestanding tables can be laid out in a multitude of configurations and adapted to a variety of footprints—a modular approach intended to allow for efficient, cost-effective manufacturing processes and future rollout.
Much of b8ta’s game-changing innovation is invisible to customers. Every product is unboxed and live, made possible through freestanding display fixtures with built-in power and data supply protected behind key-locked microperforated steel panels. Tablet-enabled “bricks” are the basis for a conduit for information to flow both directions, providing immediately updatable product messaging to the consumer while tracking user interaction and customer engagement for the benefit of the product’s maker. This data feeds into back-end analytics available to the maker/manufacturer as part of the rental agreement—and supports a dynamic shopping experience invisible to the consumer, but vital to product development and sales and market research.
There is no printed signage in the space. The tablets provide a volume and depth of information far surpassing what printed materials can provide. As products are added or removed, the product information can be easily changed. Additional subtle in-store messaging is integrated into the architecture of a “brand wall.” A glowing white “B” logo fades in and out, mimicking the light effects found in a variety of consumer electronics. Monitors placed behind a microperforated metal skin allow messages to be easily changed.
The store has no POS stations. All sales transactions are processed digitally or online, and most products ship directly to customers.
Fixture of the Year
Coty Fume Scent Lounge
Hudson’s Bay, Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto
Fixture Award: Curved Display Bar
Gold Award: Branded Shop Within a Store
Use of Technology Award: Non-spray Scent Technology
A-Frame / Ben Rahn photos
Construction Vergo GC
Coty Canada Inc. retailer
dkstudio architects inc. architecture, design
Eventscape Inc. millwork, fixtures, visual elements
Hudson’s Bay retailer
ICON Media technology
Conceived to attract and delight Millennial shoppers, Coty’s scent lounge offers a digital and interactive experience that engages the senses — sight, sound, touch, and smell. The 660-sq.-ft. global pilot project incorporates technology in new ways, encouraging shoppers to interact with Coty fragrance brands such as Gucci Bloom, Calvin Klein, Miu Miu, and Marc Jacobs.
Complex curves fill the space, representing the fractal movement of mists of perfume. Toronto-based Eventscape engineered, fabricated, and installed the shop’s millwork, store fixtures, and visual elements, including the complex curved interactive bar, spiraling overhead canopy, and arc of freestanding digital towers that can each represent an individual brand or, combined, offer a full digital concert of images and videos.
The canopy, twisting around the perimeter of the shop, defines the space, while the sinuous fragrance bar directs traffic flow. With its aluminum frame covered with white leatherette fabric, the curved canopy runs 54 ft. and is supported at three locations by the digital towers. Zippers along the canopy’s metal spline allow the fabric to be removed for transport or repair.
The glistening white fragrance display bar is another complex geometrical shape, featuring double curves and an exaggerated cantilever. At nearly 22 ft. long, 5-1/2 ft. wide, and 3-1/2 ft. high, the fixture’s MDF substructure supports a cladding of heat-formed solid-surface material. The dramatic cantilever is made from a specialized high-density material shaped with 5-axis milling. The solid-surface countertop with its beveled edge is a full 4 in. thick. To form the curved base, nine layers of ½-inch-thick solid-surface material were milled into smooth contours using a combination of CNC and hand finishing.
The 10 identical towers surround the fragrance bar, covered in a durable matte black laminate chosen for its resistance to scratches, heat, shock, and fingerprints. A cantilevered low-profile thin-edge detail minimizes screen borders for a more continuous digital image. White solid-surface product display shelving was milled to accommodate custom LED merchandise lighting. Three additional towers display products and brand logos. Storage is built into the tower bases.
Sleek, white, non-spray inhaler bottles provide an easy and stylish way for customers to experience fragrances without being overwhelmed. When placed on a backlit solid-surface reader, the white RFID-tagged bottles trigger the display of detailed information about the selected fragrance on a screen inset into the bar’s surface. Customers can explore scents by picking up and sampling different bottles, or have new scents suggested to them through a fun digital survey.
To meet the project’s tight timeline, Eventscape streamlined installation by engineering custom lifting solutions to work with a two-ton spider crane. All pieces were manufactured and prefinished in the fabricator’s production facility, which eliminated the dust, odor, and debris typically generated during installation. An additional benefit was that neighboring shops were able to continue with business as usual.
Visual Presentation of the Year
The Christmas window displays of Galeries Lafayette’s Boulevard Haussmann flagship are always a must-visit in the French capital. In 2017, the venerable department store’s captivating and colorful “Spectacular Spectacular” theme blended extravagant traditional theatrical window design with highly detailed animation, new LED digital communication technology, and baroque Art Deco style for a novel and magical effect.
Set against a surrealistic 20th-century Paris fairground scene, the colorful animated windows tell the tale of the feverish race between Pierre, the hero pigeon, and his sweetheart, Coco, a gentle dove. The story, played out across more than 10 window displays, follows the two lovebirds on their adventures to famous locations in Paris, including well-known streetscapes of buildings and bridges, a circus, barracks, and Parisian rooftop, eventually concluding successfully above the recreated Art Nouveau dome of the Galeries Lafayette building itself. The pigeon protagonists are joined by a multitude of highly detailed carnival characters, including acrobats, fortune readers, a two-headed man, a strong man, and circus animals.
Contributing background movement and magic to the animated scenes were five dynamic LED displays designed, manufactured, and installed by Kendu In-Store Visual Solutions, based in Doral, Fla., U.S. The company’s Flowbox dynamic LED displays created a bustling Paris background complete with exploding violet, purple, and pink fireworks. The displays combined printed color-matched fabric visuals with animated effects including subtle tonal variations, continuous color changes, and action-based animations.
Kendu worked directly with Galeries Lafayette’s “responsable de création identité visuelle” (creative visual identity manager) to create dynamic displays that fit the maximum space within each window. The RGB LED plates that lock into the aluminum of each display were individually programmed to create special motion effects.
The preprogrammed SD cards were shipped, with the displays, flat-packed in specially designed flight cases to be assembled on-site. The method was 70% less costly than shipping the displays preassembled. Installation was carried out without disrupting shoppers. Additionally, Galeries Lafayette can store all of the Flowboxes in the specially designed cases until their next installation — with new tensile fabric graphics — at the Boulevard Haussmann flagship.