Bob's Stores, Long Island, N.Y.

In an unusual move for the value category, Bob’s Stores relies on visual tools and flexible fixtures to put brands front and center.
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Posted May 30, 2012
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Bob’s Stores had a very specific problem to solve with its redesign: It needed flexibility. With stores across the Northeast, Bob’s sells primarily men’s activewear at reasonable prices, with a commitment to featuring the latest brands as the focus of its visual merchandising – hence its “House of Brands” moniker. Since brands come and go, trends move fast and inventories change quickly, Bob’s needed a new store design that allowed it to put the right merchandise in the right places without a lot of trouble.

“All their stores had been locked into hard architecture and rigid fixturing where nothing ever moved,” says Paul Lechleiter, chief creative officer at FRCH Design Worldwide (Cincinnati), which was charged with the redesign. “They couldn’t really reset their stores seasonally, so they needed to be more nimble.”

Along with this, Bob’s wanted every brand to get A-level treatment, meaning none of the bad real estate that plagues big-box stores. “That meant setting up great sightlines, a fixturing system that you can see over and around, and a lot of devices that help with internal advertising,” Lechleiter says. “As soon as you walk in the door, if you stop for five seconds, you should be able to pick up what this store is about.”

The new design, on display in Long Island, N.Y., includes a center aisle running from the cashwrap in the front of the store all the way to the shoe display on the rear wall, which is the store’s biggest traffic driver. One of the design’s best features, however, is that the center pad is anchored by large merchandise totems, each devoted to a brand and easily reconfigured.

“What they’re able to do here is not only call out a brand but pick up on a trend,” Lechleiter says. “And if you look at what’s out there in this category, nobody else is doing trend really well. Here, these are the tallest things in the store, and they can create buzz for a brand that had no buzz before.”

That core axis is a favorite part of the new design, says Ken Hansen, avp, visual merchandising and store planning, Bob’s Stores (Meriden, Conn.). “We love the way these displays organize the space and create a powerful visual statement that’s not only architecturally interesting but also provides a blank canvas to showcase the brands.”

Most of the display fixtures meet the goal of flexibility by being lightweight, moveable and easily expanded or reduced for various purposes. They all use the same gray color and simple styling to provide continuity, as well. But flexibility also comes from the fact that, unlike many other retailers, Bob’s adorns the displays with large, branded graphics from the vendors themselves. That strong visual impact gives the brands the kind of prominence that fulfills the store’s mission, and it also creates an entirely new display every time inventory and vendors change.

“The whole thing is about currency,” says Lechleiter. “It’s what keeps the store fresh, and it’s what creates that great business connection between the brands and Bob’s.”

FRCH also brightened up the store’s environment with warmer, crisper lighting, and it made the most of inexpensive MDF wood flooring with a decorative pattern down the aisles. Two different ceiling heights, with a high exposed ceiling in the middle surrounded by a dropped ceiling, create the feeling of intimate shops. And a subtle blue-on-blue-on-blue striping pattern is used overhead for wayfinding and to give the store a bit of personality.

“Sometimes you go into a store and it looks just like a row of vendor shops,” says Barb Beeghly, FRCH’S vp, project manager. “But this makes the space feel like it belongs to Bob’s, even though the brands get special attention.”

Project Suppliers

Retailer: Bob’s Stores, Meriden, Conn.

Design: FRCH Design Worldwide, Cincinnati

Ceiling Baffles: ESP Specialties LTD. Inc., Cincinnati

Fixtures: Next Fixture Company, Guttenberg, N.J.; Omaha Store Fixtures, Omaha, Neb.

Smaller Floor Fixture Graphics: McCoy, Torrington, Conn.

Lighting: Specialty Lighting, Centerbrook, Conn.

Column Surrounds, Tables: Accent Display Corporation, Cranston, R.I.

Signage/Graphics: Advanced Graphic Systems, Rochester Hills, Mich.; XL Color, Bloomfield, Conn.; Storefront Awning & Sign Contractors, Angola, Ind.

Mannequins/Forms: Lifestyle/Trimco, New York

Wallcoverings and Materials: Joseph Merritt & Co., Hartford, Conn.

Focal Walls, Wall Frames, Cashwraps: Vira Manufacturing, Perth Amboy, N.J.

Diecut Logos, Cluster Frames: Ace Designs Inc., Bristol, Pa.

General Contractor: Treehouse Development Corp., Lake Mary, Fla.

Photography: J. Van.B Photography, Jason Van Blaricum, New York