Retail is tough enough in a strained economy. But for independent retailers facing stiff competition from large chains, the battle is even more fierce. Fortunately, with a little ingenuity, a great concept and thoughtful design, one-offs and small chains can find great success because they are small.
For the first time ever, VM+SD held a competition just for the independent retailer (described by the National Retail Federation [NRF] as one with annual revenues of $5 million or less). Because not every store owner has the budget to hire a design firm, we created two categories: "I had help" and "I did it myself."
Artefact Design & Salvage, a San Jose, Calif., retailer of high-end architectural elements and garden pieces, took top honors in the "I did it myself" category. Judges loved the store's raw Anthropologie feel and the fact that the salvageable design - which features used theatrical lighting and product as prop - connects well to the merchandise mix.
Wind & Water, a New York gift shop, won in the "I had help" category, under the design guidance of Horst Design Intl. (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.). A unanimous choice among the jury, the project was lauded for its effective branding, clear merchandise presentation, color choice and flow. Comments ranged from, "They did so many things right" to, "The product is really the hero."
Competition judging took place April 12 in Cincinnati with a diverse jury: Leisa Graham, architect, Lange Wheeler Design Group, Cincinnati; Peter Thomas, JCPenney visual merchandiser, Cincinnati; and Neil Van Uum, president, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati.