Merrell, Rockford, Mich.

Merrell designs a store that’s all about getting customers out the door
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Posted April 25, 2011
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Like any retailer, Merrell wants a store environment that’s inviting to consumers. But once inside, the outdoor shoe and apparel brand wants nothing more than to inspire them to leave.

“The Merrell brand is premised on the idea that we want to get people outside,” says Chris Hufnagel, president, global retail group, of Wolverine World Wide, the Rockford, Mich.-based parent company.

It’s also a brand that appeals to a diverse customer base, everyone from hardcore adventurers to urban runners. So working with FRCH Design Worldwide (Cincinnati), Merrell sought a store concept that would deliver an easy and informative sales experience while tapping into consumers’ sense of adventure and community. A working prototype was developed at the company’s Central Stores warehouse before being rolled out in the U.S.

A simple materials palette helps keep the store uncluttered and easy to navigate. “We used raw, natural materials without being too literal,” says Scott Rink, project manager at FRCH, including polished concrete flooring and plywood tables. “Rocks” made of felt offer a tongue-in-cheek reference for the visual displays.

A feature shoe wall is composed of moving panels with backstock located behind it. The flexible system keeps shoppers and sales associates connected throughout the entire selling process and reduces the time it takes to get a specific size or shoe model into customers’ hands (and on their feet).

An adventure wall near the front invites shoppers and sales associates to display trinkets, souvenirs and pictures collected on their latest adventures. “It gives them a place to leave their mark,” says Monica Gerhardt, FRCH’s account manager. “A place to say, ‘This shoe got me here.’ ”

There was also a conscious decision to use the layout and in-store graphics to focus on the performance and versatility of Merrell products, rather than push a technology message that could be off-putting to some adventure seekers.

“It allows the store to resonate with a diverse group,” says Gerhardt.

Project Suppliers

Retailer: Wolverine World Wide, Rockford, Mich.
Design: FRCH Design Worldwide, Cincinnati
General Contractor: Bozek Building & Remodeling, Sand Lake, Mich.
Outside Design Consultants: JDK Design, Burlington, Vt. (branding); 3D Werks Design and Construction Consulting, Essex, Mass. (construction)
Millwork: Nicewood Enterprises, Williamsburg, Va.
Fixtures: B+N Industries, Chicago