A 3-D "brand experience" in the Toys "R" Us flagship
Posted February 20, 2003

Toys "R" Us wanted to serve food and drink in its new New York flagship store, but code restrictions prohibited the construction of a kitchen.

A generic hot dog place, using microwave ovens in lieu of a kitchen, was considered and rejected. But Pepsi-Cola had been supplyling vending machines in other store locations, so the retailer of toy turned to the beverage of joy. Many other brands occupy "shop" areas within the huge store, and Pepsi (along with its Frito-Lay subsidiary) is certainly a brand with a powerful sip-and-snack connect.

With time running short, Pepsi approached FRCH Worldwide, the Cincinnati-based retail design firm, which came on board just six months before the flagship's opening.

"In a week of brainstorming, we focused on high tech, high sophistication - the indelibly urban, cutting edge en-vironment of Times Square," recalls FRCH principal Tom Horwitz. "What was the coolest way we could dispense Pepsi? A giant Pepsi fountain, a translucent fabric sculpture with an interior 'light show'that would be visible from all over the store. It would be a kind of Pepsi Factory."

A two-hour "brand dipping" meeting with Pepsi managers distilled the essential elements of the brand, which are "fun, optimism, innovation and taste - the Pepsi Experience," Horwitz says. Pepsi approved the fountain idea, but there were other issues to address, the most pressing being the need for high "pull-through." To cope with the anticipated volume of traffic, Pepsi World had to be a "grab a soda and go" environment, where customers could move quickly in and out of the space.

"Still," Horwitz says, "shoppers need to get off their feet for a few minutes, at least." So 32 seats - mainly bolted-to-the-floor stools with Pepsi bottle cap cushions - were installed around counters of varying levels for adults and kids. The food element was reduced to pre-boxed snacks provided by Frito-Lay and a Breyers ice cream station where kids can make floats to order.

"For Pepsi, it's all about carbonation," Horwitz says. "We put reflective Fresnel lenses on divider panels to create an effect of movement and vibration. And the Pepsi Factory idea was underlined with industrial elements like pipes and valves. The Pay Podium, where customers buy tickets for refreshments, resembles a horizontal steel tank. The PepsiMatic drink dispensers also look industrial."

To reinforce brand icons, each dispensing station has an LCD monitor featuring Pepsi ad celebrities and lifestyle trends. A "Pepsi Live" stage of embossed steel panels is the site of new product launches with guest sports and entertainment stars.

To get everything done on schedule, FRCH tapped the trade show exhibit company, Exhibitgroup/Giltspur (Roselle, Ill.), to fabricate all the interior elements at its northern Kentucky facility. Giltspur and FRCH then took a SWAT-team approach to installing the interiors. Restaurant Associates (New York) was brought on board to manage the food service.

The space, on a platform straddling the top of the dramatic four-story atrium, offers a panoramic view of every level of the Toys "R" Us flagship. And part of the drama is wondering whether Britney Spears will show up.

Client Design Team: Pepsi-Cola Co., Purchase, N.Y. - Randy Eyberg, senior marketing manager, customer marketing; Chad Stubbs, assistant manager, customer marketing; Scott Hughes, national accounts sales manager

Design Team: FRCH, Cincinnati - Thomas Horwitz, principal-in-charge; Kyle Kieper, design director; Scott Rink, senior designer/ project manager; Michael Chaney, designer; Jenny Kerr, graphic designer

General Contractor: Epstein Construction, Hackensack, N.J.

Outside Consultants: ProjectEye Inc., Livingston, N.J. (construction management); Lighting Management Inc., New City, N.Y; (lighting)

Suppliers: Exhibitgroup/Giltspur, Erlanger, Ky. (fixturing); Amtico Intl. Inc., Atlanta (flooring); Yemm & Hart, Marquand, Mo. (countertops); Moss Inc., Belfast, Maine (tensile structures); Saline Solutions, Toronto (bubble wall); Hollaender, Cincinnati (pipe railing)