VM Trends: Best Foot Forward

Outdoor retail brand Cotopaxi champions social causes
Posted August 12, 2019

Experiential merchandising is the latest survival tool in the harsh wilderness of high street retail. Outdoor brand Cotopaxi (Salt Lake City) is fast catching up with long-established outdoor retailers such as The North Face (Alameda, Calif.) and Patagonia (Ventura, Calif.) by channeling philanthropy into its products and displays.

Located at the foot of Salt Lake’s mountains in Murray, Utah, this particular store (shown) is a base camp for the great outdoors. Hero products are placed up front to set the scene for the customer journey. Walls do much of the work, too, with colorful backpacks made from recycled materials hung on pegs alongside a narrative of the creative process behind them.

“We created star moments, like the uncluttered steel tabletops, to strategically solve how customers shop that space. There, they can lay out and compare similar products,” explains CallisonRTKL (Baltimore) Associate Ryan Benson, who’s based at the firm’s Seattle office.

A vending machine that delivers surprises, like gift cards or limited edition products, makes for an interactive element at the back of the store. Photos of customers using Cotopaxi gear fill space between the displays.

“Our design is the frame for the product – competing with it would have been the wrong approach,” says Benson. Simple, natural materials, including plywood paneling, serve as a backdrop for duffels and daypacks. Apparel and equipment is laid out to be touched and explored. A backlit llama icon behind the cash wrap is a visual reminder of the origin of the wool sweaters that line the shelves. “We made space for everything to breathe, leaving sight lines open.”

Signage carrying the brand’s ethos – “get out there” and “do good” – is peppered throughout the store, connecting Cotopaxi with the customer on a personal level. These calls to action do more than drive sales, they touch on our collective environmental responsibility, resonating with today’s planet-conscious consumer. It is this thoughtful integration of brand message with visual merchandising that makes it so impactful. As Benson explains, “it puts what Cotopaxi stands for front and center.”

[Photography: Benjamin Benschneider, Seattle]