Professional Jeweler Archive:The Store as a Storybook

February 2001

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The Store as a Storybook

It's your job to make it a good read


A good store should be like a good story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. The entrance is the prologue, says Mitchell Mauk, CEO of Mauk Design, a design firm in San Francisco, CA. It sets up the story, creates expectations and offers promises. “The storefront says ‘I’m cheap’ or ‘I’m sophisticated’ or ‘I’m cool,’” Mauk writes in Visual Merchandising & Store Design magazine. “Too often, stores launch right into ‘Here’s what we’ve got to sell.’”

Like the first line of a novel – “It was a dark and stormy night …” – an entrance should entice, hint and tease at what’s within. It should make you want to enter, he says.

Chapter One

The inside of the store is analogous to the middle of the story and should start slowly. Just as it takes time to develop a plot, customers need a few seconds to orient themselves. A single message has a far greater chance of sticking than do a dozen products cluttering the path.

Stores should describe the stories behind their products. If the lead product is shampoo with a special oil from the Amazon, he says, show a vial of that oil. Take a photo (or better, make a model) of the boat used to transport the oil. Reproduce the ticket the store’s buyer bought to board the boat. You might show a rough diamond, a scene from a mine and a live jeweler at work cutting or setting it.

“The more customers understand that a store or manufacturer has struggled and fought to put unique products in front of them, the higher the premium they will put on that store’s products,” says Mauk.

Chapter Two

Use light, motion and visuals to guide customers through the store. Retailers selling Michael Graves-designed merchandise, for example, should tell the customer why this architect is so respected. “By telling Graves’ story, you’re upping the perceived value of the merchandise,” he says. “Shoppers want to own a piece of the story, and they’ll remember where they bought it.”

Another exhibit trick is to provide visual destinations at the end of a long aisle: The U.S. Capitol or Lincoln Memorial sitting at opposite ends of the Mall in Washington, DC, for example. Such experiences take up space, he acknowledges. But the chance to make such statements is a fundamental difference between a bricks-and-mortar store and doing business on the Web.

Chapter Three

The cashier’s desk is the retail equivalent of a story’s finale, says Mauk. It shouldn’t be a dull experience.

Imbed monitors under the check-writing desk and use them to convey messages about specials, seasons or time of day. Customers occupied with motion and graphics are less likely to be bored by the final transaction. “Think of the cashwrap as a stage,” he says.

– by Mark E. Dixon


Use light, motion, visuals and layout to guide customers through your store.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications