Professional Jeweler Archive: Recession? Fuhgedaboutit!

September 2001


Recession? Fuhgedaboutit!

Now's no time to let your store image go stale. Renew your commitment to design and display to stay ahead of the curve

Don’t worry about a recession – worry about competition. Mass-market retailers are pouring so much money into expansion and store overhaul you can’t afford to let your own store image go stale, says RoxAnna Sway, editor of Display & Design Ideas magazine, who spoke on the state of retailing at a ShopEast trade show in New York City.

“The influence of design has never been stronger or more in demand by the customer,” says Sway, noting how Target changed its image from dull to cutting-edge by, among other things, recruiting architect and designer Michael Graves to design teapots and other products. Kmart has similarly injected some style-savvy by teaming with doyenne of taste Martha Stewart.

Retail Expansion

By 2002, 32 new regional malls with an average of 1.2 million square feet will open in the United States. That rate of development is up from 1998-’99, when 20 new malls opened.

Wal-Mart, meanwhile, will open 300 new stores. Walgreens will open 500 this year. Disney plans to remake 600 stores to the tune of $300 million. To this, add new foreign retailers that are expanding their U.S. presences, including H&M, Prada and Gucci. Meanwhile, old-fashioned catalog companies continue to leap to bricks-and-mortar; L.L. Bean opened a store this year in suburban Washington, DC. Other formerly catalog-only retailers are already mall stalwarts, including neo-prep retailer J. Crew and teen fashion resource Delia’s.

What’s Working

What are the weapons of choice in this retail free-for-all?

  • Modern, uncluttered design with strong lines, light colors and natural materials. “We’re seeing a return to the chrome, glass and plastic furniture that was popular in the mid-20th century,” says Sway.
  • Fun. Striving to be entertainment destinations, retailers are emphasizing the shopping “experience.” At The Apartment, a Manhattan furniture and home accessories retailer, for example, shoppers can watch store employees “living” in the vignettes – cooking, entertaining and watching TV in their pajamas.
  • Technology. Only 21% of retailers use electronics in their displays, says Sway, but more than 69% say they will do so in the next two years.

– by Mark E. Dixon

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications