Connie Post: Retail Is Not Dead

Connie Post reveals quick & easy tips for updating your showroom

Design by Connie Post: Featured In enLightenmet Residential Lighting Magazine

“You can’t take the shop out of the shopping experience,” notes retail strategist, branding/trend expert, and author Connie Post of Affordable Design™ Solutions by Connie Post International. “The brick-and-mortar store is still an important component in shopping, but your store has to come alive,” she cautions.

While acknowledging that there is a lot of online research and purchasing going on today, Post holds firm that the physical retail store is still relevant. “The retail store is not going away, however, its role has shifted to a more personal experience,” she explains. Online shopping is a more isolated experience than walking into a store. “Shopping in person is more of a team sport,” Post adds, referring to the interaction that goes on between the customer, the retail staff, the merchandise, and presentation.

Generate Visual Excitement
McDonald’s® and Pizza Hut® are rolling out major renovations to their interiors in order to appeal to modern consumers. “These are long-time brands,” Post notes, “but they’re staying current.” Some McDonald’s have added pouf ottomans and drum shades, while Pizza Hut has installed bold vinyl graphics on the walls.

Connie Post Pizza Hut Design

In the past, fast food places operated under the premise of getting customers in and out quickly, therefore décor wasn’t important. However, the paradigm has shifted. “Now they want you to stay longer and bring your family,” Post says. “Look at these new McDonald’s interiors; it’s about color and energy. It feels modern! Think about how your store compares to one of these new McDonald’s.” Does it have a vibrant atmosphere where people feel compelled to stay awhile?

Connie Post McDonalds Design

Pizza Hut’s vinyl graphics on the wall is something that is relatively cheap and easy for a lighting showroom to accomplish. “Pizza Hut is trying to create an environment that doesn’t give you the feeling that you’re in a low-price establishment,” Post explains.

Re-Invent the Wheel
Post points to Restoration Hardware’s giant seasonal “Source Book” as inspiration. “They’re essentially re-inventing the wheel,” she says, pointing to a recent item described as a deconstructed 19th Century English wingback chair. “They’ve come up with seven different lifestyles in this book and creatively named them. You can do this, too! You can form new lifestyle sections and come up with names for them – all while using the inventory you already have. It’s not that these collections are that different from what Restoration Hardware has sold before, but that they repackaged it.”

Post suggests buying clip art or photography on the Internet that you can download for free to make large-scale wall graphics to go with your newly created and named collections. Or blow up a graphic to billboard size and put it in your front window as a lifestyle statement. “You can even buy murals online that could work.”

“It’s all about marketing and strategy,” she affirms.  “In the Restoration Hardware Source Book, the only color used is blue,” Post remarks. “They’re subtly telling you that blue is a hot color and to pay attention to it.

Connie Post Designs: Parris

“You have the power within your store to create your own shopping experience for customers,” Post comments. How can you take a classic store and make it modern? Shake things up. “If 80% of your business is done with 20% of the SKUs, then take the bottom 10% and get creative with how you present it,” she explains.

Color Is Key
Post spent a good portion of spring traveling overseas, trend-watching at design shows. “Color is what people are looking for,” she observes. “This is the power of colorful accessories – they allow you to update the look of your store very quickly.”

Which hues are most dominant? “Everywhere I looked, I saw orange.” The popularity of Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2012 – Tangerine Tango – is very much in evidence. “You should have some orange and yellow out on your floor, even if you are just selling all-white furniture,” Post quips. “Your customers are being influenced by orange. Even Tiffany & Co. came out with an orange bag in Pantone 166!”

“Crate & Barrel is all about yellow; Hugo Boss is offering slim jeans in Dark Yellow and Orange; and the mere fact that a conservative company like La-Z-Boy® has yellow in their ads says that you need to pay attention to Pantone 7404!” (Yes, that’s a yellow.)

Another hue getting a lot of consumer exposure is navy. “The Frontgate® catalog, Yves St. Laurent, and Elle Décor magazine all have recently featured the mid-range blue Pantone 647,” Post points out.

In fall, there will be more muted colors coming through, she predicts. “I think bricky, dull reds will be hot through 2013. Then there are the plums and lavenders.” Natuzzi, Vera Wang, and Baker Furniture are just a few of the companies showcasing plum tones. “Green has been all over the place, but your customers are getting used to it,” Post says. A color like Pantone 362 has been received well.”

Red remains red hot. “You can’t go wrong with Pantone 1797; it’s that perfect shade of red,” Post notes. “You’ll see it on clothing as well as chairs.  Overall, people want change – and they will do it by adding color and accessories.”

The one color that Post insists you display is white. “In recent months, 14 home décor magazines featured white on the cover. If you haven’t done a white setting in your store yet, you are missing the mark,” she affirms.

Create Compelling Environments
There are a lot of creative ideas for making backdrops that stand out. Post points to the use of navy velvet fabric attached to a wall with crystal buttons as accents. “It really conveyed elegance,” she says. Imagine such a look in your crystal chandelier section!

“For one of my clients, we created a platform pedestal with plywood,” Post reveals. She has also employed linen draperies to form the frame of a vignette and, in another instance, painted a Mondrian pattern on the wall with thin wood trim painted black to frame each block of color.

Other unusual display materials Post has unearthed for clients includes old barn wood. “There is probably an old barn or structure falling apart not that far away. There could be lumber just sitting on a hillside and someone might be glad for you to cart it off. It’s a great background for either Lodge settings or even a Modern look.”

Post was impressed with a faux wooden ladder that was used to display pillows and shawls at one manufacturer booth she witnessed in Europe. “It’s a good use of vertical space,” she quips.
Using white brick wallpaper is another way to update a display, according to Post. “Nothing talks like brick,” she says.

There was an emphasis on nostalgia in the displays Post witnessed in Paris and the rest of Europe.  Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, she saw rustic and contemporary being joined together.     According to Post, there are low-cost merchandising materials all around you. “I saw pallets being used as walls at one design show,” she comments. “You probably already have leftover pallets in your warehouse that you could use.”

Even flat boards, nailed flat, and in their natural state (not painted), can make a modern backdrop for a display. “I’ve seen sheets of corrugated metal used as ‘walls’ to divide up space in a showroom,” she explains. “Take some white or black paint, grab a roller, and make linear lines around a display area. It’s a very updated look, and it doesn’t cost a lot.” In the same way, you can paint a wall with bright horizontal stripes to make a bold statement.

“Grab some discarded oil drums, paint them in the color of the moment, and display lamps on them or use them to create a low dividing wall,” Post remarks. “Take some old tires, wash them out, and put them in the kids’ department or in a retro/nostalgic vignette. I’ll bet you can get them for free!”

Finally, showing one item in multiple colors is another eye-catching technique that Post recommends when launching a promotion.


For more articles on Retail Lighting displays and merchandising, please see:

5 Steps to Improve Your Outdoor Lighting Section

Why Create A Children’s Lighting Section in Your Store?

Meyda & Cooper Lighting Add Sparkle to Quebec Mall’s Redesign

Would You Like Fries With Those Xicato LEDs?

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