Stores Put On a Facade
Retailers don’t want consumers window-shopping anymore. They want them inside buying merchandise, and so the days of the wide-open plate-glass window storefronts appear as though they may be coming to an end.
The desire to get consumers to buy is behind a new wave in storefront design with merchants putting up facades that look as though they are townhouses, beach shacks, cottages and other structures that draw attention but reduce the view of what’s inside.
In some cases, the lack of visibility proves problematic for consumers. Many find themselves walking into stores they are not familiar with only to find it is intended for another consumer.
Marc Caudill, 50 years of age and a conservative dresser, is an example. He recently found himself outside a Ruehl at a mall in Virginia with no real clue what the store was from the outside façade. A store employee told him Ruehl was for college students and pointed him to the door.
“The problem,” Mr. Caudill told The New York Times, “is that you really had to guess what it was until you got in.”
While there is no doubt that Mr. Caudill’s experience is not unique, retailers say the new facades help differentiate their stores from those going the traditional glass-pane window route.
Michele Martin, the head women’s clothing designer at Martin & Osa, said the standard storefront “is too transparent, too naked. It’s just a sea of clothing.”
Paco Underhill, founder, CEO and president of Envirosell and author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping and Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping, said the new storefronts are “just like that velvet rope in front of the nightclub. It makes people even more anxious to go inside and look.”
For every Marc Caudill, say executives, there are many others who walk into a store to find out what’s inside and stay to buy merchandise.
Alessandra Conti, 16, and Michelle Palotta, 17, found themselves outside a Ruehl just as Mr. Caudill had.
“We said, ‘Oh, what is this?’ ” said Ms. Conti. “And so we had to go in.”
“It has this cool apartment vibe,” said Ms. Palotta. “Instead of being in Bergen County in the middle of New Jersey, we are on a street in New York, and that is where we want to be anyway – living in New York City.”
Discussion Questions: What are your thoughts on the design trend that creates storefronts that look as though they are other structures, such as townhouses
or beach shacks? Do you see one type, the traditional glass-pane or the new reduced visibility storefronts, as being superior to the other?