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Focal Points In Store Design

Furniture World Magazine


How to use them to transform your showroom.

There was a time, not too long ago when it was customary to enter a furniture store and be greeted by endless rows of sofas, and a "sea" of recliners. I am delighted to say that those days are coming to an end. However, there are still many retailers across the country who are still showcasing home furnishings in an unflattering and unprofitable manner. As a store planner, I know there are numerous ways to merchandise and display home furnishings that are both exciting for shoppers and profitable for retailers.

At our store planning firm based in San Francisco, we practice design techniques formulated specifically for the home furnishing retailer. We call them "Profit Planning." By implementing "Profit Planning," retailers take the first step towards the realization that store planning is no longer a simple matter of esthetics. It has evolved into a deliberate and calculated segment of a successful business's strategic marketing plan.

Today's consumers are searching for excitement, entertainment, and enticing merchandise display within a shopping environment. The dramatic display of select merchandise in strategic locations, can transform your showroom into a profit producing machine.

As retailers, you must make that extra effort to keep your customers entertained and amused through the use of clear-sighted store planning and merchandising techniques. One of the most fundamental of these techniques is the design of effective traffic patterns.

TRAFFIC PATTERNS AND FOCAL POINTS: Controlling the traffic patterns in your store provides you with greater control over the actions of your customers. You have the ability to lead them to areas within your store where you want them to go, and can offer them access to every major category in your store. Of course, along the way you surprise them with focal points.

High impact focal points are exactly that, exceptionally stunning display vignettes. They can be comprised of any combination of products such as in the display of bedroom and home entertainment furniture. Together they provide customers with the opportunity to visualize those products in their own homes. High focal points placed at the ends of traffic patterns draw customers throughout your store. They give customers a destination. Focal points are one of the ways "Profit Planning" helps to coax shoppers off the aisles allowing them to explore your store.

We like to think that traffic patterns function like a freeway system. They take shoppers to destinations you choose. Shoppers will get off at certain "exits," then hop back on the freeway. Along the way, you provide them with "billboards," advertising your merchandising in a stimulating manner. These "billboards" become your focal points.

SIGHTLINES AND FOCAL POINT DISPLAYS: Clear uninterrupted lines of vision throughout your store are enhanced with focal point displays. They create diversion, interest and allow you to cross-merchandise items in an enticing "lifestyle manner." Life-style merchandising brings together merchandise from several different product categories, to create a realistic life-like display. Interesting and dramatically lit focal point displays will draw shoppers to them. When they are placed far into the store, customers will walk to them, and thus be exposed to more of your merchandise.

LOCATING FOCAL POINT DISPLAYS: Focal point displays are excellent introductions to a new department or category selection. In their own right they act as a sort of sign system. Try to visualize a spectacular display showcasing a special dining room selection at the entrance to that department. It is sure to arouse curiosity and prompt shoppers to browse through the rest of that category. When setting up a dining room focal point, remember to accessorize the table tops with china and florals. The walls should be accented with mirrors and paintings. You may even choose to place a silk tree in your vignette. Be sure to place an up-light beneath it for a dramatic shadow effect on the wall and ceiling.

DEPARTMENTAL TRANSITIONS: Focal point displays can also indicate transitions between departments. For instance, a focal display between master bedroom and upholstery can deliver high impact. This display can become the quintessential master bedroom suite. It can include bedding, upholstery, home office, and even home theater. Imagine the interest this well lit, properly located focal point display will generate. Imagine the sales it creates by stimulating the minds of your customers.

PROMOTIONAL DISPLAYS: Focal point displays provide you with an additional opportunity to showcase promotional or sale items in an enticing manner. An attractive display in a prominent location at the front entrance will announce your promotion to all who enter. Additional displays throughout the store, should showcase promotional products in "life-style" settings that show customers the built-in value of your merchandise, and how appealing it will look as part of their own home settings.

LIGHTING YOUR FOCAL DISPLAYS: Lighting is one the most important aspects of "Profit Planning." A retail space virtually breathes by the success of its lighting design. A good lighting system will not only enhance furniture and consumers, it changes the perception of your store in the minds of your customers. It helps to define and organize your departments. Imaginative lighting design is an effective way to delineating product categories and attract customers to your focal point displays.

Use a combination of light sources above your display. An incandescent lamp source such as that provided by PAR lamps will provide your display with a light color similar to that found in most homes. To highlight and accentuate important merchandise, you will need a strong white light source such as that provided by a halogen lamp. You can select from a variety of beam spreads. Most are available in spreads from full "flood" (FL) to "very narrow spot,"(VNS). By controlling the beam spread, you can highlight a general area or call attention to something as small as a table top accessory. Take a good look at the lighting conditions above and around your focal point displays. Determine if they are leading to increased sales. If they are not, then you need to correct and improve them!

SELECTING COLORS FOR YOUR FOCAL DISPLAYS: When it comes to selecting colors, finishes and materials for a focal display just about all combinations are fair game if they work together in your final concept to promote further sales and increased revenues.

In addition to enhancing merchandise, "Profit Planning's" color techniques will define your display's "price point." We know that particular groups of colors are attractive to certain segments of the population, and likewise unattractive to others. For example, there are high range, mid and low range colors that can stimulate or detract attention from your display.

Be sure that the colors you use in your displays are created for your market base. For focal point displays it is best to stick to a neutral pallet of timeless colors. Choose beige, cream, off-whites, greiges and tans. These colors will not compete with your merchandise.

Other colors that are successful in planning your store are "cool colors" including gray, blue-green, soft gray-greens and blue-violets. These colors are conservative, and let your merchandise take center stage.

Accent lightly with jewel tone colors like burgundy, teal, emerald and sapphire. If your display is a promotional one, you may wish to make use of some of the "declassifying" colors. They include certain shades of orange, yellow and blue. Declassifying colors effect the perceived value of merchandise, subconsciously telling consumers that your product is a value. The use of color psychology and its effect on consumer shopping is a potent "Profit Planning" tool. Remember to use all accent colors sparingly as both employees and especially shoppers tire of large expanses of these colors.

Plan your store to provide consumers with an exciting, stimulating shopping environment. Help them to visualize your merchandise in their home. Using effective traffic patterns, dramatic lighting and a sales stimulating color palette, you too will create stunning, profitable Focal Point displays that will transform your showroom and your sales!

Randahl Ramos is a principal with Curtis Randahl Associates, a store planning firm based in San Francisco. Questions about store design/planning can be directed to editor@furninfo.com.