Michaels, world's largest arts and crafts retailer, redesigns its in-store experience

Retail brand consultancy Interbrand Design Forum teamed with Michaels, the world's largest arts and crafts specialty retailer, to develop a new store prototype that transforms categories by creating a store-within-a-store experience in departments like jewelry-making, custom framing and scrapbooking.

By gathering consumer insights, the team identified a need for the store to have more personality and provide inspiration and fun throughout, but with an eye on the return on investment.

"The key was to balance in-store innovations with operations to find the financially productive opportunities that allow the retail brand experience to shine through," said Scott Jeffrey, chief creative officer, Interbrand Design Forum.

To do this, Interbrand Design Forum used its StoreBoard methodology to look at how space and capital could be allocated for maximum brand and financial return. This exercise freed up more space to celebrate the significant categories, and jumpstarted the process of improving organization of the store and its merchandise.

SLIDE SHOW: View photos of the new Michaels store design.

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The team developed "the art of inspiration" as the design filter which led to a new layout, wayfinding program and adjacency plan that clearly showcase Michaels' expertise.

"We wanted to communicate creativity by using the products within the store to highlight key departments and tell the story," said Jeffrey. "This approach provides intuitive navigation and gives the store a distinctive branded personality."

The difference is dramatically apparent from the moment a customer steps into the store. The store is an open, modern design with wider aisles, warm colors, brighter lighting, "inspiration kiosks" for project ideas and work spaces for customers to lay out an idea or design before purchasing.

An entry focal creates a gathering place for seasonal and trend items. Pulled from multiple departments, the display immediately inspires the shopper. From this vantage point the consumer has a clear view of the entire store and can quickly locate her destination.

The store's sightlines were improved by removing the top stock shelf from the fixtures. That overstock merchandise is now accommodated above the perimeter fixtures with a system that keeps the boxes out of sight.

By optimizing the use of space, Michaels was able to expand and celebrate five key departments:

  • Located in the center of the store, the scrapbooking department is highlighted by a soffit featuring a graphic that emulates a paper lantern. Work space within the department allows customers room to lay out their page ideas before buying. A wood floor and additional oversized paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling delineate the department and add visual interest to the store.
  • The new jewelry department offers more than 5,600 different styles of beads, which are clearly sorted. A large furniture-inspired fixture showcases the open stock beads that are new to Michaels' offering. Typically staffed, the feature doubles as a greeter station, with its placement just inside the door. Textured carpet adds warmth and serves the functional purpose of catching any dropped beads.
  • The new kids department highlights The Knack, Michaels' program for children, showcasing project idea displays that offer shopping convenience for parents. The department celebrates The Knack's branded colors and the fixtures are tiered to provide good sightlines of the entire offer. Arranged by age group, each display features a finished sample project, a free project sheet with step-by-step instructions and all the products needed to complete the project.
  • The art supply area has been redefined and improved to meet the needs of artists at any level, with an expanded and easy-to-shop presentation of canvas and brush options.
  • Custom framing is a key destination in the store. It is called out with a large frame feature that hangs from the ceiling. A center island encourages a hands-on design experience as the customer works alongside a dedicated custom framing staff member. The merchandise is organized by style and the new design offers increased opportunity to provide ideas and expose the shopper to options.

Organization was critical to these departments, so Interbrand conducted research to understand consumer's decision hierarchy. These insights helped establish category and shelving principles which led to the optimum way to group and display the merchandise and influenced the shelf and product level graphics.

"We have broken the mold of what customers expect from a craft store with this new design," said Stuart Aitken, Michaels chief marketing officer. "Our customers have told us they want freshness and inspiration from our stores, and those qualities shine through from the moment the customer walks in the front door."

"Crafting is all about fun, and what I love about this store is that it is energetic," said Jeffrey. "It looks like creativity is packed into the space. This makes it a more engaging place to shop, and for the employees it creates a better place to work, providing more opportunities to inspire customers."

The first prototype opened in Hurst, Texas in early October 2008. The store pictured in West Chester, Ohio (near Cincinnati), was one of 24 stores Michaels opened utilizing the new design in 2008.

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