Friday, March 12, 2010

The Mall of Millenia

Strolling through the Mall of Millennia, I was reminded of how many clever ideas exist in the shopping mall if you keep your eyes open. From the total shopping mall landscape, right down to individual store display elements. What I noticed most of all though was some strong retail themes that are in vogue right now.

Found item seems to have a great presence in a number of stores. Reclaimed and recycled wood benches, desks and tables are extremely popular as many retailers quietly emulate the Anthropologie visual esthetic. Old leather covered display tables and cash desks. A single 1940’s bicycle was the display element in a retailers window. Cupboards and drawers used as merchandising units. Recycling and reusing materials for display purposes.

Urban Outfitters seems to take this concept to the extreme in their Mall of Millennia store. Deconstructed and warehouse styled, the use of plywood as the singular design element is prevalent. Many wondered at copying this style at their own stores. While it certainly looks appealing, it is a reminder that to emulate the Urban Outfitters style means going big or gong home. You can’t do it piece meal. It seems to only work if you plan on transforming your entire store presence into these trendy urban retail barns.

In terms of color, Green is the color. Shades of vibrant green (and some orange) dominate in store merchandise and visual identity. So frequent was this color throughout the mall stores, you begin to wonder if perhaps green is now too popular, too common to be an “in” trendy color. After all, Pantone has moved on to turquoise as the color of the year. Perhaps retailers are just about ready to move onto this new color palette and leave green in the dust.

Overall visual design for retailers right now is on simplicity. Oneness. Simplicity in product placement and visual presentation. The one bicycle in the window was a sample of this, as was the large steamer trunk in another. Simple and arresting. Once again, Apple leads the way in their visual design. Disciplined and engaging. Simple cardboard cutouts of Apple reps greet you from the window. As we stood there, customers ran in to stand with the cutouts at their partner took pics. A good example of customer engagement.

And the total mall itself? An amazingly comfortable and community focused structure. A sense of height over the two levels. Wide open center courtyard areas for sitting and visiting. A vast glass atrium runs the length of the mall. I wondered how much inspiration could be gleaned from this mall when constructing Student union buildings on campus.

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