Even if we think that marketing is much more integrated by firms today than before, the nineteenth century can give us some lessons in terms of retail architecture. Department stores and shopping centers were often characterized by their beauty, their elegance and their majesty. Europe, and then the USA, became covered with these new cathedrals, such as Les Galeries Lafayettes in Paris, le Passage Pommeray in Nantes (pictured left), Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan or Queen Victoria building in Sydney. Why did the owners of theses shopping centers decide to spend so much money in the building? Because it is profitable.
Commercial architecture is a field of architecture caters especially retailers and it strives to accomplish two goals. The first goal is to attract the consumer in the store and to urge him or her to buy. The second one is to build brand equity for the firm by creating a special environment in the store, because the store is a medium. A few criteria have to be taken into account in the construction of a building: consistent representation of the brand and atmosphere, readable signs, free movement of the people, and similar store design in all locations. The cosmetic firm L’Occitane en Provence with its South of France atmosphere or Hollister with its South of California atmosphere exemplify the issues of commercial architecture.
Focusing on the architecture and the design of a store is not a gimmick; it must be a major aspect of the strategy of a retailer. Some surveys testify the positive return on investment after the renovation of a store. For instance, I found a survey on 113 retailers of every size base in the region of Lyon, France. According to this survey, 99% of the retailers recognized that the renovation was positive or very positive, 80% of them had an increase of their turnovers, 56% recognized that their customers bought in average more, 76% thought that the profile of their customers was younger and more upper-class, and 40% intended to do a new renovation in 5-10 years.[ii] Broadly speaking, the consequences of the renovation were very positive in terms of sales volumes, customer traffic and brand image.
The renovation of the stores can also be undertaken part of a more general change in the marketing strategy of the firm. It’s particularly true for the French leader of men’s apparel, Celio. This retailer has been booming since its creation in 1985 and decided in 2006 to change its visual identity by trying to cater a young and urban market. Celio stressed on “male and strong” colors: red, black, and white. The logo was changed and the stores were transformed, as follows. Up to now, half of the stores have been renovated it has already affected the turnover of the firm, since turnover has increased from €350 million to €450 million between 2005 and 2007[iii].
Old Celio store and New Celio store
So, is architecture marketing? Probably, but actually, I just wanted to talk about architecture.