About three years ago, iconic fashion brand Kate Spade began taking the steps to solidify a consistent brand identity across its more than 140 retail shops and outlet stores across the U.S., and more than 145 stores internationally. The brand needed someone with the technical proficiency and ability to scale up globally while maintaining Kate Spade's elevated aesthetic standards. To do this, Kate Spade joined forces with supply chain management platform White Space to tackle details such as custom tiles and flooring and light fixtures in all stores. White Space helped the brand’s design and construction team bring their design vision to life by managing the manufacturing of custom interiors and their delivery to every new store—be they brand-owned or managed by a franchisee.
"We work with retailers to create custom elements that bring forward the brand’s identity and add richly to the shopping experience," Aytan Litwin, founder and CEO of White Space, told FierceRetail.
Over the course of their relationship, White Space was able to grasp the hallmarks of Kate Spade—crisp color, graphic prints and playful sophistication—enable it to deploy its customized end-to-end supply chain to bring the redesigned spaces to life, with consistent quality and attention to detail. The pair have now collaborated to open more than 100 stores from Paris to Dubai.
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Litwin points out that, now more than ever, physical stores need to offer a true competitive advantage in order to lure customers into the store. Therefore, retailers need to create immersive spaces that connect emotionally and experientially with shoppers.
"Today’s consumers want to connect with brands beyond the product level. They’re looking to buy into brands that can build an entire 'world'—which means everything a consumer sees and touches," he said.
Since the revamp, Litwin says that Kate Spade stores now maintain a sophisticated look that's still whimsical and accessible. He notes that these trademark looks are in the details including the engineered wood floors, ceramic tiles with water-jetted patterns in custom shapes, and highly complex lighting fixtures.
Overall, Litwin notes that today's consumers are looking for inspiration in a retail space.
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"Brands like Kate Spade obviously exist in the digital and physical worlds—and each work together to build a meaningful and complete relationship," Litwin said. "Physical can do things that digital can’t—although with VR and AR, that gap is being closed. But for the time being, in physical retail environments, brands have the opportunity to transport their customers into a holistic world—one that delivers a heightened emotional and service experience. In other words, crossing the threshold of a Kate Spade store’s doorway should feel like crossing the border into a world of their own."
Litwin says that countless retailers make the same mistakes when creating their physical store spaces. For one, when a retailer tries save money on the space and sacrifices quality, as consumers are well-attuned to spotting good and bad quality instantly.
"Which is why it is essential for retailers to learn the skills of 'designing to budget' and to find new sources of supply," he said.
Also, he notes that it is a mistake when retailers fail to recognize the need for multiple sources of stimulation for customers. Surprises increase foot traffic and drive repeat business.
Moving forward, Litwin says these trends will only intensify, so brands must learn new ways to deliver immersive shopping experiences. In other words, give customers a reason to drive to the store instead of ordering on Amazon.
"Even if physical stores simply become a new type of fitting room, it will be the first step of an experience that will need to be perfectly and precisely extended online. That’s why we see design elements that help make that first encounter more memorable becoming integral parts of physical retail environments," Litwin said.