Interview with Maciej Cegłowski, Design Director at CAPS Group
You have been working in store concept design and fixtures design for about 15 years now. There are surely a lot of projects that take a special place in your heart. What about more recently? Is there some design project that you are especially fond of?
M.C: As in any other job, in a designer’s role there are tasks and projects where you are extremely limited by input data, such as a tight specification, for example. Like many designers, I like it best when I can create something from scratch. So my favourite thing is working out new concepts for customers. This is really something that gets me going (laughs). Over the years, I have prepared some cool new concepts, both for a whole retail store or store-in store fixture display. Or a new kit launch display for smaller and bigger brands. And recently I had the exciting task of expanding a store concept design for one of our customers – Cotton Traders, a well-known UK retailer.
What was so exciting about the store concept design for Cotton Traders?
M.C: Where to start – mostly everything! We started our co-operation with the brand in 2014. CAPS created a store concept for the client and delivered the full roll out in 11 stores in the UK. And, at the end of last year the client, whose business is successfully growing, approached us again for help with creating 2 other concepts. This is one of those exciting moments when you know that what you did worked and you can continue the partnership with the client.
The 2 new concepts were to bring a lot of novelties compared to the originally created Cotton Traders store concept. The customer required that the concepts would fit into the brand identity, yet attract a completely new customer audience. Cotton Edits was addressed to 40+ age women, while Cotton Traders Home was targeted at home owners of various age. And, the 2 new concepts were to be seamlessly incorporated under one roof, aligning with the Cotton Traders brand! How’s that for a challenge?
Right. So how exactly did you solve this complicated case?
M.C: By listening carefully to the customer input and applying my experience, including the critical concept of creating memorable customer experiences. In order to come up with a successful solution you need to take into account a large number of factors of various types. I will name just a few to explain what kind of challenges these are.
With Cotton Traders’ strategic decision to grow in garden centres, the store space to design was affected by how the garden centres operate and look. So for the brand to stand out with its concepts, I used certain solutions to make the space more appealing to the customer. These included applying wall panels and wall headers finished with wallpaper, which, by adding also upholstered cushions, created a more sophisticated, boutique-like look. The Cotton Traders store created a nice distinction from the hall-like space organisation taken by other stores in the garden centre.
As per the customer’s requirement, the challenge was to visually separate the 2 new concepts on the Cotton Traders store floor yet remain consistent with the Cotton Traders brand image. It had to be clear to the customer that they are entering a different dimension and offering of Cotton Traders’ brand.
When designing Cotton Edits I also had to address the colours of the new store concepts. While corresponding with the Cotton Trades logotype in cream and beige, I also added elements in blue for a depth effect in the built-up gondolas. The mixture of cream, beige and blue created a more subtle atmosphere. The feeling that women appreciate.
Then there was a fixture mix to be considered. We developed and suggested new fixtures and fittings elements, such as display tables, the aforementioned gondolas, cushions and fabric-finished wall panels.
And what about the Cotton Traders Home store concept design?
M.C: Cotton Traders Home concept part was completely new. The items, before scattered around the store, now had to be presented in one place. At CAPS Group we have a lot of experience with home furnishings stores design and fit-out and that came in very handy. We prepared a wide range of fixtures and fittings scenarios and possibilities which impressed the customer. It is an extremely rewarding feeling, I must admit.
Even a dream job project has its downsides. What were yours this time?
M.C: Tight budget and time! – laughs Maciej. Aren’t they always? There is always something that can be done better or differently. But, it means more spending for the customer. There are always some solutions and details that can be refined further and further. However, you can’t move the deadline for opening a store. You need to be disciplined and keep your eyes on the ball. And work out a solution within the customer budget and timeframe, which can be really tight. Period.
Just to sum up then- how do you feel about the final outcome of this complex project?
M.C: The final effect? I think we succeeded in creating a situation where both Cotton Traders Home and Cotton Edits make a disproportionally bigger impression compared to the space they actually take on the whole Cotton Traders store floor. Mission accomplished.