Machine and Theater. Design Concepts for Shop Buildings Most retail trade takes place in shops. For retailers a shop is the physical context for their commercial activities. Consumers spend a substantial amount of their time there, making essential purchases and also window shopping. Machine and theatre, design concepts for shop buildings investigates the function and the significance of shop space. The arcade, the department store, the supermarket, the shopping centre, the big-box retail park, and the virtual shop are the six types of shops considered in this research. Formulation of a problem: visual sales method Visual Merchandizing is the retail trade´s most important sales method. It assumes that products sell themselves through their packaging and the shop´s architecture. The visual relationship between consumers and product is at the forefront. This relationship is to an important extent associated with the shop building and the traditional retail trade. Free access to the shop, display of the articles in the shop itself, fixed prices and guarantees on the articles are the necessary conditions for the development of visual merchandizing. Before the visual merchandizing sales method became dominant, there was an oral consumption culture. At that time there was no independent retail trade. Craftsmen were also shopkeepers, farmers brought their produce to the (vegetable) market themselves and peddlers wandered from town to town. They just sold what they had. The virtues of the goods on sale were extolled by verbal means. Buyer and seller bargained fiercely over the price. Theatre formed part of this oral culture. Machine on the other hand is a characteristic peculiar to visual merchandizing. The display of goods in the shop demands a particular strategy from the consumers: they have to use their eyes. This study investigates the part played in visual merchandizing by shop buildings, including recent changes. There are indications that oral sales methods are returning in a revised form. The research study has concentrated on two suppositions: an increasing virtualization of shop design; a greater participation by consumers. The work of Baudrillard and McLuhan formed an important theoretical starting point. In The Precession of Simulacra published in 1981, Baudrillard describes the significance and function of the image and the relationship it has with the object it represents. He describes a process of increasing disconnection of the image from the object. In this research study this process has been analysed for the social references and symbolism which lie hidden under the shop design. In his Understanding Media published in 1964, Marshall McLuhan discusses the various media which people use: the written word, newspapers, radio, clothes, cars, films, television. The (emotional) involvement of the observer in new media such as television is high; the observer participates more in the process than in the product. The written word and the newspaper on the other hand are examples of traditional media which create a distance between the medium and the observer through their high information content. The involvement between the observer and the media (under which McLuhan includes everyday examples such as newspaper, radio and television) is considered in this research with respect to the relationship between the consumer and the shop. Methods of research The theoretical issue of virtualization and participation has been in the forefront of the study throughout. Each of the six shop types is characterized by a combination of the virtualization of the shop design and the participation of the consumers. Examination of the history of shop buildings and comparison of the various shop types make clear the contribution of shop space to the sales method. In carrying out the empirical research, mainly qualitative research techniques have been used, namely: 1. literature study for the secondary analysis of data and (partial) histories of shop companies and shop types; 2. field research in the form of project analyses of shops in the Netherlands and abroad. Tens of projects in the Netherlands were considered. All shop types were represented in the survey. During a study journey to Canada and the United States in May 1997 the emphasis was on the analysis of department stores, supermarkets and the different variants of the shopping centre (including: the open shopping centre, the closed mall, the vertical mall, the outlet centre and the entertainment centre). On visits made in the last few years to a number of European capitals including Berlin, Brussels, London and Paris, particular attention was paid to the arcades and department stores. These visits provided the material for the documentation (with the published photographs as an important result) and the international comparison; 3. case studies of Netherlands projects and shop companies. A Netherlands case was selected for each shop type. Descriptions follow of: The Hague´s Arcade, the Bijenkorf´s new department store in The Stadshart (Heart of the Town) in Amstelveen, Albert Heijn (supermarket Soendaplein, Haarlem), the shopping centre The Hovenpassage (Court Arcade) in Delft, IKEA and the mail-order catalogue shopping company Wehkamp. Each case study clarifies - within the segmented design of the empirical research - a particular example, each one chosen because it was a well known or otherwise noteworthy shop. Most of the cases revealed the extensive changes in the concept of the shop that have taken place in the period while this research was carried out; 4. archive research. Reference to the archives was necessary for a more thorough investigation of certain aspects of particular shop types. These empirical research study elements covered for example the reconstruction of the development of self-service and the supermarket in the United States and the Netherlands, the history of the design variants of the Rotterdam Lijnbaan (including the references used, the designers involved, and so forth) and the development of text and illustration in the mail-order catalogues. In relation to the other research methods however, the scope of the archive research was limited. The main results of the research are: 1. The development of hybrid shop forms The present miscellaneous range of shop types has a hybrid character. In the past the assortment was more distinct than it is now. For every part of the assortment there used to be a separate shop. The breadth and depth of the assortment turned out to be unstable. Moreover, the character of what was on offer changed; in addition to products, services were offered. A fixed place and time hardly exists any more. Opening times have been substantially liberalized and the locations where shops are established explore fresh new opportunities: at peripheral locations at the edge of, or outside the cities, near filling stations, at train and metro stations and at airports. New shop locations are not restricted to places related to mobility. Places of culture (museums, such as the Louvre in Paris) and sport (the football stadium Arena in Amsterdam, for example) take advantage of the opportunity to operate in combination with shops. Shops do not just change form (the department store replaces the arcade), influence each other (the mall draws on the arcade), but also each type (the arcade, the department store and so forth) has its own history. A brief summary: the department store initially had certain characteristics of the arcade, namely the light court and the galleries over other floors. Through the need for greater sales space these glass roofed atriums disappeared, but have recently made a return. The conceptual development of the arcade and the department store make important reference to the building of the royal court and the theatre respectively. The supermarket has taken over not only the variety and ambience of previous types (the market and the grocer), but also the looser design in current lay-out looks much like another predecessor: the department store. Shopping centres in suburban residential areas were regarded in the first instance as imitating the social vitality of the city centre; later, along the lines of the same model they were expected to put social life back in the city centre in the context of its revitalization (see Eaton Center in Toronto, Canada). The big-box retail park seems in its young history hardly to have been able to choose which reference fits it best: the wide urban avenue, or the residential house. The virtual shop reveals an even greater capability of manipulation of shop design than the other shop types. Shop interiors of the concept shops offer a lifestyle environment for a specific target group. The virtual shop is a follow-up to this and supplements the concept with interactivity. 2. Preference for the homely space The history of shop building in the last two hundred years reveals a disconnection of image from object. And as soon as an image becomes independent, the image itself becomes a model for realization. An original type can often no longer be obtained. The capability of the shop building to be shaped is increasing. Currently all kinds of shop buildings can be seen. The manner of presentation is independent of the underlying business management principles. The virtual shop is the best illustration of this, but other shops also have characteristics of the virtualization process. Baudrillard´s typification of the image as the ´masking of a deeper reality,´ or as the existence of ´pure simulation´ is well expressed here. Of the many references made here, the homely space currently enjoys a marked preference. We find this preference in shop architecture in the closed character of the shop or shopping centre, the use of the light court, the construction becoming independent of the facade and the emphasis on vertical lines in the interior (not infrequently crowned by a triangular form reminiscent of the pointed roof of a residential house). The homeliness is not restricted to the monumental characteristics of the shop. Chairs, tables, sofas (living room), kitchen, toys (children´s room) imitate the different rooms of the home. There is even evidence of all sorts of pleasure and amusement (amusement park, dolphinarium, swimming pool, ice rink) dominating the homely ambience; they are however always risk-free forms of amusement. There are many examples. Some outstanding international instances are: the Eaton Center in Toronto, the West Edmonton Mall (Canada), the Mall of America in Bloomington (United States), and The Lab Anti mall (California). In the Netherlands: the renovated Bijenkorf in The Hague, Albert Heijn´s latest supermarket design with a cookery class at selected branches in Haarlem and elsewhere, Rotterdam´s residential mall Alexandrium, IKEA´s children´s paradise, and the Bijenkorf´s Chill-Out. 3. Participation of consumers in events and worlds The shop design acquired social significance at an early stage in the history of the established retail trade. This significance has to radiate from the products on sale. According to some writers, this associative function must conceal the relative poverty of the uniform mass products. The shop interior is limited in what it can do to achieve such effects. The desired effect has to come about purely through the visual spatial qualities. The shop floor has therefore also become the stage for promotions and events. Examples include: the fashion show, the furniture exhibition, the book signing session with well known authors, the ball bath, the cookery class, the amusement park (with several variants), the interactive floor (a press on the knob on the outside of the display window sets an installation in movement) and the interactive auction on the internet. All these activities aim at greater consumer participation. Participation is aroused not only through visual impressions, but through stimulating all the senses. That includes touch, hearing, smell, and taste. One of the reasons for promotions and events is a change on the demand side. Not only are the boundaries blurring on the supply side, but on the demand side, too. In the past most consumers were women. All the books and documentation at home and abroad write of a she. She represented the household to which she belonged. The proportion of the shopping public made up by women has meanwhile dropped sharply. In the last few decades an individualization process has taken place in society, with the effect that the individual members of a household operate increasingly as independent consumers. Men, children, women, the young, and the elderly have all become consumers who just represent themselves. The variety of forms of participation implies a new bond between consumers and the retail trade. Consumers become partners in the logistic and production processes. Consumers complete the product or service through their own contribution. The shift in advertisement and shop design with lots of text and high information density to the presentation of a complete lifestyle has increased, as has the retail trade´s expectations of the opportunities deriving from the bond between consumer and shop. The shop floor becomes segmented in increasing measure. Different consumer groups acquire their own departments and specific routes round them are created. These are good illustrations of McLuhan´s proposition. Participation in a promotion or an event is often a collective activity. Consumers participate with like-minded people. The significance of the term collective actually remains restricted to the activity itself. It cannot be concluded on the basis of this research whether there is a trend from machine to theatre (as representatives of the retail trade often currently assert). The shop presentation is set up to attract consumers and sell the products. On one occasion the shop will look like a machine and on another like a theatre. This implies a certain polarization of experiences. When the company organization is also taken into account then machine and theatre converge in a certain sense. The presentation form is fairly arbitrary with respect to the underlying company organization. It has to be said that at the same time the rationalization of the business management process in the last few years has given us an increase in Efficient Consumer Response (ECR), category management, just-in-time deliveries, and so forth. All in all more attention is paid to personal contribution and service. In the (interactive) promotion and the (interactive) event consumer participation is even a condition for the fulfilment of the product. The best environment for a product´s success is the (imitation) home; a safe and private space. The new forms of interactivity imply an application of the existing system of visual merchandizing. This application is not a return to the oral culture dating from the early days of visual merchandizing, because currently all the senses are stimulated intensively. Applications The research results provide a framework for further study of various topics at the cutting edge between architecture and the retail trade. The study carried out comprises just a beginning for a better understanding of the design of shop buildings in relation to other relevant aspects such as consumption patterns and the underlying business management of a shop company. A multi-disciplinary approach can yield a cohesive picture of the various designs. The documentation and the comparison of national and international projects provide insights into the structure and dynamics of the various types of shop buildings. The dynamism encountered is relatively great. On the basis of the research, recent developments in the home country such as for example the leisure and the outlet centre become easier to understand.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||4 Nov 1999|
|Place of Publication||Rotterdam|
|Publication status||Published - 1999|