Demographic Design

Retailers can benefit from playing into the specific design preferences of each target audience.

Ever wonder why most children's stores host bright and cheery interiors while nearly every teen retailer has music pulsating throughout its hip retail space? That's no coincidence. Retailers are finding that demographic research (age, gender, and income) can greatly influence a store's design, proving to be a positive force for retailers. "For retailers to find success in today's marketplace, they need to find a way to balance their brand identity with those of the consumers they are looking to serve," says retail consultant Tim Matey. One way to do that is to reference the store's target market demographics during the design process and incorporate elements that will appeal to that market.

The first step, says Matey is for retailers to get to know their customers. Retailers should conduct customer surveys and observe how customers shop within their stores. They should also find out how customers interact within the retail environment and what their shopping preferences are. "For a brand-new retailer, determining a target market is key," says Matey. "Creating a profile of the ideal customer can help retailers create an environment that will cater to their likes and dislikes."

For example, if the retailer specializes in natural products, its customers would likely respond to a nature-inspired environment. "The key is to focus on the design details—the kind of materials and finishes, the fixture designs, and the colors and graphics incorporated," advises Matey. "It could be something as obvious as using age-appropriate models in store graphics or as subtle as incorporating unique design elements into store fixtures or displays."

Matey applauds specialty retailers such as Hollister, which has a very specific target market and a definite design approach. The store's facade is designed to resemble the front porch of a surf-inspired beach hut, and the loud music that pulsates throughout the store is reminiscent of the music typically found in a teen's bedroom.

Matey also notes the success of Build-A-Bear Workshop. Here, the whole process of building a bear becomes an "experience," and the retail shop is designed to facilitate that experience. A primary color palette infused with bold reds, yellows, and blues, is designed to attract children.

Matey believes that department stores, for the most part, are lacking in the demographic design arena. He advises them to focus on each specific department within the store and use colors, fixtures, and graphics that appeal to each department's target.