We had the pleasure of speaking with Werner Franz, architect and co-founder of Plajer & Franz Studio, about the firm's work on Puma's ambitious redesign of its stores in London, Amsterdam and Munich. With over a decade of experience on international retail projects around the world, we were eager to get his thoughts on the broader trends in retail design, and what the future of retail will look like. Of course, we only had so many pages in our August issue, so we now present some other clips from our interview for your enlightenment. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
What direction/vision did Ales Kernjak [head of global concepts with Puma Retail AG] give to you or your design team at the start of this project? How did this redesign fit into Puma’s 2.0 Retail Concept?
Puma’s Retail 2.0 concept follows a strong philosophy, and is also a reflection of the witty and joyful spirit of the company. It aims at strengthening the brand and providing a more joyful shopping experience. It wants to give more clarity about Puma being both a sports and lifestyle brand. Further, it puts innovation, simplicity and flexibility as design objectives, aiming at optimizing the general store design principles through a clear gender and product category navigation. Moreover, the new spaces should surprise with unexpected features, create a memorable shopping experience for consumers and include local flavor.
All of these aspects needed to be translated into the new store design, so we set focus points such as the huge brand wall or the wooden ceiling beams, and focus areas such as footwear or motorsports. Various aspects of the design concept have the role of a navigator that leads consumers through the store and makes it easy for them to find what they are looking for.
I think any good store concept should be able to do so. Walking around the store and not being able to find easily what you are looking for is just frustrating and would put consumers off—especially as time is more precious today than ever before. Moreover, it makes more sense for consumers to have a joyful shopping experience and spend their time in the store having fun, interacting and playing with the various gadgets that are incorporated in the design or trying on the products instead of looking for them.
Puma’s philosophy treats the product as a hero, which is pretty much what we think as a design studio. Hence, the architecture we create for a retail space is in a way the “grand stage” for the hero!
Local elements seem to play a significant role in each store—why was this direction chosen for such a global brand?
The local flavor is a new addition to Puma’s stores and has a significant role in it. This direction was chosen for two reasons—first of all, it acknowledges the sense of uniqueness. Puma is a global brand, yes, but this does not necessarily speak against being unique or individual in a certain way. These local elements add something interesting, something special and joyful to the store design, and make it unique.
Secondly, by reflecting the consumers’ direct environment and things that are part of their lifestyle and familiar to them, you give them more chances to identify with the brand. In this sense, it can be a great way to strengthen customer retention. However, by doing so it is important for the brand to remain authentic.
Hence, a good store design that integrates these regional elements or cultural aspects (this also includes collaborations with local artists) needs to respect this. Ales Kernjak puts a particular emphasis on the local flavor aspect, as it reflects Puma’s passion in interacting with its consumers and enhancing the idea of turning shopping into a real experience.
Technology is also ubiquitous in the stores, from the use of digital video to iPads—what was the intention of incorporating technology so closely into the brick‐and‐mortar retail experience?
Diverse cutting‐edge technologies are part of the innovation idea in the new stores. Integrating them into the store design has the intention of enhancing customer interaction in the store, and at the same time offering them a joyful experience while shopping. Playing games, watching image videos, and browsing through the website make the shop visit multifaceted, which I think is what we should aim for.
Secondly, by integrating cutting‐edge technologies into the store design, we take a step towards joining the two worlds of real shopping and online shopping. The latter is becoming more and more important for each brand, so instead of separating them, why not find ways to combine both worlds?
What do you envision the future of retail looking like?
I think technologies will be more and more an inherent part of retail design in the future, mainly for the reasons mentioned above. I also think that in aesthetic terms, we will see them integrated in a contrasting environment—partly as a reflection of these two colliding worlds and partly because this development is detached from the aesthetic development in retail design.
Another point that is relevant in this context is the aspect of sustainability in store design—it was particularly important for the store redesign of the Puma shops. An integral part of the idea of a sustainable store design is a reduction in the use of materials, as well as the choice of efficient and environmentally friendly materials. This automatically leads towards a certain direction—a certain look, if you wish—in retail design.
Can you talk about the lighting used in the space? What are HIT lights, and how did you use lighting to create a dynamic, immersive environment for customers?
The lighting concept was designed by XAL GmbH, and the idea was to have an energy-efficient lighting concept that would result in reduced energy consumption and thus minimize the CO2 footprint of the store.
The lighting system subordinates itself consequently to the architecture of the store, creating an atmosphere that subjectively leads the customers through the space. The small, almost invisible projectors based on HIT technology work perfectly to accentuate the products by illuminating them from a certain angle. No general lighting has been deployed in the entire shop.
The HIT technology corresponds to the latest state of technology: being able to generate high color fidelity and a three‐dimensional image. It is not a glow filament but an arc load which generates the light. As a result, we can achieve a high intensity of illumination while having a comparatively low energy consumption. In areas with limited accessibility, the HIT technology has been replaced by LEDs with virtually the same luminance intensity. LED is a long‐lasting technology allowing for long periods without maintenance and replacement of the illuminant. The combination of the two progressive systems corresponds to Puma’s sustainable and energy efficient requirements.
Simplicity was one of the tenets of the redesign—how did you maintain that feeling of minimalism while still incorporating technology and interesting art/design installations?
As mentioned above, the integration of cutting‐edge technology and art installations does not have to be contrary to a minimalistic store design. It is more a question of how you integrate it, where and to what extent. By adding those, you can avoid a sterile look of a store; at the same time, if you add too much, it can easily get overloaded.
It is basically a matter of the right balance. I think we got the balance pretty right in all puma stores. This is also because we treated the product as the hero and designed the stage for it. Our principle is not to try to tell too many stories at one time—concentrate on one and you will get the message through.
Further, the aspect of simplicity in the store design refers also to the idea of creating a clear view and making it easy for customers to find their way through the store. A clear and simple navigation is the basis for any good store concept.