IN THE EARLY STAGES of the project, the idX Seattle team created
a full-sized store mockup on its shop floor to allow the Sperry design
and construction team to review and “test fit” each fixture in relation to
all of the other elements.
The brainchild of Geary and Sperry’s Heather Dietrichson, director of
store construction, the store mockup encompassed almost all store components, including the porch storefront and signage, sales floor, ceiling, walls,
fitting room, and lighting elements. While the costs to build the mock-up
were shared, idX initially covered most of the investment, then repurposed
many of the elements when the store mockup was disassembled and some
materials used in an actual store, Dietrichson says.
The team used the space for a period of about a month to try out the
specs next to alternatives. A real floor allowed Sperry management to see
how flooring materials felt underfoot, while a real ceiling allowed the fabricators to see that their first idea, beams carved out of foam, looked too
much like props. Instead, the team chose hollow beams made of rough-sawn ply wood that looked just like the real thing at half the weight.
With budget an issue, the store mockup also allowed the designers
to test substitutions for the expensive lighting fixtures used in Sperry’s
previous design. New lighting fixtures, including some from IKEA, cost
considerably less and proved in the store mockup that they could provide
the diffuse glow Callison wanted in order to replicate outdoor lighting
as closely as possible.
Although building the mock store cost more up front, Geary says it likely
saved the retailer hundreds of thousands of dollars in the end by helping
the team identify less expensive alternatives to some ideas and allowing
some refinements to designs before the first store was rolled out. When it
came to finishes, flooring, and ceiling treatments, “$15,000 was saved just
by looking at the alternatives side by side,” Geary estimates.
Sperry’s merchandising team set up the whole store to ensure that it
worked for both the current mix of products and the products planned for
2014, saving time and avoiding retrofits. In the next year, Sperry plans to
add more apparel and accessories to their product mix, and the mockup
ensured that stores would have the space and the fixtures to allow for that
growth, explains Martha Marstiller, Sperry’s vice president for retail.
Dietrichson says the mockup also helped new members on the team
who had not been involved in the design decisions completely understand
the design intent and details and give valuable feedback to the process.
She says, “idX also presented material options for several floor, siding, and
wall finishes to save on total project costs without compromising design.”
Seeing these options in place allowed the entire team to quickly agree on
which finishes were acceptable.
Some people can look at a drawing and know what it will be like in
three dimensions, Geary notes, while others can’t. The mockup eliminated
any anxiety. “When Sperry’s president came out to the plant, he walked in
and said, ‘That’s my store!’”
Dietrichson notes that Wolverine has done some mockups in the past,
“but nothing on this scale,” she says. “We could really evaluate the mate-
rials, finishes, and fixtures together with merchandise, props and visuals,
and actual configurations—it enabled us to make very informed decisions.
“Most important, it actually did feel like we were in a Nantucket beach
Testing Sperry 2.0
Gail Deibler Finke is a Cincinnati-based
writer specializing in design topics.