ONE UNUSUAL ASPECT of the project was the construction of a full-scale
mock store in fixture contractor Sparks’ Philadelphia facility, within easy
distance of Verizon’s New Jersey headquarters. The mock store was
used to test individual elements, to demonstrate concepts to Verizon’s
executive leadership, and to provide a wide range of trial and practice
with different technologies.
The Verizon mock store was a collaboration between Verizon, Chute
Gerdeman, and Sparks. “The idea was to invest time and space to see
how ideas would work—and hone them, improve them further before
they were put into production,” says Jay Highland, vice president,
client creative partner, for Chute Gerdeman. The space was completely
merchandised with all of the items that would be in the Destination store,
had more than 100 monitors, and contained everything up to and
including air conditioning.
The first iteration of the mock store was also built quickly—completed
in just 32 days after Sparks proposed the concept. This was followed by
two more, each larger. “We kept increasing the size and the footprint,
starting at about 4,500 square feet and eventally ending up closer to
8,000 or 9,000,” says Sparks’ Chairman Jeff Harrow.
The mock store “opened eyes on both sides,” says Lynn Rosenbaum, vice
president, retail environments, for Chute Gerdeman. Not only did it help
Verizon executives realize the potential for what the store could become,
but it also helped Chute Gerdeman identify details that could be made
“a little bigger, a little crazier,” he says. Upon seeing it in “real life,” the
team decided, for example, that the lifestyle zones needed to be doubled
in size in order to have the desired impact and added the “disruptive
elements.” Ultimately, by the time the real store opened its doors for
the first time at the Mall of America, it “felt like a third or fourth store
rather than a first store,” Rosenbaum notes.
Individual details also got a road test. The team tested fixtures,
spacing, and then “whether the materials we had chosen would get
dinged up by a vacuum cleaner,” says Highland. “The mock store really
became a tool for all of us, for all of the different work streams even
beyond the design and concept of the store.”
Hundreds of people have come through the mock store, says Harrow,
offering comments and changes that Sparks could immediately put into
practice and deploy for further testing.
Says Domenico D’Ambrosio, Verizon’s executive director of national
retail operations, “The mock store has helped us accelerate our desire
to do more—and made us feel really proud that we partnered with our
customers right up to the day of the launch.” And the use of the mock
store continued to evolve even as Verizon’s first Destination store opened
in Minneapolis. It’s now helping Verizon work more closely with its OEM
manufacturers, he says.
Harrow notes that the mock store is still being used for its original
purpose as well. “There will be more changes, and more things they’d
like to tweak and experiment with,” he says.
TESTING AT (ALMOST) FULL SCALE