A Design Date with Odel
By Raghu Krishnan | July 23, 2013
Aldrin Gamage, the Creative head of Odel, one of the largest chains of departmental stores in Sri Lanka shares the strategy behind the store's VM and design.
What is the thought behind the retail store design at Odel?
the Odel stores across all formats are designed keeping in mind two aspects - to make it exciting and saleable. the aim is to surprise the customer every time he or she visits the store. there is a wow factor when you walk into the store. so it's a pleasant surprise - especially for tourists when they walk in through a very old fashioned building to see a store that takes their breath away. On the visual merchandising front, we make it a point to change things constantly. We have a strong local customer base that shops with us once or twice a week. so it's important for us to remain fresh and attractive. One thing that is constant with Odel throughout the year is change - right from the display units to the way the merchandise is presented, the graphics and imagery of the various departments. We strive to create separate zones for our inhouse brands. For instance the LUV sL (range of sovereigns depicting sri Lanka) has a totally different look that depicts sri Lanka in all its glory. it's more traditional and warm. On the other hand the embark zone (in house range of animal t-shirts) tells the story through visuals, Odel - one of the largest chains of departmental stores in Sri Lanka loves to surprise its customers every time they walk into the store. This is done through attractive store design; introducing freshness into the graphics and imagery inside the store and doing a complete rehaul during special occasions like Christmas.
VM&RD gets into the what's and how's of the Odel store designs from none other than Aldrin Gamage, the Creative head of Odel. Excerpt from the interview. A Design Date with Odel Aldrin Gamage Creative Head Odel 25 graphics and products. huge animal posters doting the interiors help create a happy zone. For the Odel brand we stick to a cleaner, sleeker and modern look. For Backstage (in-house accessory brand) we create a more blingy and colourful zone. Little niches studded into the wall hold the latest collection. delight (the brand of sweet confectionaries) is fashioned to draw the kid out of the adults. it's bright and inviting with huge candies dangling from tree tops. to put it in a nutshell we try to create different pockets within the store based on brands, products and departments. so the look varies from department to department. the look changes every 15-20 feet. so it urges the customer to walk a little further and look some more.the design of the stand alone LUV sL stores is very quirky. tell us something more about it. Luv sL is a range of sri Lankan sovereigns. We wanted the store to have a very warm and friendly vibe. We achieved this through colours, rustic stone flooring, bronze fixtures, brick exposed walls and old world windows that impart a very edgy and aesthetic feel to the store. the huge chandeliers designed like a bird's cage add a very quirky element to the store design.
How often do you change the VM at Odel stores?
Fresh stocks come in daily and the display of products is changed every day. it's done before the store opens. thematic changes are done every three months. it's in line with international trends so that what we offer through product, imagery and feel is somewhat global. this escalates all the way to christmas. We also target two zones within a store every month to completely clean and revamp for a completely fresh look. this is done by turning the furniture around, adding different graphics and imagery. so the customer always finds something different at Odel.
What was the most unique VM experiment you undertook which received a very good response?
christmas is always special at Odel. We build a huge hype around christmas. Very few stores in sri Lanka do christmas the way we do it. Budgets are phenomenal and not a constraint for ideas and execution. the designing starts as early as January. We visit china and hong Kong to source the latest materials. By June we are ready with our orders. the shipment arrives in the month of september and it's all up by november 10th. We have createddifferent looks through the 26years. christmas for us is not necessarily old fashioned. One year we created trees made of Mira ball glass. it was totally blingy. We also did a theme of 'Paradise Found' which had huge peacocks and mannequins hanging out from bird cages. in 2011 we did the Las Vegas theme which was called Liveâ€¦Love and Laugh. this was all about lights - very typical of Las Vegas. so christmas for us is not the usual red, green and gold. We do throw in a red, green and gold christmas every four years. For Mother's day we created larger than life flower pots with bulbs as flowers. each stem was around 8-10 ft tall. the display looked amazing.
What kinds of budgets are allotted for Christmas?
it varies from sR 7.5-10 million. that's how much we want to make it look different. We are the only company that actually travels outside of the country to source for christmas. Most stores just make do with what's available in colombo.
What's the customer reaction to these?
the marketing department does conduct surveys twice a year. But for the design team it's the actual feedback that we receive from the customers that makes all the difference. it's more than just a tick in a box! We always have customers who say how they loved the look of the store during festivals.
How large is the design team?
We have a team of eight retail designers who are involved in the shot fits, store branding and imagery. Additionally ihave a team of 14 visual merchandisers who are responsible for the product display at all our 18 stores. so it's a reasonably large team. the biggest challenge is to make sure they are all on the same page. After all it's a creative process. Making each store look similar to another is part of the challenge. But that's what makes it exciting too.
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