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Child’s play

By Mark Faithfull
March 24, 2013

Photo: Marcos Mendizabal
When Chile’s leading department store brand Paris embarked on a redesign of its children’s offer, it wanted to create an environment that engaged with both children and their parents. Owned by Santiago, Chile-based Cencosud Retail S.A., one of the largest retail conglomerates in Latin America, Paris operates some 35 stores throughout Chile, in addition to a new entrée into Peru in early 2013.

The company turned to London-based creative agency Dalziel and Pow to completely
rethink the children’s department for a new store opening in Quillin, Santiago, Chile. The brief was to take what was an uninspiring space in its existing stores and turn it into a best-in-class department that would be rolled out across the chain’s fleet to create an urban, playful and interactive space.

“The idea was to design a children’s environment easily identifiable as such,” says Paula Rivera Luque, store planning and visual merchandising manager, Paris-Cencosud. “Prior to the new concept, this area was neglected, had very little personality and the environment wasn’t identifiable with the customer base. There was a necessity to create a different and engaging space.”

The initial brief was to design a space that both controlled and framed the individual brands, all while preventing the brands from overwhelming the space they occupied. “The leading department brands in Chile—Ripley, Falabella and Paris—all previously offered very similar experiences to the customer, from products to brand environment to services,” explains Juan Camilo Diaz del Castillo, design project leader, interiors at Dalziel and Pow. “There was hardly any differentiation. Paris’ new kids concept has allowed the department to stand out as the first in the market to address the issue of differentiation, consumer need targeting and expectations.”

To accomplish this feat, the space has been divided into two main areas: fashion and non-fashion. Fashion is located along the perimeter of the space and follows an age tier, from newborn and infant all the way to 16 years old. The non-fashion areas stand just in front of fashion, with the toy department at the center, visible from all areas and making it the core of the whole offer.

Both areas have been fitted with a raised timber flooring that makes a distinctive division between sales areas and the circulation walkways. The walkways have been enhanced with visual merchandising areas dotted throughout.

The design team describes the concept as being about adventure: “a fun and whimsical land of toys—a store that both evokes and creates memories.”

“We saw an opportunity to create an environment designed for kids, inspired by the traditional values of play,” Diaz del Castillo adds. “[We created] a fun and engaging experience where kids want to go as a destination, and are happy to spend time in and enjoy. Imagination and fantasy are key themes.”

The look and feel is achieved through colorful sets resembling miniature houses, unfinished room sets and deconstructed play areas. The department is divided between fashion, toys, footwear, nursery and accessories, with each area having its own unique personality.

The design brief called for a differentiation between genders in the space, and for the final concept to bring unique personalities to each area. To meet that request, the design team opted to color code the age groups and genders—pinks and reds for girls, green for boys, yellow for toys, etc. “Teen boys are more likely to identify with a skateboarding theme, while teen girls might identify more with picnic scenery,” says Sarah Fairhurst, associate design director, graphics, at Dalziel and Pow. “It was also important to contain each theme within its own space, but at the same time to be connected. The creation of partition walls between each area not only helped us to create individual stories, but also allowed us to double the density of the products, as they become a backdrop for merchandise.”

Fun, playful features abound, such as interlinks through oversized doors and keyholes, a table made of skateboards for boys, and a deconstructed caravan for girls. The bespoke fixtures were inspired by outdoor adventure—rope, knots and swings—and the space is easy to shop through its large-scale navigation using a hand-drawn version of the corporate Paris font. A series of patterns were developed, based on a geometric spirograph, to help further differentiate boys’ and girls’ fashion. A softer version is used for babies and within the nursery area.

The toy area sits at the heart of the space and is inspired by a toy factory wonderland. Toys are displayed on an 18-ft.-high, freestanding industrial framework, maximizing the height of the space. A mezzanine wraps around the area, used as a platform for visual merchandising. Customers can stand in the middle of the space and get a 360-degree view of the toys, evoking the feeling of being a small child in a giant toy factory.

“This is a unique and special department and is now Santiago’s largest toy store,” Luque says. Plans call for the new kids concept to be integrated into existing Paris stores throughout Chile and any new markets where the retailer may pop up soon.