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DDI Magazine

Girl power

By Erin M. Loewe
February 28, 2013

Photo: Sarah Musumeci, North Andover, Mass.
For nearly 20 years, New York-based dELiA*s Inc. has been marketing trendy apparel and accessories to teen girls. To reconnect with its customer base, dELiA*s partnered with Westerville, Ohio-based firms Shremshock Architects & Engineers and Asset Strategies Group LLC to create a well-designed prototype on a budget, using an existing location in the Providence Place Mall in Providence, R.I. The 3,675-sq.-ft. store effortlessly merges classic and modern touches to appeal to discerning teen shoppers (and those who may be shopping for them).

“While the main goal was to reduce the cost of construction, dELiA*s also wanted to increase the number of SKUs, increase design potential, and make the store more feminine and more girly,” says Lauren Moorehead, project manager and lead designer at Shremshock. “We were able to reduce the cost by using different materials. We had to do a lot of materials research, not cutting corners as much as making compromises. I think we made compromises in the right places.”

From the ground up, all of the elements were given careful consideration regarding value and style, ensuring the essence of dELiA*s shined through. Large-scale gray tiles gave way to oak-colored laminate. “It has a beautiful color, very light and clean looking,” says Marcy Mancina, vice president of stores and operations at dELiA*s.

The new floors also help reflect the new energy-efficient LED lighting overhead, which would have been mostly MR16 and general fluorescent lights in previous stores, according to Jennifer Crawford, coordinator of store design and construction at Asset Strategies Group. “Now, we use almost exclusively LEDs,” she explains. “They are more up front, but will save money in the long run in energy costs. They maximize brightness while meeting energy codes. We used track lighting to allow more flexibility in the store.”

At the front of the store, a grouping of feminine chandeliers—a signature element in the space—provides a fun element to the overall aesthetic. The chandeliers are suspended from the exposed ceiling, another detail missing from earlier stores. Crawford says the design team decided to paint the ceiling white to make it as pretty as possible, and to help it blend with the rest of the store.

The wall fixtures played an important role in value engineering the prototype, Mancina says. Prior to the prototype, stores had expensive, custom-built cabinets that limited bracket and shelf placement. “To give us more flexibility in the wall system, we put wallpaper on the back wall and framed out a flat wall system,” she explains. “It gives a ton of flexibility, you can’t tell the difference and it looks much better.”

Upon entering the store, shoppers are greeted with a “runway” that flows throughout the space, featuring numerous mannequins modeling the latest trends for customers who might be looking for a little guidance. Mancina says forms are used throughout the store—about double the amount of a typical dELiA*s.

The reason for the runway was twofold, says Scott Shremshock, principal at Shremshock Architects & Engineers. “One of the goals we were given was trying to reduce the overall footprint by [up to] 500 sq. ft., so we maintained the amount of merchandise by going up,” he says. “One of the other contributing factors with the runway features was to introduce more movement into the store, to pull the customer through the store, and to help our girl feel like she was part of a fashion show.”

As the runway dotted with mannequins pulls customers through the store, dELiA*s “denim wall” is there at the finish line, highlighting the timeless staple. Moorehead says the denim wall is not quite full height, giving shoppers a glimpse of the colorful fitting area.

“We got to have more fun back in the fitting room area, with a custom yellow and fuchsia damask wallcovering, and custom carpet as well.” Crawford says. “We were able to spend a little more here and still stay under budget, since it was a smaller area.”

In keeping with the tech-savvy teen, this dELiA*s has an “online boutique”—an iPad stationed on an armoire where girls can locate and order exactly what they want if they can’t find it in store. “The benefit is that you can talk to one of the ‘fashionistas’ in-store if you have questions about what you’re going to order,” Moorehead adds.

In the “new economy,” where there is pressure to become ever leaner and meaner, dELiA*s plans to open more stores using inspiration from Providence, integrating many of the value elements to create inviting spaces for its core customer.

“I really feel, and so does everyone at dELiA*s, that we have a much more beautiful store that’s much more appealing, so I don’t feel like we gave up anything,” Mancina says.