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DDI Magazine

H.O.G. heaven

By Jenny Schrank
March 04, 2013

Photo: Stephane Brugger Photographe, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
If Chopper, V-Twin, Softail, Fatboy or H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) are terms your customers walk in the door already knowing, you might want to create a retail experience befitting their greatest passion.

Harley-Davidson is known for its unprecedented customer experience, but owner Laurent Prémont of Prémont Harley-Davidson wanted his Quebec City dealership to reach new levels in retail design. Inspired by high-end luxury retail brands, such as Gucci and Prada, Prémont challenged his team to set a new standard of quality for this Harley-Davidson retail experience.

To set a precedent from the outside in, local firm Bourgeois/Lechasseur Architectes developed a one-of-a-kind building form that emerges from the ground and reaches great heights. The strong architectural presence evokes the power of the Harley-Davidson brand, while the tower element serves as a beacon in the Quebec landscape, easily visible from the highway (where riders might be en route). Perforated aluminum panels in metallic black cover the building, creating a surface “skin” with two different looks. By day, the sunlight reflects and plays with the surface, and by night, the interior lights shine through the perforations in the exterior skin to illuminate the building.

“Harley-Davidson- makes the most prestigious motorcycle in the world, and is recognized for its design and style,” Prémont says. “The relationship between the manufacturer and customer is a unique worldwide experience, an adventure.  The design of the Prémont Harley-Davidson project is based on the success of this great manufacturer.”

But, this dealership was built to be more than just a place to buy a bike. Within the walls of this establishment, customers can shop for apparel or boots, relax in a comfy lounge or meander through an upstairs museum experience.

In order to elevate the experience of motorcycle enthusiasts, Prémont wanted to transform his retail environment into a place to hang out, explains Aileen White, manager, retail environment and
consulting services, Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada. “After all, our customers work hard, but they want to have fun and experience that sense of community at a Harley-Davidson store,” White says.

Designed by Montreal-based Optima Design, one of two authorized Harley-Davidson design firms in Canada, the 23,000-sq.-ft. showroom features several distinct areas—Motorcycle, Parts & Accessories, General Merchandise and Service. Each department features a mini shop-in-shop to showcase and communicate the variety of Harley-Davidson products.

New custom display furniture was designed for each of the product categories and is strategically placed to create entrance points for the different areas. The fixtures maintain a high
level of functionality while taking a more modern approach to product display, and are arranged to guide customers from area to area. “Just as every motorcycle is unique and reflects part of an owner’s personality, we designed every display to express the unique qualities of the merchandise,” Prémont says. As an example, he references the two giant wheels used as displays for shoes and Harley-Davidson riding boots.

The store layout creates a fluid circulation pattern leading shoppers to a central lounge space, which is highlighted by an 18-ft.-high chandelier constructed of LED strips. In fact, 90 percent of the lighting throughout the store is provided by LED sources. “LED spotlights were strategically placed in the entire showroom to enhance products,” White says. “Because of the high ceiling, the design firm created a giant cobweb in the central area to support the LED spotlights at the right height and to allow a good quality lighting level.”

The materials and finishes that were selected  for the store aimed to push the boundaries of the Harley-Davidson retail experience, and echoed the high quality of the products on display.

“There was no skimping and nothing traditional” about the materials palette, says Myriam Vignes-Salaun, senior designer with Optima Design. “[Prémont] wanted the details, the furniture and the material selections to rival any high-end retailer and be suitable for a luxury setting, such as the Bal Harbour Shops [near Miami],” she says.

A mix of chrome, fossil pewter-plated metal, black glass, high-gloss laminate, frosted and tinted mirror, painted glass and natural wood planks combine to create a modern and sophisticated setting for elements of the brand’s heritage. The flooring pattern creates a foundation for the overall design by using three dark porcelain tiles to create a large-scale tartan.

“The complex architecture and details, such as the tartan-patterned flooring design with its mix of shiny and matte finishes, reflect both sides of a rider’s personality—the conventional character who has a taste for freedom or rebellion,” Prémont says.

The finishes provided opportunities for focal points, such as a big, black, glass box to accommodate the fitting rooms’ mirrored display podiums. A 3-D detail at the staircase combined with a large-scale graphic creates a dramatic access point to the museum upstairs, as does the glass elevator.

“The details, finishes, lighting and a careful assessment of the visual presentation enhance the product, attract a new generation of clientele and show that Harley-Davidson is a quality brand that offers a variety of products in addition to its well-known motorcycles,” Vignes-Salaun says.

With its service equation and stay-and-play store layout, Prémont Harley has established a retail destination for its customers second only to being out on the road.