The store "La Bottega" is located in the centre of Hasselt and is run by a couple formed by two passionate entrepreneurs: Karine Valy and Marc Jamar. Through the years, La Bottega has grown from a shoe store to a concept store in which, across three levels, contemporary collections of many national and international brands and designers are being offered to men, women and children. The store currently offers a complete experience in its original boutique space, now extended with the addition of the former Smeets distillery, a new building with plenty of daylight coming in through patios and a green roof. ‘Good food’, as well, is part of the story of this unique store.
A fascinating architecture and an attractive interior design are very important factors in building an innovative and “complete” concept. By linking the original shoe shop, a building with lots of character, to the well-known distillery, a beautiful combination of styles has been created. Following an extensive renovation process, maintaining as many of the original elements as possible, we can confirm that the old distillery shines again. The combination of both buildings creates an extensive range of materials, through which the designers strived to create an industrial look with a romantic touch. Every detail has been given thorough consideration and the design has received a great deal of attention.
The building in which the shoe shop was started in 1991 has two levels. On the ground floor, the customers are welcomed by several entrances. Each one has an open landing area furnished with extravagant chandeliers and rich accents. On the ground floor one may browse through shoes (self-service for regular shoes and serviced for more luxurious shoes), handbags or accessories for ladies, and shoes for men and children.
For the male consumers, a more “rugged” section has been created in which a timber floor is combined with furniture showcasing a concrete look and some antique pieces. The presence of a gigantic Chesterfield type chair and golden wallpaper render the room even more masculine and classy.
Although La Bottega wants to convey a feeling of luxury with its interior, the owners have tried to appeal to a wider audience by placing the women’s shoes in the daylight at the front of the store. The customer may browse alone for the correct size. Indeed, in the middle of the space, large concrete looking blocks are placed in a playful, stair-like manner to serve as an original display for the presentation models. This piece of furniture contains many compartments in which shoeboxes for all the available sizes can be stored and found. These practical elements, combined with a concrete floor and benches covered in joyful fabrics transform the space into an ideal place to buy a new pair of shoes in a fast and pleasant way.
The counters in this store are the true eye catchers. Their concrete look is complemented with timber shelving in steel frames in the background. On the ground floor, the wall behind the counter is quite striking thanks to the use of golden wallpaper, a colour that runs through the different departments. Shelving units in malleable iron, finished with timber shelves, are placed across this floor. The concrete flooring, sometimes used in different shades, also runs throughout all of the departments. The same material palette is also used in the centrally located bistro as well: a concrete flooring (hardwearing and easy to maintain), chairs with steel frames, a structure with golden messing, fine prints, and a hanging frame filled with (fake) plants.
Playfulness is the best word to describe the children’s department. The old wooden horses used as decor, referring to a horse mill, are striking and fit well with the surrounding shelves with playful wheels as well as the eye catching yellow flags. It is clear that, with this interior, the designer did not only want to make the space look nice, but also wanted to please the little ones. The above-mentioned material palette is integrated here as well, with the use of concrete in the counter area and the colour gold near the fitting rooms. Behind these, separated by and interactive digital wall, a kids’ corner is created. This space is filled with daylight and children can play with Kapla without being disturbed or disrupting the rest of the store.
The new extension is connected to the old distillery in an original way. The daylight that enters through the glass roof sheds a lot of light on the original brick wall creating a nice contrast with the other façade finished in white plaster. The distillery consists of three levels. The women’s departments at level one are connected with glass footbridges. In this alley all levels and buildings are connected creating a strong visual.
In both buildings, clothing is also sold at level 1 of the women’s departments. In the original one, a clean look dominates throughout, although much of the space is occupied by clothing racks and display furniture of different shapes and materials. In this department, a shop-in-shop effect is created by allowing brands to communicate their own style through the use of their furniture. In the end, however, the same material palette remains key: a concrete flooring, brick vaulted ceilings, steel and white coated furniture in combination with timber and a few antique pieces. The outlook on a beautiful full-grown green roof and the presence of an abundance of daylight finish off this space.
In the distillery, the industrial look fits in even more. The original flooring in combination with the shape of the existing windows, concrete columns and rough brickwork complete the picture. The architectural style of the building is strengthened by placing “heavy” light fittings in combination with visible ventilation tubes, as well as by maintaining the authentic Bakelite electricity sockets and copper water supplies. The clothing racks as well as the fitting rooms are finished in black steel. A distinction is made in the departments by using richer materials such as white coated or timber coloured display elements in combination with a parquet floor on level 1 where the more expensive designer collection is located.
To sum it up, we can conclude that La Bottega is a store that contains many aspects of “customer experience”. It is a store with a clear experience-oriented interior design, which takes into account the present architecture as much as possible. This is done by maintaining many original elements and putting authenticity in the picture, but also by using a consistent palette of materials throughout the entire interior creating a sense of unity despite the different spaces and departments. In addition, much attention is given to natural greenery and daylight, as well as to many nice accents and detailing. La Bottega strongly emphasises customer friendliness and good service. The owners are aware of the contemporary societal trends and they try to take these into account in an innovative way. For instance, in addition to their website and web shop, they make use of social media to tease customers. They also try to appeal as much as possible to the senses by spreading scents, using visuals and digital screens. They want to increase the interaction with the customer by regularly organizing events, and for instance invite a pianist on a weekly basis. To complete this total package they opened a bistro allowing for a pleasant day trip with the entire family!
The La Bottega store is located on the corner of two streets and has been extended throughout the years. Large visual banners outside catch the eye through the combination of black and bright colours and also serve to create a sense of unity across the different buildings comprising the store.
For the same reason, we have painted the windows and sheds black. Unity is important for recognition, otherwise the facade doesn’t catch the eye.
The main entrance is located next to the Paardsdemerstraat and has a shop window that really guides the customer into the store. At the entrance of the building a small iron gate can be closed for the night. This romantic and frivolous element incorporates the name ‘La Bottega’ in ornamental letters.
A shop window display is very important and many opinions exist on how this should be furnished, yet I want to make sure that the client gets a clear impression of the assortment of La Bottega through the shop window. I have experimented a lot. First I tried to display only a few items, but that doesn’t work for the larger audience; they want to see the options they have. For this reason, we also put kids shoes in the show window. The children’s department is in the very back of the store and is not visible from the street.
Karine finds it important to showcase a strong product display in the entrance so that people immediately have a clear impression of the theme of the store and the products available.
When you turn left directly after the shop window, you enter the men’s department. This department has an entire area devoted to the brand Van Bommel. The wall painting made by Floris Van Bommel is a real eye catcher. In this department, a copy of a Chesterfield chair has been made – with a fabric cover – to run across the entire width of the space. Additionally, antique furniture is complemented with new elements as well as new lighting to meet current customer expectations.
In the women’s department, a different atmosphere has been created. What immediately pops out is the furniture that seems to be made out of concrete, yet is in fact made of synthetic materials. This furniture has a specific shape and is designed to display the more affordable shoes in a self-service manner. All sizes are directly available below. Placing the less luxurious products at the front of the store was a clear strategy to avoid scaring away those customers looking for such products. Whereas, clients who visit the store for more luxurious shoes will be more likely to search for these. The clients can try on their shoes and linger in the department thanks to the seats and space made available for this purpose.
Staff members are always present at the counter and a display with gadgets is installed in this area.
In fact these are products that are not related to shoes, but that are liked by our team and that fit our concept ‘different than usual’ (glasses, books, office materials, superfoods, etc.) The gadgets need to be adjusted according to the time and season. They have been placed in different locations in the store, but they sell best when they are located near the counter.
Following the women’s department is the area devoted to “fashion” shoes and handbags. The handbags are all placed together in a separate area in order to make it easier to have an overview of the entire assortment. The display element for these is a creative, modular wall made of timber planks located in a nice hallway with lots of daylight.
In the very back of the store, we have set up 4 fitting rooms in the shape of a circle. It is important that clients can ry clothes on in complete tranquillity and privacy. To make the fitting experience as pleasant as possible, we have opted for soft curtains and spacious fitting rooms in a golden colour, to create a feeling of wealth. In the department for the children’s shoes we have recently begun to display all the products available. It is less pretty, but the clients preferred to see the entire assortment to shorten waiting times. The original concrete floor in this part of the store was maintained, but it was polished and it has been coated to protect it and make it easier to clean. Maintaining this more rugged floor adds to the character of the building.
Wooden horses hang from the ceiling, referring to a horse mill and to the Paardsdemerstraat where La Bottega is located. The display tables are very playful with different legs, materials and looks.
The part of the store that used to be the distillery has been kept more “sober” in its design with lots of black accents made from different materials. On the top floor you find the high fashion clothing department, whilst the first floor is dedicated to women’s fashion and the second floor to men’s.
This last department is new and was set up in collaboration with Clinic. We had no expertise in men’s clothing and they were looking for a new location. An excellent opportunity for the both of us. To finish the La Bottega experience we installed a bistro downstairs where the clients can have a drink or a meal. This space is also used for events or lectures. To make the entire space feel cosy, we hung a frame with (fake) plants from the ceiling.
What is not accessible to the client is the storage area. Among other things, this includes two studios where all the products sold on the web shop are photographed. These rooms were also completely renovated when the store was extended, so that offline and online shops remain completely attuned and create the same expectations. What is important for Karine, is that everything needs to tell a story.
The shop, the web shop and website are all very dynamic and the store is very eclectic in style, yet the hey all really tell our story.” Karine points out that they are still struggling with one aspect: “ We have noticed that the route throughout the store is confusing due to the size and structure of the building. Our clients do not always find what they are looking for and then leave disappointed. We have recently put up signs on the walls, but it remains an issue. This year, we will run an experience audit in our store conducted by Hasselt University and we hope to find a solution to solve this issue.
If you complete the DIY Fashion store audit for La Bottega you will come to the following result:
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The store responds to the emotional and wants to drag customers into a story. The design of the store affects the customer and inspires him. Hereby you clearly focus on sensory experience and multiple senses of the customer are challenged and stimulated. The products offered and the design of the store are experienced as a whole, where the architecture of the building has the role to make the products shine. Fun in shopping is really put forward by addressing the playful side of the customer. The customer is included in the story and the concept that has been worked out with care and attention throughout the store. The further the cross is to the outside of the figure, the greater the importance of both the senses and the role of architecture in your store.
We typically see this type of store in the higher segment of the market.
A possible pitfall with this type of store is that too much can come at the consumer. It can be experienced as loud as attention is derived from the products. Creating an experience is a must, but the goal is still to sell more, so the products must shine, not just the store.
Although the senses matrix is a design tool, we use it here as an evaluation tool to illustrate its use.
In the upper row, the 4 brand values of La Bottega are listed followed by product and building types. The table indicates the accents La Bottega has chosen to stress: which brand value has been translated into which sensorial experience. This tool can be used to translate the essence of the store’s DNA in a suitable store design during the design process
When we compare La Bottega with the findings found in research and literature, we arrive at a list of very strong points in terms of store experience and a few areas of improvement to raise the experience level even more and to tell the story of La Bottega in a more consistent way.
FACADE – The 3 large banners on the facade and the advertisement placed in the corner of this one immediately catch the eye of the passers-by in the street. This distinguishes the retailer from the other stores (Bellizzi, Crowley, & Hasty, 1983). La Bottega communicates what they stand for with these visuals and this first impression ensures that the potential client forms a clear image of the store (Singh, Katiyar, & Verma, 2014). Black banners with a logo in differing bright colours have been selected and implemented. The black background signals luxury and elegance (Fraser & Banks, 2004). The bright colours in the logo and the distinct typography create an unusual image: the visuals differentiate themselves and draw the attention in a positive way (Bellizzi, Crowley, & Hasty, 1983).
STORE WINDOW – The store window display is a powerful instrument within marketing communication (Spies, Hesse, & Loesch, 1997). The (potential) client gets a lot of information about the store through the window display. When the image of the window (e.g. through the display of the assortment, inspiring settings, etc.) fits with the self-image of the customer, this may tempt him/her to explore the shop’s assortment (Sen, Block, & Chandran, 2002).
ELEMENTS OF GREENERY – (Fake) hanging plants are present in the bistro area and also near the handbags. Subtle attention is given to the presence of greenery throughout the store, much of it being placed in pots and vases between the shelving units. Level 1 offers a nice view on the colourful and well-maintained green roof. Green elements are also used in the window display in the form of posters with landscapes and smaller plants. Greenery elicits pleasure and reduces stress (Brengman, Willems, & Joye, 2012).
EYE CATCHERS – eye catchers and nice detailing (e.g. the painting by Floris Van Bommel) draw the attention (Chan & Chan, 2007) and they stimulate the curiosity of the customer (Pecoraro & Uusitalo, 2014). The piece of art made from old shoe-lasts refers to the history of La Bottega and not only looks special and beautiful but also tells the story of the retailer. It’s exactly these types of details that can add value to a concept (Verhoef, Lemon, Parsuraman, Roggeveen, Tsiros, & Schlesinger, 2009).
FURNITURE – All over the store one can find display furniture that clearly showcases the products (Davis, 2013). These furniture items were specifically designed in synthetic materials with a concrete look to emphasize a clean ‘feel’. Concrete is (usually) associated with the ideas of industry and modern architecture (Wastiels, Schifferstein, Heylighen, & Wouters, 2012), which suit the unified image of the building. The handbags are presented on a modular wall that is shaped in a very creative way and adds playfulness (Kent, 2007).
GENERAL ATMOSPHERE – With this concept, a story is being told to involve the customer more strongly with the brand La Bottega (Foster & McLelland, 2015). This retailer creates variation in the store design and always thinks about innovation, which is noticeable in the general atmosphere. La Bottega wants to be distinctive and surprise and because of this also attracts customers who wish to stand out (Kaltcheva, Patino, & Chébat, 2011). The visual merchandising is thoughtful and the themes are present even in the smallest detailing. The beautiful display in the entrance area immediately creates a pleasant atmosphere (Chan & Chan, 2007) and draws people in. Inside, a richly decorated space creates a warm feeling and adds to a positive, open, and attractive environment (Briand & Pras, 2010).
LIGHTING – The lighting immediately catches the eye upon entrance and creates a feeling of cosiness. Well-selected light fittings help to communicate a certain image and may reinforce the identity of the retailer (Quartier, Vanrie, & Van Cleempoel, 2014). By working with accent lights (e.g., spots and the special chandeliers), a certain dynamic is introduced in the different spaces ensuring that clients approach these but also the products in a positive way and see them as qualitative (Schielke & Leudesdorff, 2014).
COLOURS AND MATERIALS – La Bottega mainly uses industrial materials and colours. More specifically, the concrete look (grey polyester), brickwork and white plastered walls are found across the entire store and accentuate the feeling of “cleanliness” (Fenko, Schifferstein, & Hekkert, 2010; Wastiels, Schifferstein, Heylighen, & Wouters, 2012). In addition, the dark grey (metal effect) and golden colours create a more luxurious image.
TOUCH – All products can be tried on and/or touched, which reduces barriers with the customers and transfers a positive feeling to them. Because we are dealing with luxury products, it is important that customers can touch and try these on: this gives them confidence and convinces them of the quality of the products (Jansson-Boyd, 2011; Grohmann, Spangenberg, & Sprott, 2007; Lund, 2015; Peck & Childers, 2003). The temperature in the store is managed through an air-conditioning system to guarantee optimal comfort. The perceived temperature in the store is pleasant – an important aspect of a good store experience (Huang, Zhang, Hui, & Wyer, 2014).
SCENT – In multiple departments of the store a congruent scents are being diffused, i.e., pleasant scents that match the available assortment in these departments. When a scent and a product are congruent, the client will be more positive towards the showcased product and even towards the store in general. (Bosmans, 2006; Doucé , Poels, Janssens, & De Backer, 2013). In addition, when, according to the customer, the scents fit the look and feel of a store, he will maintain a more positive feeling about the store and be more likely to return (Krishna, Elder, & Caldara, 2010).
MUSIC – On the ground floor, the same music is played everywhere. In the fashion department upstairs, however, a more specific playlist is used: when the music fits the product assortment, it may create a more positive attitude in the customer (Beverland, Lim, Morrison, & Terziovski, 2006; Garlin & Owen, 2006).
COMFORT – People may try on products in a relaxed way and linger in the departments, as sufficient seats and fitting rooms are made available (Ballantine, Jack, & Parsons, 2010). The fitting rooms on the ground floor are equipped with soft curtains for a more pleasant feel and finished in a golden colour to create a feeling of wealth (Karana, Hekkert, Kandachar, 2008).
INTERACTION – An active interaction with the client is sought and made (possibility to eat in the bistro, to receive make-up advice in the beauty department, or to enjoy live music on Saturdays) and regularly additional activities are being organized: makeovers, private fittings, and fashion workshops. This way of interacting ensures a stronger customer relationship (Gentile, Spiller, & Noci, 2007).
MIXED-USE – In addition to buying shoes, clothing, and trendy gadgets, customers can eat and drink in the bistro. This space is also used for events, lectures, book launches and presentations of new brands. In this way, the store is used in different ways and becomes a pleasant place for people to meet (Grant & Perrott, 2011).
CROSS-CHANNEL – The La Bottega owners put lots of effort in social media communication and also run a web shop: online and offline shops co-exist to meet the needs and expectations of the customer (Blazquez, 2014). The brand values and story are also implemented in the online environment to create one whole picture that immerses the client (Verhoef, Leon, Parasurama, Roggeveen, Tsirios, & Schlesinger, 2009) in the world of La Bottega.
SHOP LAYOUT – There is a lack of structure and general view over the different spaces, which is something clients find important in their store experience (Ballantine, Jack, & Parsons, 2010; Singh, Katiyar, & Verma, 2014). The customer flow is not fluid through the store because it comprises different departments and floors in multiple buildings (Juel-Jacobsen, 2015). A lack of overview can be problematic when customers do not find their way to the desired department (Addis & Sala, 2007).
SIGNAGE – Although signs are present on the walls, they are not sufficiently visible for clients because other items in their direct vicinity draw more attention. This raises confusion and, for some people, frustration because they do not immediately find what they are looking for. Signage, which is unclear, demotivates during a shopping trip and may deter a customer from visiting again (Sherman, Mathur, Belk Smith, 1997; Otterbring, Wästlund, Gustafsson, & Shams, 2014).
MATERIALS – The clothing racks in the fashion departments are made out of steel frames painted black to reinforce the industrial and “clean” style of the store design, but the black paint finish leaves stains on the hands, so possibly also on the clothing. Not enough attention was paid to the choice of finishes with regards to their functional aspect versus their aesthetic value. The fitting rooms in the space of the former distillery are made of steel: this material feels very cold on the skin and can be unpleasant when being touched while trying on clothing (Wastiels, Schifferstein, Wouters, & Heylighen, 2013).
FURNITURE – The furniture in the fitting rooms allow the client the option of not leaving his/her own clothes on the ground. However, sufficient space should remain available. At this moment, the furniture sometimes takes up too much space.
TEMPERATURE – As soon as the client passes under a cooling system, it feels very cold which creates an unpleasant experience (Briand & Pas, 2010). The cooling systems in the front of the store particularly suffer from this problem. Additionally, they also blow quite hard and make a disturbing sound as a consequence of this.
SOUND – The acoustic qualities of the bistro are not optimal – too little use was made of sound-diminishing materials and shapes. As a result customers need to speak rather loudly to be able to understand each other.