The term "rollout" first entered the lexicon in the early 1950s to denote a widespread public introduction of a new product. In retail store parlance, it has come to mean the large-scale duplication of a prototype store once the design has been sufficiently tweaked and value-engineered to clone itself in designated markets.
Telecommunications giant GTE commissioned a 4,000-sq.-ft. (360 sq. m) prototype "solution center" in preparation for a planned US rollout. Design Forum, Dayton, OH-based architects and interior designers, created the Phone Mart prototype in an Irving, TX, strip center, near Dallas. Following refinements to several of the theme elements, including the lighting, nearly two dozen Phone Mart stores have rolled out, primarily in strip centers and downtown office buildings in Texas, Florida, and Hawaii.
Scott Smith, Design Forum's senior vice president of planning and design, recounts that GTE began focusing on the concept of the Phone Mart stores three years ago. "After deregulation went into effect, the company had examined strategic positioning options to present its business in new and relevant ways," says Smith. "GTE's retail exposure is no longer focused on hardware; now it is services--caller ID, call waiting, paging, mobile office, Internet access--intangibles that customers cannot feel but rather are unseen user benefits. So the stores took on a whole new meaning," he notes.
Lighting accounts for 4.5% or approximately $16,000 of the total budget for the final Phone Marts. Design Forum was responsible for the architecture, interior, product displays, and lighting design; Henderson Engineers, of Lenexa, KS, was technical consultant to Design Forum for the lighting and electrical plan.
Customer education is Phone Mart's main goal, Smith points out. GTE wanted to present information about its latest technologies in friendly surroundings. Design Forum's layout is organized around four key areas--home office, wireless, family life, and consumer telephones. GTE's announced merger with Bell Atlantic will not affect the rollout schedule, says Smith.
The overall rollout size for the Phone Mart stores was trimmed nearly 40% to 2,500 sq. ft. (225 sq. m). "The original was more elaborate--interactive displays were pared down; it had more animation and touch screens. The rollout version challenged us to create cost-effective excitement," Smith indicates. "We did not need a theatrical lighting solution; we decided on a basic lighting plan that gets the most impact out of accent lighting," he adds.
Where there were three manufacturers and 14 luminaires represented in the specifications for the first prototype, the current adaptation uses two suppliers (Hubbell Lighting Inc. and H.E. Williams Inc.) and eight luminaire styles for ambient, accent, and support area lighting. Refinements to the designer's lighting fixture program necessitated replacement of several of the original selections with less costly products that could still supply the intended illumination levels at key locations. "The lighting is part of GTE's brand positioning, and also serves to direct customers to merchandise displays," Smith says.
Fixtures were matched with high-end lamps with CRI ratings of 85 and warm, color-enhancing temperatures. For the main sales area, 2x4 troffers fitted with four 32W T8 fluorescent lamps and 32-cell parabolic louvers direct illumination onto product displays, descriptive signs, and collateral materials. In the rear area, 2x4 troffers contain 32W T8 fluorescent lamps covered by a prismatic lens.
Low-voltage track-mounted fixtures use 75W MR-16 quartz halogen lamps for product accent lighting, and to highlight decorative and informational graphics. Wall accent lighting is supplied by compact fluorescent recessed downlights (32W twin-tube) equipped with high power factor ballasts.
The prototype's central globe fixture, lit by fiber optics, did not make the final cut for the rollout, due to cost. Another cut was made to the light rope, replaced with filtered colored lights.
Smith endorses the success of the final lighting plan in integrating Phone Mart's merchandising point of view. "The cellular and wireless business has come into its own," he says. "It's now everyman's product. Vendors such as GTE profit by activation, repeat business, and add-on services. Consumers can acquire a complete package for their own specific set of needs at a Phone Mart, and that's what the store's design helps to communicate."
Vilma Barr is a New York-based writer specializing in design and merchandising.
Architecture And Interior Design Design Forum Architects Scott Smith, senior vice president, planning and design
Electrical Engineers Henderson Engineers Eric Dehaven, Kathy Vandel
Lighting Equipment Suppliers Hubbell Lighting Inc., H.E. Williams Inc.
Partial Equipment List Williams 2x4 fluorescent troffers with 32-cell parabolic louvers and 32W T8 lamps Williams 2x4 fluorescent troffers with prismatic lenses and 32W T8 lamps Hubbell low-voltage track-mounted fixtures with 75W MR-16 quartz halogen lamps Hubbell compact fluorescent recessed downlights (32W twin-tube) with high power factor ballasts