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Design showcase: SSG Food Market in Dogok, South Korea

South Korean retail group Shinsegae has launched a new format for its Emart Star Super hypermarket brand, the SSG Food Market, in Dogok.

Photography: Trevor Mein
Photography: Trevor Mein

Emart is the largest brand in the group, which also includes department stores, and supermarkets ranging from discounters to premium offers.

Design group Landini Associates was briefed to create a world class store that fused together premium supermarket and food hall concepts. The agency was commissioned to design the entire experience and every detail of the new store, including name and identity, the built environment, furniture and fixtures, signage and communications, ticketing, menus, point of sale material, advertising style guides, packaging, and staff uniforms.

The 4000 sq m (42,056 sq ft) development has been conceived as a community experience, attracting consumers from various age groups to a place where they can meet in any of several cafes and restaurants, and carry out a daily or weekly shop. It offers an all-day experience, opening until 10pm .

An enriched and upscaled food and drink offer includes and extensive fresh food department, along with additional features including a butcher, a bakery run by San Francisco brand Tartine, a Korean Deli, a sushi restaurant, a 200 seat restaurant, a cheesemaker, coffee roaster and florist.

The store features both departments run by SSG and franchises such as Starbucks, as well as third party retailers. All are presented as part of a tangible whole, meaning the design had to accommodate multiple briefs and brand identities.

Food takes centre stage, with Landini Associates seeking to create an environment that offered a sense of transparency while also seeking to create a degree of intrigue, encouraging visitors to explore and find out more about the products on offer, and the people and methods behind its creation.

The main market hall features a pared back aesthetic, with exposed steel beams and concrete bulkheads. These finishes are contrasted with more luxurious elements, such as marble, glass, timber, and blackened steel. Merchandising plays a key role, and allows the food to always remain the centre of attention.

Products with long life products – such as wine and dry goods – have a warmer and earthier texture.

In the carpark, red floors and walls create a sense of vibrancy before shoppers even enter the busy market space. Customers can also enter from a sunken courtyard at street level; two luxury apartment buildings are directly above the market, with residents benefitting from an indoor entrance to save them braving inclement weather.

The market is mostly at basement level, so lighting plays a key role in wayfinding. Chiaroscuro – of the contrasts between light and shade – is used to highlight areas of interest and create calm spaces, gently guiding customers on their way. Perimeter departments use pavement lights to give a sense of the world above.

A suite of graphics developed for the store creates a clear tone of voice for the brand, and has been used to give individual departments their own clear identities.

The store has received substantial positive feedback since opening. “The SSG project was a transformation of customer’s shopping habits,” says Emart head of strategy Brian Kim. “Through our new store design, refurbished brand identity, well-curated products, and F&B mix, we have made SSG place for every-day shopping as well as social gathering.”

“SSG is smashing its targets and it just goes to show what can be achieved by a client with tenacity and vision that allows one design team to cohesively influence every aspect of customer experience,” says Landini Associates creative director Mark Landini.

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