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Design showcase: International store format for Luxottica

International optical brand Luxottica has developed and trialled a new international store format in the Macquarie Centre in Sydney, Australia, where the company trades under the OPSM brand. The first store, developed with input from all of Luxottica’s international divisions, has been developed by design group Ziba with a view to being rolled out internationally.

Ziba impressed the brand by emphasising the importance of improving the service offer to consumers as part of the redesign project. Luxottica VM director Donatella Randino, recently transferred from the company’s Milan head office to Australia, entered into a consultative briefing process with the agency, which is based in Portland, Oregon, but has offices around the world.

From the outset the project had a broad scope. “We opened the first store in Australia but it’s actually a global project. It started as an Australian project for OPSM, but as Luxottica we have other optical chains in other regions. And all these chains have different names but they all share the same communication platform,” says Randino.

With Ziba she visited Luxottica stores around the world and analysed customer journeys to see where they could be improved to find an optimum service offer. Ziba environment director Mick Glenn says that a key objective was to make optical stores more appealing, removing the ‘grudge purchase’ element of finding new glasses and improving the fashion element of the stores.

“The average return rate for Luxottica brands, for consumers actually coming back to the shops, was 2.4 years. That’s not a very good scenario if you are a retailer,” says Glenn. “It all stems from the fact – and this is category-wide - that people don’t really get excited about having to go and have their eyes tested and buy a new pair of glasses.”

Customers increasingly choose glasses as fashion items, yet they are mostly sold as medical products; the process invariably feels like a conveyor belt, demanding customers spend a lot of time waiting or lose their place in the system, adds Glenn.

As part of the design project Ziba broke down the services offered in-store into easier and more attractive segments. My Look, for example, “Is a kind of styling service,” says Glenn. It seeks to move away from the situation where opticians, highly trained in the area of eye health, would be giving fashion advice. Instead, customers can be given advice on choosing glasses in the same way they might ask for fashion advice in a retailer such as J Crew, he adds.

Tools were developed to help staff provide the new services. A studio table encourages interaction, with an adjacent curated selection of frame acting to stimulate conversation and trial, “Like an interior designer using swatches and samples,” says Glenn.

The way that products are presented in the new store has changed significantly too. Optical stores that feature interiors displaying large ranges of frames face a problem, in that the small products all look the same from outside the store. “A sea of frames looks the same every time you walk past,” says Glenn. There is nothing to tell customers that new ranges have arrived or that there is a reason for them to enter the store.

If they do enter the store, “There is too much to choose from. The paradox of choice is a big issue,” says Glenn. “We wanted to challenge the norm and explore ways to make the merchandising more dynamic, more curatorial, creating a big window and making sure that they had tools they needed and the infrastructure to support that.” The new store features large lifestyle images that can be changed with the seasons, as they would in a fashion store, to encourage repeat visits. In-store, a trend wall emphasises the message, while a collection cabinet gives a curated choice of hot fashions.

The brand was keen not to be perceived as clinical, working hard to move away from traditional healthcare cues. “The reference points we were using were things like exhibition spaces and galleries: polished concrete floors, open ceilings, a simple aesthetic,” says Glenn. “We knew there would be a lot graphics in the space so we needed a baseline palette that gave that warmth and simplicity.”

The less clinical, more informal atmosphere makes it easier for staff to work, especially when it comes to explaining some of the more technical issues of eye care, says Randino. “A frame, you can touch it you can like it or not. But when you go into less tangible things like lenses, it can be very difficult for customers to see the value and to understand what they are buying and spending. So we created areas in the store to provide that understanding, and that really helps customers to make a conscious decision. So they know where they are spending the money and why.”

The brand’s research shows that customer perceive the new store to be offering better value, and to be using newer technology – even when that technology was used in the previous store design too, says Randino.

The Sydney store offers the core services that Luxottica offers. A second store, in Melbourne, is currently being prepared for launch. Based in a premium fashion location, this store will offer a different experience focused more on eyewear than eye care, says Randino: “It’s in a specific location that is highly fashionable, so we are treating the experience to make it more appealing for the type of target customer that shops in that area.”

Optical stores are subject to different legislation in different markets, so the format will need some changes for international expansion, but the core design and service offer is set to be rolled out around the world. A group of Luxottica executives from North America has already visited Sydney to consider changes to the format to suit that market.

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