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Design showcase: ABC department store in Beirut

Lebanese department store group ABC has launched its latest branch, in the Verdun quarter of Beirut. Design is by Kinnersley Kent Design.

ABC opened the first department store in the Middle East in 1936, in Beirut. The latest store is a 10,000 sq m (107, 640 sq ft) anchor store for the new $300m ABC Verdun community mall.

Kinnersley Kent developed the interior concept, masterplanning, store layout and adjacencies, customer flow and navigation scheme for the project, setting the overall store personality and the look and feel of each department.

The agency also developed brand guidelines for concessions within the store, ensuring a unified interior while allowing individual brands some freedom of expression.

The new store follows Kinnersley Kent’s redesign of the ABC Achrafieh department store, which was completed in late 2016. A curved, double-height glass façade offers views into the store, with exterior walls finished in grey basalt stone tiles.

A central atrium void is at the heart of the store, with escalators connecting the four levels. A ‘stylishly muted’ colour palette is lifted with accents in gold or bronze, varied by floor. Materials include concrete, white and grey ceramic tiles, metal frames for merchandising units, white marble and bronze-tone travertine.

Inspiration for the latest store comes from Beirut’s unique and distinctive personality, with a concept based on juxtapositions, energy and theatre. Sophistication and elegance are mixed with materials that contrast grit with the glamour, to create a comporary and premium environment with an urban edge. Subtle ABC-branded elements underscore the retailer’s heritage and identity through the store, in a bid to elevate the store from a ‘house of brands’ to a branded experience in its own right.

The lighting scheme for the store was developed by IDEPCONSULT – Mounir Saroufim and Partners, working with Kinnersley Kent and local architect A-Consult. The scheme is based on shopper psychology in line with the Limbic Emotional Assessment (LEA) theory, which considers lighting effectiveness and buying behaviour to be closely linked.

Chérine Saroufim, IALD at IDEPCONSULT says: “The lighting concept was slightly altered on each level of the department store to cater for the different target customer groups and enhance their sense of wellbeing. This extends the amount of time customers spend in store, boosting sales.”

ABC’s visual merchandising team worked with Kinnersley Kent to introduce new ideas, and to curate the brands available.

Focal points include ‘Stylist Pick’ displays, strengthening ABC’s voice, with geometric plinths creating ‘pause points’ as shoppers move through the store. Multi-brand spaces in menswear and womenswear departments are used to launch or trial new brands.

The Kidswear department, as basement level, is tailored to a younger audience, with a playful townscape layout featuring props inspired by pop-up books. Houses and village scenes are created with 3D bikes, benches and trees made of plywood.

“We are very happy with the retail concept of ABC Verdun Department Store,” says ABC head of real estate Tania Ezzedine. “We have developed a clear design and identity for our department stores that can be rolled out to other projects. The new addition of Verdun to ABC’s portfolio has elevated the standards of the Lebanese retail scene, and initial feedback from customers and tenants is very promising.”

The design of each of department follows a similar visual language and logic, but with a subtly different look and feel on each level to create strong individual departments,” says Kinnersley Kent partner Paul McElroy. “We developed new brand elements for ABC such as bespoke patterns, which strengthen the retailer’s own identity in a stylish and understated way,”


Photography: IDEPCONSULT – Mounir Saroufim and Partners

Local architect: Dolly Debs Architects (A-Consult)

Main contractor: Techman

Lead designer: Kinnersley Kent Design

Lighting design: IDEPCONSULT – Mounir Saroufim and Partners

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