May 27, 2015
By Peter Saunders
After working closely with the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team on multiple corporate and retail branding initiatives over the years, Toronto-based design firm Shikatani Lacroix recently configured an array of static and digital signage for the new flagship Jays Shop on the first level of Toronto’s Eaton Centre.
Tasked with retail design and brand strategy implementation, the firm built upon its previous experience working with the Jays, having previously designed both their original team shop and a 929-m2 (10,000-sf) flagship store at the Rogers Centre, among other projects. The new satellite location would succeed an earlier ‘shop within a shop’ at the Eaton Centre’s now-defunct Sears department store. As a stand-alone environment, it could better capitalize on the shopping mall’s heavy traffic and high-profile status as a tourist destination, as sales of sports memorabilia have become strong among visitors to the city, well beyond the stadium. The local opportunity for retail growth has been particularly strong since the Jays are Canada’s only Major League Baseball (MLB) team.
“The Jays are an iconic and instantly recognizable Canadian brand, not just a Toronto one,” says Richard Dirstein, executive vice-president (EVP) of design and innovation for Shikatani Lacroix. “In the last three to four years, they’ve outsold the New York Yankees in terms of paraphernalia and merchandise.”
“Shikatani Lacroix understands the Jays’ brand and how to communicate it effectively and creatively across multiple channels,” says Anthony Partipilo, the team’s vice-president (VP) of marketing and merchandising. “We were thrilled to work with them again to design and produce the first stand-alone Jays Shop.”
Designing the journey
Shikatani Lacroix and the Jays jointly developed a strategy to create a retail experience that would not solely focus on traditional licensed merchandise. The goal was to expand sales by showcasing more fashionable items for men and women of all ages. Research showed branded headgear, especially, represented the greatest opportunity for incremental sales growth.
“The Jays’ leadership identified ways to leverage their brand through a wider range of consumer touch points,” says Jean-Pierre Lacroix, president of Shikatani Lacroix and a member of Sign Media Canada’s editorial advisory board (EAB). “By creating experiences that celebrate the team, we’re supporting a platform that drives sales and revenues throughout the year. This is a shop that immerses the consumer in all things baseball.”
“They wanted to break out of the typical demographic and bring in more women, along with both younger and older crowds,” says Marcos Terenzio, Shikatani Lacroix’s director of digital creative experiences.
With the theme ‘celebrate the fan,’ the store would take customers on a journey into the past, present and future of the team. Branded experiences within the store would focus on the history of the Jays and their contributions to MLB, in addition to allowing customers to interact with merchandising technology, which would encourage medium-length dwell times.
“There’s clothing at the front of the store, but we don’t show everything off at once,” Dirstein says. “There’s a path you follow.”
Toronto-based general contractor Prodigy Retail Construction built the new space, using merchandising systems—including showcase cabinetry for team memorabilia—manufactured by Alliance Store Fixtures in Vaughan, Ont., which is best-known for installations in jewellery stores. The signs were built by Zip Signs in Burlington, Ont., and all printed graphics were prepared by Toronto-based Cameron Advertising.
Compared to earlier methods for increasing customers’ affinity for the Jays’ brand, one of the new challenges this time was to create a more immersive, engaging and interactive environment. Shikatani Lacroix proposed a number of digital signage-based ‘experiences’ to respond to this challenge on multiple levels.
“In some projects, digital signage is just laid on top of everything else, but here we were able to integrate it from the start,” says Dirstein. “We’ve been sensitive about installing it where it’s actually needed. Digital signage can become expensive and you have to be able to show your client a return on investment (ROI).”
The resulting layout features 16 screens and seven unique digital experiences. Customers are first greeted by 10 screens at the entrance, then led through the store by other digital signage placements, including a multi-screen animated hat wall.
“The screens at the front are in a mixed configuration behind cut-out acrylic letters,” Terenzio explains. “They showcase great moments in the Jays’ history. We created that content by combining branding, timelines and baseball imagery.”
The hat wall, meanwhile, combines printed images on backlit panels with three 1.4-m (55-in.) liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in landscape mode that display images of various players in between interstitials and other spots.
Secondary screens promote exclusive merchandise that is not available anywhere else outside the Rogers Centre. In the jersey department, for example, touch-screen kiosks allow customers to customize their own products. And at the very back of the store, a 2.2-m (85-in.) ultra high-definition (UHD) ‘4K’ screen features live feeds of the Jays’ games and, when they’re not playing, a custom mix of branded, historical and promotional content.
“Digital signage helps us expand the range of communications in the store,” says Terenzio. “Our three-step approach in enhancing the retail environment is: attract, transact, retain.”
Shikatani Lacroix worked with audiovisual (AV) service and installation provider CaTech Systems, based in Markham, Ont., to configure the new Jays Shop’s digital signage network, with Actineon media players running Moxie content management software developed by Omnivex in Concord, Ont.
“We’re hardware- and software-agnostic,” says Dirstein. “We just find out what systems will deliver what’s needed.”
The store opened in August 2014, with thousands of visitors lining up to check it out and meet some of the Jays in person. Staff reported strong sales and the store exceeded revenue expectations in its first month of operation. In particular, the newly introduced fashions and other products for women and youth sold exceptionally well. Not only was transaction volume very high within the first few weeks, but the average purchase per customer was also higher than anticipated.
“We had great traffic when the store was inside Sears at the north end of the mall,” Dirstein says. “The Eaton Centre is going through a lot of changes and, as it’s redeveloped, our new store is in a great position and can drive a lot of its own traffic as a destination unto itself.”
With files from Shikatani Lacroix. For more information, visit www.sld.com.
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