Dots Rolls Out New Look, More Stores

Dots is on a roll. The Solon, Ohio-based value-oriented fashion chain, which has grown to more than 400 locations in 25 states, plans to open 150 stores during the next three years. The new locations will feature Dots’ updated format, which debuted in June, at Steelyard Commons, Cleveland. The 5,300-sq.-ft. store is brighter and more upscale-looking, and offers a more invigorating and fun shopping experience.

“The new design brings the brand to life, and allows the store experience to reflect the product,” said Christian Davies, VP, managing creative director, FRCH Design Worldwide, Cincinnati. “This is really a natural evolution for Dots.”

Dots’ new look was three years in the making, and started when the privately held company made a big push to better understand its customers. The company hired Insight Research Group, which conducted focus groups, surveys and even accompanied customers on shopping trips to Dots and its competitors.

Through the resulting feedback, the retailer gained a portrait of its typical customer. That picture helped shape the new store design.

“Dots aligned its brand positioning with its core target customer, and that served as the launching pad for the design,” Davies said.

The design team came up with some key brand values that would inform the design: sexy, fresh, inspiring and, most important, girlfriend.

“The girlfriend factor is really alive and well in the Dots environment,” Davies said. “Customers have a great relationship with the store managers and the other associates, and there is an amazing atmosphere in the store.”

Although Dots targets a broad age range (from 18 to the late 40s), its customers share an affinity for affordable fashion. Most items at Dots are priced under $20.

“These are confident women who like to rotate their wardrobe and get noticed,” said Monica Gerhardt, VP, account manager and strategy, FRCH. “They are passionate about style but clearly on a budget.”

The new design indulges the customer’s passion for fashion without her having to feel guilty about it. It is stylish and contemporary, with robust color accents, but totally in keeping with Dots’ value positioning.

“It also allows her to express the social aspects of the shopping experience,” Gerhardt added.

The store is easier to shop, with a layout that creates a clearly defined path from the front of the space to the rear. Defined by overhead spotlights, this center aisle acts as a fashion runway for customers.

“The runway creates clear sightlines and allows for lots of face-outs of product,” Gerhardt said. “Customers can see a good number of head-to-toe outfits as they walk down the aisle. It’s a perfect showcase for products. It’s also easy to change out and rotate the product so that the merchandise is always fresh.”

The runway aisle is marked with an off-center bright-pink line.

“We discovered that this particular degree of color has a timeless resonance for this consumer,” Davies said. “It’s bold, feminine and sexy, and it also communicates the idea of fun and celebration, which spoke to Dots’ fashion party and social atmosphere.”

To that same end, a zone was created in the center of the space to maximize customer and salesperson interaction. The dressing rooms are on one side of the aisle and the cashwrap on the other.

“The center zone is all about the fashion party and interaction,” Davies said.

The familiar bright-pink hue is found in two ceiling arches installed on either side of the center crosswalk.

“The arches are simple and powerful, which is the same strategy we used with all the design elements,” Davies said.

The fitting-room area has been given a makeover to allow customers a bit of privacy. It is set off slightly from the rest of the store by an accessory wall, which is located in front of the stalls.

“It’s very easy now for a salesperson to help a customer complete her outfit,” Davies said. “We also put a huge oversized mirror on the wall.”

The format also features a new lighting design that adds more drama to the space. Spotlighting is used to help balance out the fluorescent lighting.

The fixture package is big on interchangeability.

“There is a commonality in terms of parts of components,” Davies said. “All the hardware attachments work on the wall and floor fixtures. We went from 20 to 30 pieces a kit to just five.”

In another change, the overall fixture strategy shifted from an emphasis on rounders for showing product and side-out presentations to more face-outs and table displays. The designers also streamlined the cashwrap, making it more engaging.

Shopper reaction to the new design, which has rolled out in some 15 locations so far, has been very positive, according to FRCH. As the concept is fine-tuned, parts of it will likely be incorporated into existing stores.

Project Resources

Design: FRCH Design Worldwide, CincinnatiFlooring: Centiva, Florence, Ala.Lighting: Villa Lighting, St. LouisMillwork: Leiden Cabinet Co., Twinsburg, OhioFixtures: ADCO, QuebecVisual merchandising tools: Matrix Fixtures, Hastings on Hudson, N.Y.

“We’re working on a kit of parts approach for retrofitting,” Davies said.