Lester’s Goes Upscale

Lester’s, a New York retail institution for 60 years, has opened a high-style outpost in Huntington, N.Y. Located on a former Tower Records site, the 15,000-sq.-ft. store is Lester’s largest to date. The design team transformed the building into a sleek, upscale fashion-emporium.

“The space was clean and in good condition, but its dimensions—narrow in front and then about 250 ft. deep toward the rear—made for an odd-shaped floor plan,” said Doug Horst, president, Horst Design International (HDI), Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.

Family-owned and operated, Lester’s has long been a favorite of fashion-savvy shoppers, particularly moms in search of trend-setting threads for their kids. The service-oriented, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company operates five stores in the metro-New York area, including one outlet store, and one store in New Jersey. Best known for its childrens’ and juniors’ offerings, it also stocks women’s and men’s apparel (the latter is carried only in Brooklyn and Huntington) from a bevy of hot brands.

The designers used innovative architectural solutions and sophisticated details to successfully redo the space, giving it a very contemporary and fashionable feel that reflects the cutting-edge stylings of the merchandise on display.

“It speaks to the next generation of Lester’s stores,” Horst said, “and brings the store experience up to the next level.”

The entrance opens onto a main drive aisle that runs from the front to the back of the store. With its variegated platinum-colored checkerboard-flooring pattern, the aisle easily guides customers as they access the space. It is highlighted with sculptured columns, visual features and a row of hanging white globe lights.

The deep, long store is segmented into individual departments, with customer-service/checkout counters in the front and rear. The streamlined counters are marked with a circular dropped ceiling.

“The store opens with juniors on the right and contemporary women’s on the left,” Horst said. “Shoes and handbags, key departments for Lester’s in terms of their revenue per square foot, are past the women’s department. Boys and young men’s follow. The children’s world, which is more of a destination, is in the rear.”

Curved walls that create open arches, backlit feature walls and other architectural features add interest throughout the store. Lester’s signature muted neutral palette serves as a backdrop to showcase the product lines. Signage is kept to a minimum.

“We relied more on architecture and design than graphics to distinguish the space,” Horst said.

Each department has its own motif and images, with distinctive flooring, lighting and wallcoverings that relate to the specific target customer. The juniors and young men’s areas, for example, feature porcelain tile that replicates a weathered type of steel, while the contemporary women’s department has a porcelain tile that mimics wood planks. The children’s department is carpeted.

“We also used a lot more color in the children’s department than elsewhere,” Horst added.

A variety of wallcoverings are featured. A black-and-white Filigree Braid pattern gives a more sophisticated feel to the women’s department, while a more edgy grey covering with 3D fibrous photographic images is featured in juniors.

Custom merchandising systems, designed by HDI, further help define the various departments and add a decorative note. Some are made of steel and glass, with an aluminum satin finish for a fashionable high-tech look. Colored lacquer finishes give extra punch to the fixtures in the children’s department.

The designers paid particular attention to the ceiling design, using the ceiling as a directional architectural element to help customers work their way around the store.

“The ceiling is unique in that it incorporates many different elements,” Horst explained. “We used several different types of ceiling drops. Some are structural and made of Sheetrock, and others are made of fabric.”

The ceiling incorporates a variety of lighting sources, but the general workhorse of the system is a high-output T5 fluorescent.

“It’s extremely efficient, with a lot of lumens for the wattage,” Horst said.

Halogen incandescent and halogen low-voltage lighting is used for accent and perimeter displays. The hanging white globe lights along the drive aisle provide some general illumination, but mainly serve as a visual draw and to help customers navigate the aisle.

“We have a lot of backlit displays which add visual excitement to the store,” Horst added, “and make it look a lot brighter.”