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A Knowledge Platform for Store Design and Retail Consulting in China

Multi-Brand Stores, the New Leaders in Retail

October 22, 2021

Nowadays, it is well known that Chinese people cherish luxury brands. They can make Chanel and Louis Vuitton boutiques as swarmed as H&M are in other parts of the world. Although the costs of luxury brands are higher in China than in Europe because of import taxes and tariffs, this doesn't prevent luxury stores in China from being full of shoppers each day.

Due to the uncertain economic climate triggered by the pandemic, there has been a sharp fall in demand in 2020. However, a resurgence in Chinese spending and the increasing dominance of millennials and Generation Z is expected to drive the market in the medium term.

In recent years, with the development of the Chinese fashion industry, influenced by Western-style fashion magazines, websites, and social media, young people are very educated on all aspects of fashion.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

According to 10,000 consumers questioned in a survey conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), quality, craftsmanship, and exclusivity remain the main values in the criteria sought in a luxury product, but new elements are emerging that provide an additional reason and drive purchases: the "fun and extravagant" or the "current and sexy" style. Both values are close to the taste of millennials.

Multibranding is the development of marketing two or more similar and competing products by the same company under different and unrelated brands. While these brands feed of reciprocal sales, the multi-brand strategy has advantages as a means of:

  • • Getting more shelf space and leaving little room for competing products.
  • • Saturating a market by filling all the gaps in price and quality.
  • • Catering to brand switch users who like to experiment with different brands.

According to Mike Roberts, a former chief creative officer at the retail design consultancy Green Room, the reason for the rise of popularity of multi-brand stores is due to the “the increase of luxury brand awareness and desire in the Chinese market.” He also stated that “Pre-pandemic Chinese consumers were traveling on a global scale, being exposed to new brands, and bringing back their influences to the thriving local market. A lot of multi-brand boutiques in China are simply led by a ‘cultural curator’, often a well-traveled individual with specific tastes.”

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

A clear example of the multi-brand phenomenon in China is that in five years (between 2014 and 2019), the department store and footwear businesses in China dropped from 38.6 percent to 26.3 percent, according to a report conducted by Fung Business Intelligence. Nevertheless, Mike Roberts said that the main key for succeeding in the fashion industry is the personal touch of the founders. Also, “Multi-brand retail communication ‘feels’ more personal and less corporate, and, ultimately, this form of communication builds trust and credibility, which is highly desirable to the modern Chinese consumers,” Roberts says.

The reason the largest multi-brand retailers are online is due not only to the ease they provide to customers when buying from home or due to the COVID-19 pandemic measures but to the fact that shopping malls and department stores are still implementing their old formula of getting many brands onboard without a clear-cut strategy, which is weakening their position in the market.

Since the late 2000s, independent multi-brand boutiques have surged in number across China and the rest of the world. Yoox Net-A-Porter (YNAP) and Farfetch are considered the two world's largest online luxury clothes retailers. The former one is the product of a 2015 merger between Yoox and Net-A-Porter, two digital pure-play retailers that have revolutionized the luxury apparel business, with over 3 million clients visiting one of its websites regularly. The latter one was founded in 2007 and allows customers in over 190 countries to find items from over 1300 of the best brands, boutiques, and stores from more than 50 countries, ensuring a unique shopping experience.

Image Source: Vogue Business


According to Vogue Business, it is estimated that more than 1,000 stores have joined pioneers such as Alter and Dongliang, two boutique businesses that have expanded from single stores in Beijing and Shanghai.

Dongliang is a retail multi-brand concept store committed to promoting new, talented Chinese designers in China and abroad. Launched in Wudaoying Hutong, Beijing in 2009. They collaborate with the most talented local designers and engage in artistic and cultural activities as well as business and charity events. It now has two stores in mainland China.

This is not only a retail store but a talent incubator, curator, event organizer, multimedia platform, and even a music and arts festival. Whatever its definition, its goal is clear: to disrupt the fashion world and launch Chinese designers onto the world stage.


ALTER is a concept boutique store located in Shanghai. The superstore includes ALTER Showroom, ALTER Cube café, and the Rolling Acid design label.

ALTER is an unconventional and playful space that wants to convey a nexus between fashion art design food, and unveils lifestyle as culture. Also, It leads to a unique fashion Discovery: a cutting-edge collection and “editorial selection” of top leading designer label clothes and accessories from all over the world, displayed inside modular repeated cubes as back-to-back installations.

ALTER is arguably the most prominent and influential fashion boutique in China today. It was also nominated for FARFETCH’s 2014 Superstore Awards as one of the top six boutiques in the world. In the same year, the Louis Vuitton Shanghai City Guide featured it as a landmark of Shanghai high fashion.

Image Source: H.Lorenzo

Competitive market

With the rise in popularity of the multi-brand boutique and the added challenge of online shopping, competition in the market has become fierce. It's especially difficult for smaller brick-and-mortar stores of all kinds to make a profit, due to the cost of spiraling rentals for prime locations in big cities.

The increase in the number of multi-brand boutiques entering the Chinese market is a good thing for consumers as this encourages more choice and better shopping experiences. But these boutiques need to find the right market position, target the right group of customers, and employ the right designers if they want to succeed in China. No matter how good or interesting the shopping environment is, selling the products is always the ultimate goal of brands.

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Introducing Environmental Psychology
5 Star Plus Series: How Can Psychological Effects of Architecture Benefit Your Business?

October 18, 2021

We spend most of our lives inside buildings: at home, at the office, in restaurants and other facilities. Our general well-being, thoughts, and mood are shaped by the walls and features of these buildings. In this new series, we introduce environmental psychology, how to consider it when designing a retail space as well as the positive and negative effects of architecture on humans. In the first article, we commence with the fundamentals of environmental psychology, how people form their preferences and how architecture impacts our stress levels.

Environmental Psychology

The field of Environmental Psychology is dedicated to understanding how people interact with the buildings and the spaces around them. In the past, a trend was to include psychologists in the design process with a peak during the 70s. Soon after, companies lost interest in working with them because they thought that architects had enough understanding about the end-users and their needs. That means that most buildings are designed with an intellectual approach instead of an emotional one. In China, where Feng shui originated, experts think that architecture is disconnected from other disciplines and the rest of humanity.

Image Source: Archipelago


There are multiple reasons why someone would like one space or building while someone else would dislike it. From an evolutionary point of view, human brains have been encoded to associate a sense of pleasure with objects and places that increased our chances for survival. That included food, water, shelter, and to be more specific, the layout of the savanna. Modern humans still associate shelter with pleasure but in a more subjective manner.

Environmental psychologists look at different categories when it comes to understanding people’s preferences. That includes how people perceive design elements, how intrinsic factors influence their mood, and if any social things happen in the space.

Researchers found out that people tend to prefer clean environments with less ornamentation, uncluttered spaces with an open view, and good illumination. Well-balanced, good designs do not require too much attention from people and make it easy for them to move around while promoting wellbeing in an overarching way. Researchers have also found that natural-looking patterns, naturalistic architectural spaces may evoke similar psychological benefits as interacting with nature itself.

"PUREONES concept store design with high-end wood and stone flooring and ceiling in a naturally balanced interior. The colors, shapes and materials were chosen to create harmony with Chinese culture and values."
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

"Natural dark flooring resembles the dark surface of the earth while the brighter ceiling corresponds with the sky. This helps to create a feeling of being grounded in the natural environment."
Image Source: Superfuture

What is Beauty in Design?

We all know that the word “beautiful” is fundamentally subjective however, the feeling associated with it is universal. When we see something that we define as beautiful, it causes us to feel pleasure. This feeling of pleasure is a result of oxytocin, endorphins, and DHEA being released inside the brain.

Buildings with similar features as the shelters of our human ancestors, provide us with a sense of pleasure. Therefore, to incorporate these elements into the design, we need to identify and understand these characteristics and patterns our brain associates with survival attributes. These elements are mostly taken from nature. To mention a great example; Sagrada Familia by Gaudí who was influenced by his religious and metaphysical views. The treelike structures and flower-like canopies make it clear for visitors that the inspiration for the cathedral came from the forest.

Image Source: Flickr

Almost every ancient civilization incorporated environmental psychology in their unique way: Feng shui in China, Vastu Shastra in India, geometric patterns in the Arab, Roman, Druid, Aborigine, and Native American architecture. Their designs were in harmony with their life and their natural environment.

" Arab architecture features repeated patterns and non-figurative geometric or vegetal motifs. These patterns are inspired by the guidance of the Quran.."
Image Source: The Spruce

Architecture as a Form of Stress Release?

Is it possible to use design and architecture to improve the stress level and mood of people? Nowadays, we experience stress in a very different way compared to our ancestors. For us, stress can be caused by multiple reasons and differs from person to person, ranging from traffic to a job, relationships, or seemingly trivial things. Unfortunately, stress has become a prominent factor in our modern life with an effect on our health. That is where architectural and interior design and their positive psychological effects come to the picture. The built environment has direct and indirect effects on human psychology with an impact on senses, mood, emotions, motivations, judgments, decisions, health, and participation in physical activity and community life. With the use of the right colors, shapes, patterns, and materials, retail designers can calm down, motivate and inspire visitors.

Apple, one of the retail giants always combined human emotions when designing an intelligent store experience for their customers. They emphasized creating a genuinely relaxed in-store experience, a sales-free, pressure-free place to relax and absorb. In every store, there are a lot of details to serve customers, to induce their sense of trust, relaxation, positive reinforcement, and their general mood: the layout, the decor, the pressure-free environment.

Image Source: Business Insider

Image Source: Dezeen

In our next article, we will further explore the field of environmental psychology and its role in our everyday, modern life. We also think that it's essential to discuss potential mistakes as well. Besides the good cases, we will write about examples that have questionable or even contradictory effects on people.

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2021 Relaunch - Designing with a Purpose

September 29, 2021

What makes us unique?

At 5 Star Plus Retail Design our main focus is brand identity. This makes us competent when it comes to luxury design and branded design in China. We start every project with a thorough research about the brand, its competitors, target market, local regulations, and its surrounding environment. Once we have gathered all the necessary information we can provide unparalleled designs, retail consulting and project management services to international luxury and design brands. Our multinational team is a mix of international and local designers, consultants and project managers. Their designs are based on international standards while taking the local market and its requirements into consideration.

Retail design is without a doubt our passion. We do not only understand retail operations in China but we’re also able to create a design in a most effective way to maximize sales. Our extensive background in Chinese retail operation makes our team experienced in both the in-store operation and the local regulations. 5 Star Plus creates designs that can fulfill marketing targets like visibility, brand exposure, marketing leverage and visitor experience.

What makes our design process unique?

During our design process we always keep in mind what the client would like to express, how the brand is positioned and what the brand message is. Thanks to this we are able to achieve increased brand awareness and brand loyalty which, ultimately, is expected to translate into a higher sales turnover. Here are a few examples from our portfolio to show how it works in real life.

When creating two restaurant designs for THE MISSION at two different locations in Beijing, one key strategy that we utilized was to design every restaurant with a slightly different approach, in order to create novelty and adapt to the local environment. For the first location in China World Mall, 5 Star Plus created a modern flagship store design. We wanted to express their healthy, fresh cuisine through the design so it inspired both the color set and the materials that were chosen for the projects. The flagship store at China World Mall resulted in an artistic restaurant design that conveys a cool vibe that can attract the younger generation. We achieved this effect with an open stainless steel kitchen that promotes cleanliness by allowing customers to view the preparation process. We integrated custom-designed metal elements, a wall sculpture and intelligent lighting.

THE MISSION Flagship Store Design, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

In comparison, the second location at Central Park Plaza puts more emphasis on feeling good and being healthy. Located beside Chaoyang Park in a residential area, families are the most important target customers in the area, so the design needed to be inviting for them. It had to reflect the wholesome, nutritional value of the food so we have created a fresh and bright restaurant emitting a healthy feel. With an open kitchen taking center-stage as the key feature, the important design elements that support it are the use of bright woods for the walls, polished concrete, natural foliage, and seating designed for different numbers of people.

MISSION store identity design, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

ORA Creation is chain of multi-brand stores selling different European designer fashion and accessory brands. The store in Solana Mall in Beijing had to be designed to use a reduced budget for maximal impact in order to increase sales. The ultimate goal was to attract passersby and entice them into the store. With this in mind, the 5 Star Plus Retail Design team created a light, conceptual store design that is easily transformable with seasonable changes and other requirements of the brand.

ORA Store Window Display, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

For our client, Ti-Capital (Taixin), a Chinese private bank, the team developed a visual design identity concept. The company's name consists of the Chinese characters "Titanium" and "Trust". This meant the visual design identity had to represent the organization as high-end, stable, trustworthy, safe, and secure. The logo had to be suited to the Chinese market, appear masculine and strong, and communicate power and heritage. How did all these elements appear in the design? How did we reach brand awareness? The designers used light grey, dark red and white colors with a lion as the logo's key element to express trust, authenticity, and a certain formality.

TI-Capital Visual Identity Design
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

During the World Winter Sport Expo in 2018, the International Biathlon Union covered 108sqm of exhibition space with 7 exhibitors. They were promoting the sport as a whole to China, providing knowledge to those unfamiliar with the sport. Our design concept received "Excellent Design Awards" during the expo. 5 Star Plus Design utilized energy green and ice blue as the main color scheme. With this color combination and structural design we were able to attract maximum attention to the stand and bring out the space.

International Biathlon Union Exhibition
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Our Future

Based on the examples mentioned above, it is clear that 5 Star Plus Retail Design understands what it means to build up a brand identity and strategically use our services to create a maximum benefit for our customers through creating emotional connections between the customers and the brand.

As for the future, our goal is to maintain an up to date knowledge of the Chinese retail market, regulations and the relevant design trends that help us understand the market development.

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Outlook for Luxury Retail

September 23, 2021

In an environment of continuous travel restrictions, store closings, global restructuring, goal review, and omnichannel sales, luxury brand executives must stay one step ahead of competitors to streamline sales and distribution processes, retain high-value loyal customers and reach out to new ones in new markets. Brands must prepare to serve customers wherever they are while ensuring compliance with local regulations and best practices while maintaining their hard-earned reputation.

Remote Luxury, Local Luxury

Neither catwalks nor large product presentation events. In 2020, the intense activity of the luxury industry had to reconvert its main windows to a remote and digital blended environment. Brand news was launched in mixed events streamed across the globe, thus reaching a growing number of people. The figure of the virtual assistant has reached luxury retail stores and these initiatives have been very favorably received by consumers.

Image Source: The Global Fashion Business Journal

Some examples of this trend are the actions of prestigious luxury retail brands.

  • • Lexus promotes its IS 2021 model through the Augmented Reality application “Lexus AR Play”, which allows you to see the characteristics and variations of the product.
  • • Gucci has established a collaboration with Wildlife Studios, a mobile game developer, creating digital gamification that requires the use of the brand's clothing to participate.
  • • Chanel has launched an avatar platform that allows users to virtually try on digital clothing created expressly for this by its most cutting-edge designers.
  • • Yves Saint Laurent Beauty organized a virtual room through Zoom for 1,000 VIP guests.
  • • Dior has focused its marketing efforts on the development of virtual shows, webinars, and exclusive sales.

Image Source: Lifestyle Asia

Image Source: YSL

Finally, we want to highlight a growing trend that derives from the impossibility of traveling around the world. Travel for luxury shopping disappeared however the demand for high-end products grew during 2020. According to the Deloitte report, the great fortunes worldwide have grown by 9% since the beginning of the pandemic and the turnover of the luxury retail sector has remained.

Due to the shift from global to local, this has also affected a notable shift in terms of buyer sentiment, including luxury consumers, where factors such as the country of origin can be key drivers in the affinity of the brand. That is why CEOs and CFOs should consider the local process and sales adaptations to maintain healthy balance sheets.

That implies that many luxury brands are considering opening new physical points of sale where their consumers are. Specifically, China is leading this trend and concentrates the most extensive number of luxury store openings in 2020.

China, the Place to be

According to a 2019 McKinsey study, young Chinese consumers (pre-pandemic) were expected to drive growth in the luxury fashion and accessories sector by 65% globally. And while Europe and the United States remain largely out of reach for this high-value customer segment, global smart luxury brands should bring their products to them.

The Director of Worldwide Sales and International Operations at Cegid, Sylvain Jauze states that some European retail brands are facing store closures in Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, they are looking to develop their businesses in Asia and mainland China. In addition to the omnichannel presence, Sylvain Jauze points out that physical stores are also vital for the establishment of brands that are new to the Chinese market.

Image Source: China Business Review

Sylvain Jauze adds that a single store is not enough to establish a reputation in a country the size of China and that investing in social media and the right influencers - people who know the market and who know how to sell luxury in that market - is as important.

In terms of business practices, operating in China is very different from operating in Europe or the United States, says Sylvain Jauze. It points out that consumers are pushing “O to O” - from online to offline - as a major trend in China, and retailers understand that large online marketplaces such as TMall (formerly Alibaba-owned Taobao Mall) constitute a vital part of the sales ecosystem. Although Chinese consumers like to shop in the store, they also rely on “fast platforms”.

Several exclusive luxury platforms, such as TMall's Luxury Pavilion, JD.com, and even WeChat, offer e-commerce storefronts for hundreds of luxury brands to mainly young and digitally-focused Chinese consumers.

Global Becomes Local

A powerful example of the convenience of the Chinese market is the recent acquisition of Shang Xia, the 10-year-old China-based brand founded by Hermès and Chinese designer Jiang Qiong Er, by the Agnelli family's Exor holding company. Although Hermès itself has been established in China since 1996, the company saw an opportunity to take advantage of Chinese crafts and techniques, Chinese traditions, and Chinese materials. Sylvain Jauze says that even though the Chinese are very focused on money and value, they are also very focused on quality, which is why Hermès as a brand works so well in China. The brand uses premium leather, makes premium handbags, and employs the best artisans. The Hermès flagship store in Guangzhou's Taikoo Hui Mall was very successful with $ 2.7 million in sales on the day it reopened after the first lockdown in 2020.

For brands that are considering the possibility of expanding in China, it is advisable to allocate a budget and make large investments in social networks and influencers to achieve the correct positioning. The fact that a luxury brand has a reputation for quality in Europe does not mean that it can enter the Chinese market in the unknown. Ensuring that locally relevant advocates understand your brand and know your target consumer requires a clear strategy and sustainable investment.

Until the current crisis is fully resolved, brands have to embrace customers where they live and to do that, they have to go where they live. The Chinese market, self-sufficient and with a growing economy, could become the new headquarters of luxury.

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5 Star Plus Retail Design Creates Concept for Beijing Hutong Renovation Project

August 31, 2021

Located in an ancient temple area in Beijing’s South, Fayuansi Hutong was selected to be part of a larger renovation and urban revival project. The buildings were to be stripped back into their original state and assigned new functions to attract a younger, modern crowd. 5 Star Plus Retail Design was assigned to create a mixed use commercial interior combining a shared workspace function, a coffee shop and book store into one space. Shared workspaces in combination with mixed use designs are a current social trend and very popular among millennials and younger generations. This type of space creates flexibility and a certain dynamic as it allows users to work in a coffee shop, socialize, and have lectures and events all in the same space.

Image Source: torpedo

In order to contrast with the traditional structure, 5 Star Plus Retail Design created a very modern, sleek design concept based on the color white. Light wood is used to emphasize the old ceiling and a feature book shelf at the far end. As an eye catcher and to play with the length of the building, angular shelving with a triangular base was designed along the long wall. From one side, the shelves are almost invisible, closed and blend with the white wall. Seen from the other side, the elements open up and attract attention with their bright yellow color. This creates a certain dynamic as visitors walk through the space. Yellow is also a reference to the original name, Fayuansi, and history of the space.

Image Source: torpedo

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Resimercial Design after Covid-19

August 26, 2021

The phrase resimercial design might not sound familiar to everyone. This made-up expression is a combination of the words 'residential' and 'commercial'. The style implements elements of home design into contemporary work and retail spaces. It has a proven effect on the happiness, productivity, and general wellbeing of the employees. The reason behind that can be the overlapping of design styles from different markets that creates a combination of diverse feelings, creativity with logic and precision. The design style has received attention in retail and commercial design for a few years now. However, since Covid-19 it has gained momentum, especially in office design.

The Effect of Covid-19

But what has resimercial design have to do with Covid-19? For most office workers worldwide, the past 1,5 years meant working partially or full-time from home. These employees got used to working from the comfort of their homes, therefore convincing them to return to the office will require some creativity. They seek comfortable, inspiring spaces that create a calm sensation and can put people at ease. All these components help people to stay creative and motivated while it reduces stress and increases productivity.

Even though historically commercial spaces had more bulky and monolithic furniture, the current trend shows that companies need to satisfy the requirements of high traffic while providing a home-like atmosphere where people feel comfortable and inspired.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The example above is an office design that 5 Star Plus created for ISA last year. Experimenting with different materials and letting in as much natural light as possible allowed us to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere where employees feel inspired and creative.

Features of Resimercial Design

In their detailed analysis about resimercial design trends, Work Design Magazine advises that in order to reach the needed effect designers should incorporate tactile textures, materials, and accessories that evoke a sense of warmth, comfort, and familiarity. They also recommend integrating human-centric, multi-sensory elements. Comfortable seating, soft ambient lighting, flexible spaces, materials with a handcrafted feel, and residential-inspired accessories like rugs and lamps help to establish the desired atmosphere.

An important point to consider is that resimercial design should look authentic while layering the space with familiar, home-feel elements. The result should be aligned with the brand’s culture and design guidelines otherwise, it might look frivolous. The main idea is to make employees feel more secure, valued, and connected.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

When designing the office for Advantage Austria and Austrian National Tourist Office, two of our objectives were to create an identity and achieve a powerful professional impact for representative functions. In order to make employees feel comfortable and motivated, we optimized the layout for improved work efficiency, opened up the space for a maximum of daylight, and created a beautiful branded work environment.

The 3 key aspects of resimercial design are the following:

  • •Materiality: The mix of materials, colors, and surfaces can help make an office more welcoming and feel less like a sterile corporate environment. When it comes to lighting, traditional overhead fluorescent lights can be too harsh and make the space feel washed out. On the contrary, accent lighting can have a positive influence on employees’ wellbeing.
  • •Natural Elements: Bring in the outdoor world and embrace more plants or elements like wood that is reminiscent of nature. Including as much natural light and fresh air as possible is a great way to connect people with the outdoors and nature.
  • •Flexibility: Employees nowadays engage in several different types of work activities during their work time which means that they need a variety of flexible spaces. One very practical benefit of resimercial design is that you can mix-and-match furniture, just as in your home.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The office design concept for NuCloud’s office in Poland holds all three key aspects that are the main characteristics of resimercial design. The office is in direct contact with nature, has multipurpose areas, and the wide range of materials creates a home feel and comfortable working environment.

Future of Resimercial Design

Last year has changed our perception of work environments. The implementation of resimercial design that provides comfort, familiarity, and informality increases our motivation for leaving the safety of our homes each day. Considering all these changes, as well as the growth of the freelance economy, and complex expectations of Millennials and GenZ, the only way forward is to plan for flexible working solutions and creative interior design concepts that include areas for working relaxing, eating, and socializing.

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How Concept Stores Strengthen the Brand

July 29, 2021

Concept stores have become one of the most prominent tools in the past years to accelerate brand growth and boost awareness. Traditionally these stores were a natural extension to the brand by presenting a lifestyle feeling and inspiring customers to turn that lifestyle into a reality. Nowadays, concept stores have often become a brand experiment with spaces that stand out from the retail portfolio and reinvent the brand. Partially, this is the answer from brands to the ever-changing shopping habits of consumers. In this article we will introduce the idea behind concept stores, how they can be an integrated as part of the retail strategy and present some examples from our previous projects.

How To Define the ‘Concept’ of Concept Stores?

A concept store is a retail experience that seeks to engage with customers through a branded environment with excellent service and storytelling. Customers can not only learn about the products but they are also invited onto a journey. They can see what the brand can offer, what the brand values are, and what those values stand for. When done correctly, concept stores can bring new ideas to life while creating an inspiring customer journey and shopping experience. They can appear in many different sizes, formats, and styles whether it is with the integration of an immersive art display, unique design, theatre, cinema, events, cafés or, the application of AI.

Communication is the key for the brand as they have to communicate their values through this medium. Usually, there is an objective at the center of the concept store, like sustainability, food & drink, design, games, sports, or creativity. That serves as the heart of the message and is used to create a strong association with the brand. It can produce a competitive advantage and differentiate the brand from the competitors or even from earlier values.

When it comes to luxury brands, creating an engaging and immersive customer experience is even more important because consumer expectations are higher than in any other sector. In-store customer experience, service, home delivery, and the complete online journey must be perfect and exceed customers’ expectations.

Our first example is a store identity design concept for both flagship stores and shop-in-shops in China for the Finnish brand Halti. The space had to subtly showcase the brand’s Scandinavian origins and long history. To achieve that, a central brand wall was created to tell the story of Halti origins. Inside the flagship store, a suspended ceiling with backlit topographic lines was placed since this topographic imagery is an essential part of Halti’s brand identity.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Another example from China is the KJUS flagship store where we used a completely different style and approach compared to the existing stores in Europe and the US. Originally, KJUS stores use a large amount of wood but for China, we wanted to create a more modern, technological feel. We did apply wood on a smaller scale like back panels and high-rack equipment help to draw a connection to the Swiss-born brand. Another important aspect to create a luxurious touch was to ensure that there was enough space in the store and display only a selected amount of SKUs. To feature the key products, collections, and their characteristics we used special lighting effects and technological advancements. The flagship store includes multiple areas such as a VIP lounge area serving high-quality coffee, a display space, storage, fitting rooms, and more.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

What Speaks Against Concept Stores?

With the rise of online sales and the following decline of brick-and-mortar stores, brands face a significant challenge: how to engage with the most demanding generation of consumers, how to use their physical stores to support their online sales, and how to build loyalty.

From a traditional sales-driven point of view, since concept stores present a smaller product range (this is, a smaller amount of SKUs), they generate less direct sales transactions and income. It is also difficult to measure the ROI. How do you prove that the ‘concept’ is working if sales aren’t higher? Brands require testing following the concept store’s opening to see if anything has changed the perceptions of the brand, which adds an extra cost to the project.

The Connection Between Online and Offline, and the Halo Effect

A well-known approach is that online and offline must blend into one, offering an on-brand experience wherever the customer is. The brand has to make sure that they have enough engagement touchpoints with their customers online and offline.

According to a study by the International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC) from a few years ago, there is an interaction between online and offline channels, which is called ‘The Halo Effect'. The key outcome of the study was the realization that bricks-and-mortar stores serve as the hub of a brand feeding and supporting the rest of the online channels. They found out that every time a new store opens, its brand’s website traffic increases by 37%, and when a store closes, website traffic falls accordingly. That shows how strong the connection between online and offline sales is.

Our third example is Hanna Trachten, an Austrian traditional clothing brand. We created a store design concept for their three-story flagship store in Salzburg. Providing a journey of brand discovery, its heritage, and local nature was the key requirement when developing the retail design concept. While the brand is positioned in a traditional retail sector, the fabrics are innovative, the in-house designed patterns are colorful, and the cuts are modern and stylish. The result is a concept store that is welcoming, elegant and has a modern feel to it.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Our last example is a design concept that we created for Högl for the Chinese market. The design was based on the brand identity - feminine, high quality, and comfortable, as well as the incorporation of the white and red brand colors. The design concept also fulfills the targeted positioning within the Chinese market, defined as stylish, chic, cool, sexy, and powerful. The developed concept identity design was also used for the design for flagship stores, boutiques, and shop-in-shops.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

When looking at the advantages and difficulties of concept stores, it’s safe to say that they have an essential role in the retail universe and still have a lot of potential when it comes to engaging, educating, and entertaining their visitors. Concept stores provide customers with the opportunity to have an experience that they cannot have anywhere else, and particularly not online.

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Psychology of Colors in Restaurant Design

July 27, 2021

Choosing the perfect color for a bar or restaurant is an essential step during the interior design process. It is crucial to keep in mind what our goal is, what type of space we would like to create, what the guests should think, how they should feel, and what actions we want them to take while they are dining at the establishment. As discussed in our most recent 'Interior Design Principles' series, designers should pay careful attention when applying the different principles and elements of design. Colors are equally important as they play a significant role in influencing customer perception and purchase decisions.

Studies have demonstrated that colors can have a psychological effect on customers, making them subconsciously react to what they see, whether it is their food choices or the amount of money they spend at the restaurant. Different colors stimulate different emotions and can impact feelings of hunger, thirst, and comfort in people.

Image Source: Restaurant Furniture

High-End Restaurants

Green is and always has been the color to be associated with nature, and it creates a relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant. It can decrease anxiety and can make visitors happier. The color scheme of green makes customers feel comfortable and encourages them to stay at the restaurant for a while, which is often why high-end dining restaurants incorporate these colors into their design. Another aspect of painting the restaurant green or using green-colored decor is that the color is associated with fresh produce and healthy foods and connected with organic, healthy, and quality life. Using green with different shades of brown creates an earthy, natural color scheme. Restaurants with a healthy food focus are recommended to use these colors to create a tranquil and relaxing environment for prospective customers. There can be a calm tone of green on their walls with a hint of woody brown to complement the colors. It is quite common to see potted plants, either hanging or suitably placed in eateries as they can make customers feel more relaxed and influence an increase in their appetite.

Image Source: The Restaurant Times

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Bars and Seafood Restaurants

Since blue and purple are suppressants and evoke a feeling of thirst, they are best to use in drinking environments like bars. The colors blue and purple are rarely used in restaurants because they can decrease customers' appetite since they are often associated with toxins or foods that are not enjoyed like eggplant, red onions. While it is best to avoid blues and purples in restaurant interiors, these two colors typically work well in seafood-focused restaurants.

Image Source: Condé Nast Traveller

Image Source: Condé Nast Traveller

Image Source: Family Destinations Guide

Fast Food Color Scheme

Bold, primary colors such as red and yellow are typically used for casual dining restaurants or fast food establishments as they encourage quick turnover. That stems from the psychology that red and yellow colors elevate the heart rate and blood pressure of the customers and create a new emotion, which makes them eat fast and leave. Most fast-food restaurants have either red or yellow logos, walls, or have accessories such as cups and menus of the same color displayed.

Image Source: The Restaurant Times

Image Source: Inside Franchise Business Executive

Image Source: Senses & Spaces

We should never forget that what we see influences what we think, and eventually what we do. Color is one of the most significant factors in the elements of interior design. But just like with every other aspect of interior design, choosing the perfect color for a restaurant is never 'black and white'. Finding the balance and the most suitable combination is the essence of it. Restaurant colors should be chosen with care and they should be in sync with the restaurant’s theme and concept while taking their impact on customers into consideration.

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ICCSD Event Highlights: Applying a User-Centric Approach When Designing for Future Society

July 23, 2021

On July 6th, 2021, our Managing Director, Barbara Seidelmann gave a presentation at the International Center for Creativity and Sustainable Development (ICCSD), where she spoke on the topic of “Applying a User-Centric Approach When Designing for Future Society.”

Originally from Vienna, Austria, Barbara has been working in China since 2005. Her background includes experience in various marketing, strategy, and luxury retail management functions, as well as a decade of designing commercial architecture. At 5 Star Plus Retail Design, she advises brands on the specifics of the Chinese retail market, design of store concepts, and marketing and brand strategies. With many years of experience and amazing accomplishments, Barbara had the pleasure of speaking at the ICCSD event.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The event was hosted by ICCSD, the world’s first UNESCO Category 2 Center founded by the People's Government of Beijing Municipality and UNESCO in 2017. Throughout the presentation, she touched on various topics including the importance of user-centered design, the interaction between the user, the environment, and society, the customer journey mapping, and understanding the society.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Design differs from Art in that it needs to fulfill both functional and aesthetic needs. As designers, we need to deeply understand the user and their known and unknown requirements for using a space or product. Only in this way, and by observing the changes in society and therefore changes in the usage of architectural environments, we can successfully design for the future. By applying a user-centric, integrated approach, design and architecture become tools that positively influence and better the life of society.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Below were some of the key concepts that were covered:

1. Purpose of Future Architecture & Design

  • ● Design not as “the planning of a house”, but rather the planning for the best possible life of a person. Product versus integrated concept including lifestyle and health aspects
  • ● Improvement of life, physical and mental health, inspiration, and better energy rather than just “functional spaces”

2. New Approach – Challenge Everything

  • ● Challenge all previous approaches on a concept and detail level, start from zero to address each issue in the best possible way
  • ● Invest time into in-depth research and development of the concept rather than quick design and build

3. Understanding is Key

  • ● Understanding current and upcoming underlying problems of particular groups in society, as well as their future needs, is important
  • ● This understanding can only be developed by continuous research and observation, engaging those groups in conversations and possibly in the design process
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Contrast and Details
5 Star Plus Series: Design Principles in Store Design

June 30, 2021

We have come to our last article on the Retail Design Principles; Contrast and Details. In the previous three articles, we introduced eight topics as the basic elements of interior design. If you missed them, we suggest reading them to fill yourself in:

  • •Harmony & Unity, Gestalt, and Space
  • •Dominance, Hierarchy, and Balance
  • •Scale & Proportion, Rhythm & Repetition


Contrast is not just an aesthetic tool to make things look nicer, prettier, it is also highly functional. The definition for it is when two elements with opposing characteristics are placed together. It can be achieved easily when these two things are different regarding a common principle or aspect such as color, size, texture, style, and the use of positive and negative spaces. It has a psychological effect on people since the existence of contrast is why we can see and identify things.

The level of contrast can vary from subtle differences to extreme ones. A high level of contrast may appear aggressive, bold, dynamic, energetic, or attention-seeking. On the other hand, a low level may create the opposite effect, a more static, blended, and more peaceful environment. The appropriate level of contrast depends on the desired effect or impact. The chosen level of contrast affects how things appear; some items will be contrasted while others won’t be within one composition.

We can differentiate different types of contrasts in interior design:

  • •masculine versus feminine
  • •geometric versus organic
  • •plain versus ornate
  • •small versus big
  • •dull versus bright
  • •dark versus light
  • •old versus new
  • •textured versus smooth
  • •light versus heavy
  • •fragile versus sturdy

The whole design concept for the Swiss National Pavilion evoked around contrast. The objective was to represent both traditional and modern aspects of Switzerland. For that 5 Star Plus Retail Design used various types of contrast. Playing with contrasting colors (white and red) and materials (red metal structure and natural wood) helped to create the desired feeling. The back wall of the bar and chalet element evoked a slightly traditional feel, the enwrapping counter desk was designed to set a modern contrast in white with LED lighting accents.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Image Source: Photos are the courtesy of Swiss Business Hub China


Details are one of the most important interior design principles. It means that the designer pays attention to the project's smallest details in the interior. Everything from the material choice to light switches, the handles on the cupboards, lighting fixtures, wall finishing, and other decorative elements are all classified as details in the interior. Details should be in line with the overall design concept, the artistic inspiration, and the positioning of the brand. It also serves as a display of the quality of the project.

Details enhance the overall theme of the space and need to be just right. Small details might not have a huge impact by themselves but when they are grouped together, they are the perfect tool for composing a perfectly-finished retail environment. Small details should not be overlooked as they can create a sensation of unfinished space, where people feel that something is lacking.

For Marja Kurki, details were one of the most vital aspects. Because of the floor plan restrictions and the absence of walls, they needed unique displays to grab visitors' attention. Modular structures, circular tables make the product representation more attractive. Artificial marble and bronze textures were used to help shift the store design from a more traditional to a lighter, modern one. The “Scarves Tree” fixture is aimed not only to display the brand’s most recent pieces but also to enforce their statement – “Fashion accessories made of natural materials”.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The interior design principles that we introduced in this series are the base and foundation of every design project. Every great interior designer will know how to incorporate some or all of these to enforce the message and strengthen the brand. We hope you have enjoyed our glimpse into the principles of interior design. Using these guidelines in a precise yet creative way will give places a character and identity.

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Innovative Growth in the COVID-era
5 Star Plus Series: Customer Centric Strategy

June 29, 2021

In one of the world’s fastest moving markets, the ability to quickly adapt strategy is crucial for continued growth in China. The impacts of the outbreak have led to a shift in consumer values for Chinese consumers. In order for a brand to successfully adapt its strategy, it needs to know and understand its consumers.

Brands who were successful at staying in-touch with their customer’s changing values, were able to adapt their strategies quickly, thus enabling them to recover faster in China’s market compared to those that didn’t. Customer-centric elements that were adapted by brands focused on creating meaningful engagement with their consumers both online and offline, creating a stronger overall omni-channel strategy.

Image Source: Market Watch

Huawei serves as a great example of a domestic brand that was able to create success in China over their other operating markets. Continuous innovation and adaptation of their strategy to cope with the difficulties in China’s market, leading them to surpass their other competitors to become one of the top selling brands in the world despite challenges brought on by the global pandemic.Their strategy focused on three key elements:

  • • Consumer Engagement
  • • Offline expansion
  • • Innovation

Consumer Engagement

Engaging consumers in a time of social distancing and physical restrictions proved to be no challenge for Huawei. Through their philosophy driven by continuous innovation and partnerships used to expand the knowledge and capabilities of others, Huawei focused its efforts on hosting events virtually.

Image Source: Huawei

Throughout 2020, the brand hosted multiple events online for selected attendees and audiences. Most of the events that took place were held in a conference style format, with a few others featuring product launches designed to create excitement for the new technology. Other events featured notable KOLs, targeted toward a younger Chinese audience to showcase new features of products.

Offline Expansion

Given the constraints presented by the pandemic, it may come as a surprise that Huawei actually opened its largest flagship store in the world in 2020. Right in the heart of the city of Shanghai sits a 5000sqm retail space on East Nanjing Road. The new flagship store overshadows the likes of Apple and other tech flagship stores on the same road. The multi-story space provides ample room for consumer engagement and interaction through an on-site gym, kitchen, and product display areas utilizing the technology products of Huawei.

Image Source: Huawei

In Wuhan, they also opened a pop-up store with an eye-catching focal point that featured a robotic arm sorting products. Guests could interact with the robot by purchasing goods at the store. While the use of robotics is not as exciting to consumers as it used to be, the pop-up store served as a great way to engage consumers in a non-physical way.

Image Source: Huawei


Huawei continually creates engagement with their consumers by providing innovative new products and technology. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic and other political factors, the brand saw positive growth in 2020. Huawei was also named the 6th most innovative company in the world. They shared their “All-Scenario AI Life strategy” in September 2020, which focuses on providing products most centered around the user’s experience.

Image Source: Gadgets 360

New products such as their latest smart watch “Huawei Smart Fit” can switch between different specified workout modes to ensure the health metrics are more accurately tracked during the user’s workout. Their new watch serves as a small example of how the brand seeks to continue providing their customers with a personalized experience best suited to their lifestyle needs.


By focusing on driving growth in their home market through events, offline expansion, and innovation, Huawei was able to create growth during a year filled with hardships. Keeping a fine-tuned strategy that focuses on providing their consumers with lifestyle centric products and services, allowed them to strengthen the relationship with their customers.

Looking forward, it’s apparent that a customer-centric driven strategy is an important part of a successful retail strategy for brands. The true winners are those who can act quickly and focus on the immediate needs of their consumers that continually change. Having a timely response, connecting with consumers at all parts of their shopping journey, and providing them with an experience that matches the quality of products provided.

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Scale & Proportion, Rhythm & Repetition
5 Star Plus Series: Design Principles in Store Design

June 18, 2021

Our previous Design Principles in Store Design blog post introduced the principles of design with a focus on dominance, hierarchy, and balance. We discussed how to create a focal point with drama, how-to guide the customers’ eyes from one element to another, and how to create a visually pleasing and balanced space. This post will focus on the importance of scale, proportion, rhythm and repetition.

Scale & Proportion

Scale refers to the relationship between two or more objects when one of these objects has a commonly known size. On the contrary, proportion relates to the general size of two objects without any information about their actual sizes. This makes scale more absolute and proportion a more relative element. The latter one requires the designer to understand the interactions between objects within a 3-dimensional space. Changing the proportion can alter the way our spaces look and feel, and also affect other design principles like balance, hierarchy and dominance.

The following aspects affect the design of the most appropriate scale or proportion of objects:

  • •Sufficient breathing space
  • •Balanced lines and areas within the space
  • •Golden ratio: Objects that contain this ratio are thought to be more pleasing aesthetically, more beautiful and perfect.

Designers can always play with the size and scale of objects to create some fun, but in the end, they have to ensure that the space looks balanced.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

For the store design concept development of Pureones, scale and proportion was an important consideration. The size and proportion of all interior fixtures was balanced carefully in order to create harmony and achieve the required “flowing” effect inspired by Chinese rice fields.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Simply Italian had a six meters high space available. In order to take advantage of this and emphasize the feeling of space, we created strong vertical lines and a central ceiling structure. These are the defining elements in the space that set the standard in terms of scale and proportion for all other furniture and fixtures.

Rhythm & Repetition

Rhythm is considered a pattern in movement. It is utilized to guide the customers’ eyes in moving around within a space in an organized manner. This principle helps introduces order, interest and focus while leading people’s eyes. Rhythm also plays a huge role in the way customers perceive a store interior, both in terms of aesthetic and in terms of functionality.

An important point to keep in mind is that the design principles don’t work alone. When designers aim to achieve balance, they determine the perfect combination of contrast, rhythm and scale for the project. All principles are tightly interrelated.

Repetition creates visual continuity and ties different aspects of a design concept together. Complex looks can be simplified with repetition up to ‘maximum sameness/minimum difference’. The simplest way to reach rhythm is by applying repetition of design elements (color, texture and pattern, scale and proportion). It also gives structure within a design concept due to the consistency of the design elements used. Repetition does not only refer to placing the same object, pattern, color or texture again at several locations in a space, but more importantly, design elements are either designed or selected in such a way that one dimensions (color, pattern, shape, size, style or texture) matches with the rest of the design concept. In this way, all elements are tied together and make one whole. Certain patterns, colors, or textures can be found repeating themselves but with some sort of variation within a space when one looks closely.

Rhythm and repetition help to create a smooth transition for the customers’ eyes. The design concept looks “whole”, well tied together and visually pleasing, while providing enough visual interest and variety.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The design concept for Austrian shoe brand Hoegl shows how rhythm and repetition and be applied within an interior space. Inspired by the brand’s logo, the square is an integral basic shape that is repeated in different sizes and patterns, with different textures and materials throughout the store. A variation of it is the pentagon shape as a further abstraction that creates further dynamic and interest.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

At The Mission restaurant in Beijing, wooden and industrial accents were repeated throughout the space for a unified, slightly rustic yet modern look. Repeating these materials, though varied and not exactly the same, ties together the design concept and creates visual interest.

Although understanding the ideas behind scale and proportion, rhythm and repetition is important, a successful retail design concept requires the careful consideration of every design principle. The interaction and relationship between elements will effectively deliver the brand’s message and effect the feel of a space. In our next and final design principles article, we will introduce Contrast and Details.

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5 Star Plus Retail Design Designs Swiss National Pavilion at the First Hainan Expo (China International Consumer Products Expo)

May 26, 2021

The first ever China International Consumer Products Expo CICPE (Hainan Expo) presented Switzerland as the exclusive official Guest Country of Honor. 5 Star Plus Retail Design was assigned to design and execute the 200m² Swiss National Pavilion which showcased 26 Swiss companies with more than 40 brands.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Image Source: Photos are the courtesy of Swiss Business Hub China

The objective of the design concept for the exhibition pavilion was to represent both traditional and modern aspects of Switzerland. Based on the unique, elongated floor plan, the space was divided into two main areas (animation area, exhibitor area) integrating three cubes with different functions and unique architectural features. The whole front space of the pavilion was planned as an experience resp. animation area, where visitors could experience different facets of Switzerland.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

From far away, visitors were “greeted” and attracted towards the space by a beautiful Swiss Alpine landscape and a modern interpretation of wooden chalets which are found on Swiss mountain tops. When coming closer, people were encouraged to write a message of Sino-Swiss friendship onto a Swiss white cow that was branded with a projected Swiss flag logo. The cow sculpture and wall besides were decorated with original Swiss cow bells. In addition to the animal being a well-recognized icon of Switzerland, 2021 is also the Year of the Cow in China and is said to bring stability and prosperity. Directly behind, a photo backdrop with another beautiful Swiss landscape including a 3D bench and sign post invited visitors to sit down and take selfies.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The right side of the entrance of the pavilion was designed as a welcome area with a large welcome desk, Swiss flag and logos of the exhibiting Swiss brands. Flowing in a “C”-shape, the desk turned into a bar area below the chalet structure and an open kitchen space farther behind. While the back wall of the bar and chalet element evoked a slightly traditional feel, the enwrapping counter desk was designed to set a modern contrast in white with LED lighting accents. With the support of Swiss brands, the Swiss bar and kitchen area were created to become lively interaction points where food and beverage tastings could take place.

Further inside the Swiss National Pavilion, a pop-up store of Swatch created excitement. Six art canvases were designed by artists from Switzerland and China specifically for this event and visitors could select a part of a canvas and custom-print in order to create their own unique Swatch watch.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Image Source: Photos are the courtesy of Swiss Business Hub China

The core architectural design element of the exhibition pavilion was the event space enclosed by a custom-designed, 6 meters tall and abstract red metal structure, the “Swiss Cross Cube”, which was inspired by the Swiss national flag. From far away and the side alleys, people were greeted by the huge red sculpture with a cut out cross which allowed visitors to see inside the space. Transparency throughout the pavilion was a key consideration to remove psychological barriers and ensure that visitors can see what is happening inside different areas.

While most of the pavilion was finished with a beautiful wooden flooring, the event space was carpeted in red and supported by a high tech light & sound system and an LED screen to create dynamic and facilitate different event formats ranging from an opening ceremony to B2B meetings, media events, brand presentations and live streaming. This space was designed to be the most modern and dynamic part of the pavilion and to attract and retain both media and visitors.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The third cube behind the event space was designed as exhibitor area. 26 Swiss top companies from areas such as cosmetics, watches, luxury, art, fashion, home appliances, chocolate and beverages all took part in the event and exhibited their companies and products. Architecturally, this part of the pavilion was inspired by well-known typical Swiss mid-century architecture as created by Le Corbusier and Peter Zumthor. Cubic shapes, clean and minimalist lines, as well as large open glass and branding surfaces were features of this part of the exhibition stand design. In strategic areas, the event’s slogan “This is Swiss Quality. 瑞士品质 至臻完美”, the logo displaying the Swiss national flag, and stylized mountain shapes were applied for a modern and branded effect.

In addition to branding and storytelling aspects, much emphasis was given to visibility of the Swiss design from different sides as well as a certain openness to draw people inside and through the various areas. The color scheme of the pavilion included white, red, and some light grey accents. Key materials chosen for the project included natural wood for floor, chalet and selected branding areas, power coated clean surfaces for most of the furniture, steel and carpet in the event area, and branded glass shells for the VIP room and Swatch pop-up store.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Overall, it was an honor for 5 Star Plus Retail Design to take part in designing a national pavilion at the first-ever Hainan Exhibition. The four-day exhibition had more than 3,500 participating companies from 70 different countries and attracted more than 20,000 professional buyers. With tourism and duty free shopping increasing in Hainan province, the result of the Hainan Exhibition could be the first of many to come.

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Sustainable Trends in Retail Design

April 25, 2021

The month of April marks the annual celebration of Earth Day. After an unexpected year of social challenges, it was surprising to see the positive impact it had on the global environment. With a reduction of more than 7% globally in CO2 emissions due to stay at home orders issued by governments around the world, factories saw a decrease in their production levels which adversely created a positive impact on pollution levels, drastically improving the overall air quality in major cities around the world including, Beijing, Paris, and Mumbai among others. Seeing such a significant improvement in a matter of weeks proves that sustainable measures taken by retailers can also prove to have a positive impact on achieving a better environmental standard globally.

While it is quite obvious that the redesign of products utilizing sustainable materials is the first step that brands typically take towards higher environmental standards, sustainable retail design is another important factor that can have an impact on being more environmentally conscious as a brand.

Key design elements of sustainable retail design include the following:

  • • LED & Natural lighting
  • • Reclaimed materials
  • • Recycled materials
  • • Store layout and schematic design
  • • Technology integration

Every market has different standards of sustainability which are strongly influenced by governmental policy. These measures aren’t anything super new to the retail design world. One noticeable difference is an increased focus on opening stores with LEED certification. In many markets around the world, having a LEED certification, shows that a brand continually meets the environmental standards and regulations within that market. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design which provides different levels of certification requirements depending on the type of building, construction regulations, material specifications, and local regulations into account throughout the construction and design process.

"Startbucks pledged to open 10,000 LEED Certified stores globally by 2025"
Image Source: Starbucks

In addition to having a LEED certification, brands need to consider how they can achieve environmentally sustainable retail designs while also ensuring customer safety during their shopping experience. During the pandemic there were a few different design trends that became more common practice for retail brands to follow, most of which are expected to become a new standard for future retail developments. Some things brands implemented included socially distanced experiences, additional partitions between customers, and disinfectant methods of different products and in-store surfaces.

A thoughtful step that retail brands in China can take to become more sustainable and reduce waste can also include the production of pop-up stores, exhibition stands and furniture for events for the long term, including the storage in warehouses while not in use. While such practices are the standard in Europe and the US, these practices are not only uncommon but also completely unpractical in China. It is typically cheaper to reproduce new exhibition stand designs than to reuse existing ones in China. This is due to a combination of factors including, a less skilled workforce in the exhibition production sector as well as the use of different materials available and regulations from exhibition organizers. Other factors of added costs for reuse of materials fees transportation and warehouse costs and adverse climate conditions which damage wooden furniture over time.

However, at 5 Star Plus Retail Design, we have started to receive increasing inquiries for the design and production of temporary retail space concepts that are planned to be used in the long term at different times and locations. For some of our clients, quality and sustainability have already become more important that cost considerations only.

Additional technology incorporation provides consumers with an experience without physically interacting with others and products. The flexibility of technology allows the brand to continually adjust the products customers interact with without the reconstruction of an existing space. Small format retail stores continued to grow in popularity due the limitations for large numbers of people. It made more sense for some brands to utilize a smaller space more experienced focused for consumers. With a smaller retail space available, product selections must be prioritized based on the demand of that location. Layout and customer flow is another aspect that must be considered in the overall design. Keeping a small-format retail store reduces the level of energy and waste produced by the outlet when compared to a much larger retail space. The reduction in operational cost for a smaller store is truly a sustainable benefit to the brand.

Image Source: Frameweb

Live-streaming events with KOLs and personal shoppers is another way brands added to a safer experience for guests. Gucci experimented with the use of faux-shops where personal shoppers could guide their clients through the ‘store’ while showing them only hand selected products. Personal sessions allowed shoppers to ask their guide questions about the products before purchasing them for delivery to their homes. Faux stores are constructed with less materials than a pop-up or retail store and can be easily refitted to suit the aesthetic of new product lines and VI design. It also ensures that live-stream sessions convey a similar VI design to other sales channels of the brand.


The future of retail is sustainable, and sustainable means it’s here to stay. Moving forward, brands will continue to consider how they can reduce their overall green impact towards the environment. Innovative product and packaging design, thoughtful use of sustainable design elements, health & safety measures, and technology integration are the key to achieving sustainable retail goals to satisfy consumers and local governments.

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Dominance, Hierarchy, Balance
5 Star Plus Series: Design Principles in Store Design

April 23, 2021

Design principles in retail design help to enforce the brand and communicate it to their clients. These guidelines are used to inform and influence and can be achieved through the application of various design elements. In this series, we are providing instructions on how to apply these correctly and influence customers’ mood and first impression. In our previous article, we covered the first three design principles: Harmony, Gestalt, and Space how they contribute to the perception of the retail space. In this article, we present Dominance, Hierarchy, and Balance and their most important role in retail design.


As mentioned before, the first impression is the most important aspect for brands to attract customers. Adding a factor of Dominance to the space creates interest and drama for those that enter the space. This is usually done by featuring on key focal point or two emphasized areas that pull the attention of customers from all directions, guiding the customers' eyes to focus on key elements within the retail space. Designers can create clear focal areas, like product displays, a customer service counter, visual identity and branded elements while hiding the less important areas like storage. After choosing the focal point, emphasis can be created by adjusting the size, position, color, style, or shape of the specific object.

PUREONES is a Chinese luxury clothing brand with a strong brand’s forward-thinking identity, tied to the traditional roots of Chinese culture. The retail concept design was inspired by the curves found in Chinese rice fields, rivers, mountains, and forests that follow the Taoism way, allowing the retail store design to flow naturally from one part to the next. Using these curved lines, we created a dominant display area in the middle of the store that is visible from outside as well. The installation grabs the attention of customers immediately because of its unique shape and color. Using high-quality wood and stone materials and metals to tie natural elements to the physical space and creates the feeling of a natural oasis, transporting the customer to a calming, open environment.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design


Hierarchy helps to communicate the importance of elements in the overall design compared to the other elements. Using this design principle is another way to guide customers’ eyes towards key elements of focus. It is important to keep in mind that the recommended maximum of hierarchy in in any kind of design is three levels: the most important, less important, and everything else.

Hierarchy can be modified with adjusting the following elements:

  • •Size: Larger objects seem more important.
  • •Shape: If every object has a regular shape except for one irregular one, people tend to look at the irregular one first.
  • •Position: The center of a circle is the most hierarchical, and in the case of a line, the end of the axis is the most hierarchical rather than the points along the line.
  • •Color: Using different hues of a tint of a certain color can also guide customers’ eye to key focus areas.

Högl is an Austrian shoe brand that also sells jewelry, accessories, and bags. 5 Star Plus Design created a new design concept for the Chinese market that is based on the brand identity - feminine, high quality, and comfortable, as well as the incorporation of the white and red brand colors. The design concept also fulfills the targeted positioning within the Chinese market, defined as stylish, chic, cool, sexy, and powerful. A lot of thought was given to the flexibility of the product display shelves and to the possibility of creating various combinations of space’s different elements. Playing with the different shapes and colors of display elements helps to guide customers and features the most important products.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design


This principle refers to the equalization of tension in the composition and contributes greatly to the gestalt of the design. The majority of retail spaces aim to reach visual balance. This can be achieved by distributing the visual weight of objects within a space. The visual weight of an element can be changed by changing its size, color, texture, or shape. An object that is darker, larger, brighter, or more complex usually feels heavier. We can differentiate four different types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical, radial, and mosaic.

Symmetrical balance creates a more formal and quieter atmosphere. It is achieved when elements are repeated or mirrored along a central axis, as well as the use of patterns, arrangement of furniture, fixtures, and through the application of color. This type of balance communicates a stable, calm message with dignity.

With asymmetrical balance, interior designers can form a more relaxed and casual environment. They tend to feel more dynamic and less rigid because in these spaces a variety of object types are working together to create balance. Asymmetrical balance is centered around the visual weight of an object and uses the similar perceived weight of elements on the opposite axis. This type of balance is not as straightforward as the symmetrical balance, it often requires an “eye for design”.

When using radial balance, objects are arranged around a central point either extending outward or inward. It helps to create focus on a central item and drags customers' attention towards that. When applied correctly every other element should radiate in circular symmetry around the focal point.

Mosaic balance results from balanced chaos. In this case, the composition lacks distinct focal points, and the hierarchy of the elements leads to visual noise at first glance. Somehow it works together after all.

In our last example from Halti, it’s easy to observe how symmetrical balance can create a premium feel, calm yet strong atmosphere that fits the brand’s Scandinavian persona. Halti is a “light-luxury” positioned, Finnish outdoor fashion brand well known for its ski wear. 5 Star Plus Retail Design created a store identity design concept for both flagship stores and shop-in-shops in China. While the store design had to have a clean, balanced look, a dynamic feel was achieved with added cool features such as island furniture with white, backlit strips.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

With the ever-growing online sales market, retailers face the constant challenge of increasing their in-store sales. To create visually appealing spaces, interior designers apply various elements of design to grab the customers’ attention and pull them into the stores. In the next article of our Design Principles in Store Design Series, we will introduce the role of Color, Proportion, and Repetition.

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Harmony, Unity, Gestalt and Space

5 Star Plus Series: Design Principles in Store Design

March 31, 2021

Visitors of retail spaces often think that the result of the interior design looks good by coincidence, however, there is much more behind a finished interior design than one can see at the first gasp. The artistic composition of spaces is based on a number of technical considerations that are referred to as the principles of design. When these principles are applied successfully, they evoke unconscious emotions from visitors of the spaces. These emotions can help to reinforce the brand message and corporate identity using various visual techniques. In this first article of our design principles series, we introduce examples for the first three design principles: harmony, gestalt, and space.

Design Principle 1: Harmony and Unity

Harmony is described as sameness, which means one thing belongs or corresponds to the other. The elements in an interior space create a composition that feels comfortable and is pleasing to the eye. Unity is when the parts of the space form a balanced, harmonious complete whole. The interior feels right when everything works well collectively. The unit of a design can be affected by the contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity of the elements. The key is to find a balance between unity and variety so that the design is visually impressive and well-balanced. Harmony and unity can provide a sense of calmness while limiting chaos and adding to the comfort level of a space.

KJUS is a luxury sportswear brand based in Switzerland. For their first Chinese store, 5 Star Plus Retail Design created a futuristic, high-tech, and luxurious design concept that evolves around unity. KJUS sportswear products stand for a mixture of state-of-the-art craftsmanship and the latest material technology. To express this abstract positioning, cool, modern, and high-end materials such as metal and stone were used throughout the store. To achieve a harmonious, luxurious feeling, the interior includes enough empty space without displaying too many SKUs to let the concept breathe. Special lighting effects and high-tech elements are incorporated to convey messages from the brand including product features, essential products, and new collections.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Design Principle 2: Gestalt

Gestalt means that an organized whole is perceived as more than the sum of its parts. The idea behind this concept is that people can instantly judge whether or not a design works. Small changes in single components can affect how other elements in a design are perceived. Gestalt takes into consideration that viewers have the natural tendency to complete unfinished forms in their minds. Those then lead their sight and direct the flow of a designed space.

Simply Italian’s restaurant design incorporates core values of the brand like honesty, transparency, hospitality, and happiness. 5 Star Plus Retail Design created a bright and open environment with abundant natural wood, light colors, and patterns that represent Italian traditions. Key inspirations used for the project were Italian pasta, in particular – spaghetti, and colorful natural ingredients like vegetables. When customers enter the restaurant, the whole design comes together and makes one feel at home.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Design Principle 3: Space

Space can be split into two categories: positive and negative space. Positive space is space containing design elements such as objects. Negative space or white space is the area between these objects. The latter is just as, if not even more, important than the used space. It is also one of the most neglected components of visual design. Finding balance between positive and negative space is crucial in order to create a harmonious feeling and to avoid overcrowding the space.

The concept store design for the French avant-garde fashion brand, Angelique, incorporates a lot of empty space to let the store and its unique design features breathe. Most of theproducts are black and white clothing so the design was built around their elegant brand identity referencing the style of the garments. The white space creates a subconscious sense of visual comfort by allowing visitors to rest a bit and have a clear focus on the products.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

In our next article of our Design Principles in Store Design Series we will write about the role of dominance, hierarchy and balance.

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Luxury Brand Success in the COVID-era

5 Star Plus Series: Customer Centric Strategy

March 24, 2021

In one of the world’s fastest moving markets, ability to quickly adapt strategy is crucial for continued growth in China. The impacts of the outbreak have led to a shift in consumer values for Chinese consumers. In order for a brand to successfully adapt its strategy, it needs to know and understand its consumers.

Brands who were successful at staying in-touch with their customer’s changing values, were able to adapt their strategies quickly, thus enabling them to recover faster in China’s market compared to those that didn’t. Customer-centric elements that were adapted by brands focused on creating meaningful engagement with their consumers both online and offline, creating a stronger overall omni-channel strategy.

Burberry serves as a great example for a foreign brand in China that was able to create success in China over their other operating markets. Actively adapting their strategy to cope with the difficulties in China’s market, led to an uptake in sales boosting overall revenue of sales higher than pre-covid levels by Q3 of 2020; significantly higher than Burberry’s revenue in other markets that were still slowly recovering from the initial impacts of the pandemic.Their strategy focused on three key elements:

  • •Consumer Engagement
  • •Seamless Connection to all Sales Channels
  • •KOL Collaboration

Consumer Engagement

With 60% of offline stores in China closed for the first half of 2020, sales fell significantly. To overcome these challenges, Burberry kept their consumers engaged by offering online shopping appointments with a personal sales clerk. They also increased their efforts to provide an engaging experience online by use of Virtual spaces and pop-up stores. In the spring, they participated in TMall’s SuperBrandDay which resulted in a record breaking 28 million viewers and the highest volume of sales in a single day on the application. The livestream also led to increased appointment requests for personal shopping consultants.

Image Source: WWD

Seamless Connection to all Sales Channels

As policies allowed for the reopening of malls and stores, offline engagement needed a boost. Burberry focused on highlighting new product segments starting with leather goods. New collections were promoted in stores and via pop-up stores. The brand partnered with Tencent to enable consumers to connect their experience online while shopping in person. Their “Social Retail” store in Shenzhen opened in July 2020. The design focused on incorporating interactive technology points to create a ‘social experience’ for their customers.

Image Source: Burberry

The roughly 540 sqm space is thoughtfully designed to create a slow-shopping experience that allows the guest to engage with the brand and its products, learn more about the brand’s story, and interact with other online touchpoints via their newly created WeChat mini-program. The store consists of 10 rooms in total, each one themed to a different product or other brand elements that tell more about the brand story of Burberry.

Image Source: Burberry

The wechat mini-program was developed as a way to create a more interconnected shopping experience with online channels. Use of the mini-program and its various AI features and other features such as appointment bookings, can only be accessed by guests inside of the store.

In addition to their new “Social Store” and WeChat mini-program, the brand focused on allowing consumers to experience their new leather products in person by creating sustainable pop-up stores. Many retailers focused on getting consumers back into stores after restrictions surrounding the pandemic started to ease up in April, 2020 for Chinese consumers. Festivals, pop-up stores, and other temporary exhibits were thoughtfully made to encourage consumers to come into offline stores again. Safety was maintained by use of temperature checks, health codes, mask mandates, and socially distance experiences. The use of WeChat mini-programs and AR technology also added to the overall experience for guests.

KOL Collaboration

Other collaborations with KOLs helped to promote the launch of new products and create more engagement.Notable actress, Zhou Dongyu, promoted new products through adverts and social media videos on social media. Her brand representation reached more than 100 million consumers and more than 4 million users engaged more actively with Burberry’s channels online.

Image Source: Mr. Bags

The brand was able to gain further popularity by collaborating with Mr.Bags to create a unique product line to appeal to younger consumers. The fashion influencer has grown in popularity in China after collaborating with other luxury brands and influencing the opinion of handbag trends on social media. The collaboration was well received by consumers, with all of the Mr.Bags designed bags selling out within the first minute of its launch. This was the second successful collaboration between Burberry and Mr.Bags.


By focusing on maintaining the engagement of their consumers, Burberry was able to create growth during a year filled with hardships. Keeping a fine-tuned strategy that puts consumers at the central part of the brand allowed them to strengthen the relationship with their customers. Having a customer-centric focus, drives overall engagement, increases interaction at all points of the consumer’s journey, and creates positive growth of sales.

After reviewing the successful recovery of a foreign-luxury brand in China, part three will take a look at local brands that are putting their customers at the center of their retail strategy. Consumer values shifted in stronger favor of local brands during the course of the pandemic. It’s important for brand managers to understand how local brands are successful in building stronger brand loyalty for local consumers.

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The Rise of Chinese Domestic Brands

March 16, 2021

Domestic products (国货 guo huo) and local brands have experienced a revival in recent years. Netizens even coined the term “guo chao”, a neologism formed by the words “country” and “fashionable”, first used to identify Li Ning’s streetwear collection after its launch at the 2018 Paris Fashion Week. The collection featured many recognizable symbols for Chinese culture, including the Chinese flag’s colors (red and yellow), and the four characters “中国李宁” (meaning: “China” and “Li-Ning”).

Chinese cultural references and symbols have become increasingly popular, so much so that Chinese country and cultural branding are now part of the visual identity of many domestic brands. For example, in 2020 Anta launched its new “Li Bai Series”, inspired by the famous Tang dynasty poet. The series feature traditional cloud visuals in white and ink black, as well as the Chinese “red character” seal on the shoes’ tongue.

Image Source: DoNews

Data shows that online users between 20-29 years pay the most attention to domestic brands, with Gen-Zers (young people born after 1995) representing the largest consumer group of new domestic brands. (Xinhua, 2020) However, the endorsement of Chinese brands is not limited to the younger and trendier segments of the Chinese population: a recent report by American consulting firm Mc Kinsey & Company revealed that between 33% and 57% of the surveyed Chinese consumers prefer local brands in numerous product categories, including food, household appliances, and electronic devices.

Domestic Brands’ Online Celebration

Chinese brands’ promotion travels fast online: in 2019 e-shopping giant Alibaba officially launched the “New Domestic Product Plan”, which was subsequently upgraded in 2020 to help sellers face pandemic-related difficulties. The goal? Help Chinese consumers include at least three Chinese brands in their online shopping carts.

Domestic brands were also the protagonists of 2020’s “Double-Products Online Festival”, held between the 28th and the 10th of May. During this period, consumers were encouraged to go on a shopping spree for high-quality Chinese products, to help stimulate the recovery of the Chinese local retail economy.

Image Source: Sohu (天下网商)

DOS and DON’TS for Foreign Brands

Foreign brands must try new strategies to revamp their presence and make their customers feel more understood. But what are the right strategies to adopt and what are the ones to avoid, when trying to represent China?


Some of the successful strategies used by foreign brands to adapt their products and message in China include:

  • 1) Collaborating with Local Cultural Entities
  • 2) Partnering up with Local Designers

L’Oréal and National Museum of China

In Spring 2018, beauty brand L’Oréal partnered with the National Museum of China to launch a limited collection of five lipsticks, inspired by the figures of five classical beauties of the Chinese ancient world. The concept for the campaign resembled visual themes of the Hanfu trend, an online born cultural movement that celebrates the splendour of classical China. The collaboration with a prestigious museum allowed the brand to be meticulous in its campaign design, avoiding dangerous historical misrepresentations.

Image Source: China Daily

Angel Chen X Adidas Capsule Collection

In 2020, Adidas chose to partner with an upcoming Chinese brand designer Angel Chen. The 2020 Angel Chen X Adidas capsule collection incorporated references to Chinese martial art disciplines, as well futuristic shapes and strong chromatic combinations. The collection featured bumblebee yellow as one of the main colors, taking inspiration from martial arts trainees’ robes. For Adidas, partnering up with a young Chinese designer who was praised on international runways, and who starred in a popular Netflix show, meant being able to catch both Chinese and non-Chinese consumers’ attention without exclusions. The first collaboration between the designer and Adidas proved to be so successful both in China and abroad, that a second capsule collection recently launched in February 2021.

Image Source: Adidas X Angel Chen (via Design Scene)


Putting a spin on local trends and traditions is more difficult than foreign brands might suspect. Some of the strategies that proved to be not to so successful include:

  • 1) Using non-Mainstream Local Trends
  • 2) Being Tone-Deaf to Traditions

Balenciaga and the “Tu Ku” Visual Reference

In August 2020, Balenciaga released four limited-editions bags for Chinese Valentine’s Day. The campaign visually reminded Chinese consumers of the “Tu Ku” style (土酷, literally “earth” and “cool”), a trend loosely based on rural population’s fashion. While the “Tu Ku” style is popular with a small part of Gen-Zers consumers, the majority still considers it “tacky”: hence the criticism of the flowery backdrops featured in the campaign’s images, but also of the bags’ front characters design.

Image Source: Marketing

Burberry’s 2019 Spring Festival Campaign

In 2019, the British brand Burberry came under fire for proposing a non-traditional Spring Festival campaign. The campaign, which featured a Chinese family in front of a urban background, was judged to be “out of touch” and not representative of the joyful spirit of the Spring Festival.

Image Source: Jing Daily


Chinese brands have been rising in popularity with their domestic audience for the last years, acquiring a following in the younger segment of the population. The popularity of Chinese local brands is also proven by users’ engagement with online shopping festivals celebrating Chinese products.

While local brands have the advantage of mastering Chinese cultural and country branding, foreign brands have been often accused of not understanding Chinese tastes. However, several high-profile campaigns have shown that consumers reward foreign-local collaborations.

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Importance of Customer Centric Strategy in Retail Design

5 Star Plus Series: Customer Centric Strategy

February 25, 2021

The needs of consumers continually shift in China’s retail market. It’s important for brands to pay attention and adjust their strategies to maintain their hold of the market. Brands need to think about how they can meet the needs and expectations of their consumers in a way that is adaptable in order to provide the brand stability in an ever-changing retail environment.

Image Source: Al Jazeera

Moving one year since the start of the outbreak in China, it is quite apparent to see the impact the pandemic had for consumers. Studies indicate that consumers have shifted their priorities which is reflected through the amount of overall consumption and the consumer’s shopping journey.

Why it’s important:

  • •A study by McKinsey showed that 14% of Chinese consumers will not shop at the same stores and 6% will not shop with the same brands that they used to prior to the outbreak.
  • •Offline sales in China fell by 50% at the peak of the outbreak and only recovered 37% in 2020 (Mckinsey, 2021).
  • •Customers have higher expectations and are more demanding after an economic downturn. Chinese consumers expect a customer centric shopping experience.
  • •Chinese consumers make up 35% of the luxury retail sector consumed globally(FW, 2020).

What this Means for Brands:

Chinese consumers have become a lot more self-aware after the initial impacts of a socially distant society were experienced in 2020. Their typical consumer journey was heavily impacted as a result. Suddenly consumers had to rely mainly on the digital end of retail to fulfill their daily needs. The key values of a brand that shifted in the beginning parts of the pandemic are as such:

  • Experimenting: Some consumers started shopping online from different brands that they had not tried before. Due to the inability to go out and shop, consumers sought after available brands they could order from online. This expanded the reach of some brands, while other brands suffered for lack of digital presence. Overall, consumers continue to act less brand loyal than before.
  • Quality: Consumers still demand high-quality items. Being able to try and return items worked for some. Seeing live-streams of real products allowed more consumers to see the quality. Ability to experiment using AI technology allowed consumers to virtually test the look and quality of items.
  • Lifestyle: The outbreak caused many consumers to be more conscious of their health, which led to more purchases in certain sectors of the retail market.
  • Purchases: Prior to the pandemic, many GenZ and young Millennial consumers did not pay much attention to their monthly spending habits. In fact, Chinese GenZ and Millennial consumers have the highest monthly disposable income in the world when compared to other consumers in the same age category. Most Chinese consumers in this age category live paycheck to paycheck. After experiencing the economic hardship caused by the outbreak, many consumers shifted their priorities to focus on spending less and saving more for the future.
  • Time: Due to a high reliability on delivery services as a way to receive goods, the amount of time needed for delivery increased in the level of importance for purchase decisions. A consumer is more likely to order something for a brand that can deliver on the same day than a brand that needs more than 48 hours to deliver their order.

Understanding the Consumer Journey

The first step in providing a more customer centric approach requires the brand to understand the consumer journey in-depth. Understanding which journey its consumers are more likely to take in order to purchase from the brand, enables the brand to enhance the journey at the most important parts for their consumers.

Image Source: Mediapost

Tracking and analyzing up-to-date data of consumers is how a brand can begin to know more about its consumers. Real time data from social media, online sales channels, and offline sales channels, helps to gauge the overall level of customer engagement with the brand.

Brands that actively pay attention to customer engagement are able to adapt more readily when there are shifts in the market. They are also able to do it quickly, which creates a stronger customer engagement with their consumers compared to brands who don’t adapt as fast.

What this Means for Offline Retail

In an ever-growing digital world, it may seem as though offline retail is no longer an important part of the consumer journey. This is actually not the case when looking at China’s market. The total volume of offline sales have still not returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, it’s expected that these numbers will continue to recover in 2021 as the number of cases in China continues to remain relatively low.

Image Source: Marketwatch

Consumers still desire an experience that uniquely defines their consumer journey from others. Interaction with the brand, sensory engagement, and storytelling are just a few ways that consumer engagement can be increased. These ways are executed within the retail design of the store, pop-up space, and online channels. The main goal in mind is to provide their consumers with an engaging experience regardless of their overall consumer journey.

A Recent study by KPMG indicated high performing retail brands effectively utilizing a customer centric approach in their retail strategy (KPMG, 2021).

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

These brands utilize different methods to drive the engagement of their consumers throughout the consumer’s journey both online and offline.

Customer Centric Retail Design

Image Source: Retail Design Blog

A successful retail store design in China includes a thoughtful layout of the customer flow, storytelling elements that create engagement with the brand and its products, interactive points that connect to other online channels of the brand. In the next article, we want to highlight some global brands that are ahead of the game when it comes to providing an excellently designed consumer centric retail environment.

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Chinese New Year 2021: Creative Window Displays for the New Year

February 18, 2021

Spring Festival is a time to rejoice with one’s family and look forward with hope to the exciting opportunities of the New Year.

Celebrations for the Year of the Ox are also one of the most expected retail opportunities of this season, and big brands have carefully crafted their visual campaigns. In Beijing, like in the rest of the country, the windows of high-end and popular stores have dressed in a triumph of red and rich golden motives.

At 5 Star Plus, we know that creative windows design is crucial for retailers to communicate the perfect festive mood during Chinese New Year. Our design team has scouted popular shopping locations to bring you a gallery of exciting and creative window design examples.

Paper-inspired Designs

With historians dating the invention of paper around the second century BC in China, paper decorations hold a special place in traditional aesthetic. Paper decorations for the Spring Festival include symmetrical pattern paper flowers and red paper lanterns.


"Gap window display at SOLANA Blue Harbour Shopping Mall in Beijing"

The decal stickers remind of symmetrical paper cutting decorations to glue on house windows for good luck.


"BOSS window display at China World Shopping Mall"

Lanterns originated in the Western Han Dynasty, more than 1,800 years ago. During the Spring festival people hang up red lanterns, which symbolize reunion, to create a festive atmosphere.

Fan-inspired Designs

Fans have a long tradition in China, dating back to the Shang Dynasty. Fans symbolize "kindness" and "good deeds", because the words "fan"扇 and "good" 善are both pronounced “shan”.

Chow Tai Fook

"Chow Tai Fook window display at SOLANA Blue Harbour Shopping Mall in Beijing"

Chow Tai Fook windows display is playful, with small size props in folded material that remind of Chinese folded fans.

Elegant Prosper

"Elegant Prosper at SOLANA Blue Harbour Shopping Mall in Beijing"

Folding white fans create the elegant structures making the background for EP festive red gowns.

Characters-inspired Designs

The designs inspired by lucky wishes for the New Year combine the beauty of Chinese calligraphy with the festive meaning associated with the words. Auspicious characters are usually written in black or golden ink on a red background, and often hanged to inside the house or at main doors.


"Lacoste Window Display at SOLANA Blue Harbour Shopping Mall in Beijing"

Lacoste celebrates the Year of the Ox with a blow-up of the character 福 (fú) signifying good fortune, blessings, and happiness.


"Swarovski Window Display at Taikooil Li Sanlitun in Beijing"

Swarovski chooses to incorporate the character 吉 (jí) to their Spring Festival campaign featuring Chinese actor Wang Yibo.

Spring-inspired Designs

Spring Festival also celebrates the natural recurrence of seasons, welcoming the vitality of Spring and leaving Winter behind. For this reason, flowers and fruits are often present in New Year designs: peonies, peach blossoms, and tangerines signify good fortune and represent future growth.

Ai Mer

"Ai Mer window display at SOLANA Blue Harbour Shopping Mall in Beijing"

The white and pink flowers give a festive and vivacious look to Ai Mer window design.

Atelier Cologne

"Atelier Cologne window display at Taikooil Li Sanlitun in Beijing"

The mandarins and tangerine plants decorating the space at Atelier Cologne are symbols of fertility and future prosperity.

Prosperity inspired Designs

Symbols for money and prosperity are a not so subtle but very auspicious decoration. Red envelopes are usually gifted during times of celebration, but during Spring Festival they are particularly dear to children (because they are said to keep them safe from the terrible Nian monster).


"Cartier window display at China World Shopping Mall"

Cartier window display includes narrative elements of the brand’s representative panther playfully trying to catch one of the Red Envelops of the display.


"Canali window display at China World Shopping Mall"

Canali chooses to decorate their store windows copper coins, a traditional Chinese element that symbolizes wealth and prosperity.

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Chinese New Year 2021: 3 Major Trends in Consumer Spending Behavior

February 9, 2021

The Chinese celebrations for the New Lunar Year attract unmatched attention from the rest of the world, and with the revenue of retail sales reaching 1005 billion yuan in 2019 it is not difficult to see why. Changes in Chinese spending habits during the Spring Festival can help foresee or confirm the next big consumer trends, as well as test the feelings of Chinese consumers towards specific products.

While limited parts of the country still endure virus-containing measures, experts have signaled that Chinese consumers still manifest a high spending desire for these holidays.

Three continuous trends that have attracted the interest of Chinese consumers during the last years:

  • •Food and Beverage
  • •Gifts and Decorations
  • •Foreign Luxury Fashion

Food and Beverage Products

Health and origin awareness have established themselves as major selling points for domestic and imported food products in the last years, with the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating this trend. In fact, many recent publications state that Chinese consumers are willing to pay more for “Farm-to-Table” healthy ingredients for their family reunion dinners.

Cherries: Thanks to various factors, this years’ cherries have dropped to half of their usual prices and provoked a shopping spree in Chinese consumers. Cherries, which are a common Spring Festival gift and signify prosperity, were declared in mid-January as the No.1 bestselling festive product on Tmall. However, the trend abruptly stopped, and fruit sales in general plummeted after imported cherries were found to have traces of the Covid-19 virus.

Image Source: Produce Report

Dongbei meat products: Always according to the JD List “100 Flavours of the New Year”, traditional meat products of the North East (Dongbei) seem to experience the favor of Chinese foodies. Consumers’ choices include the Harbin Red sausage and grassland mutton meat.

Image Source: Kejie Kuaibao Wang

Gifts and Decorations

To exchange gifts during Spring Festival is one of the core practices that make the occasion special. While both traditional and digital Red Envelopes remain the preferred gift to exchange between family members, consumer trends for gifts vary consistently according to the degree of acquaintance between people outside the family circles. However, traditionally festive items like the ones selected in the examples below could appear as timeless and always desirable.

Fresh Flowers: Due to a drop in prices, this year’s fresh flower markets have started their activities earlier in many Chinese cities. Flowers and plants to gift or to decorate one’s home have been reported to generate 800 million dollars last year only in Guangzhou, but with this year’s Covid-19 preoccupations the situation remains uncertain for the numerous flower markets opening all around China.

Image Source: China Daily

Forbidden City Press Almanac: According to JD, already in December almanacs and calendars launched by museums were enjoying a 450% increase in sales compared to the previous year. The Forbidden City almanac, printed by the Palace Museum in Beijing as a collectors’ edition, combines traditional Chinese prints of the Ox with the popularity of the product.

Image Source: JD

Foreign Luxury Fashion

Foreign luxury brands might still struggle to be recognized as genuine in their representation of the Spring Festival celebrations. In recent years, many brands have made efforts to localize their brand image through exclusive capsule collections and visual identity designs.

Gucci: The DORAEMON X Gucci collection taps into the nostalgia-driven cartoon imaginary of their Millennials and Gen-Zers consumers. The collection features the Manga character in either its usual blue or in a light brown ox costume to maintain this year’s theme.

Image Source: L’Officiel

Estée Lauder: The packaging and style of the new Estée Lauder capsule collection for Chinese New Year include golden peonies on a red background, as well as small customary gifts like keychains and an ox-shaped mini purse. The collection includes limited edition items, as well as some all-time favorites repackaged for the occasion.

Image Source: Global Cosmetic News

Changing Times

In the last decade, people have reported the feeling of Spring Festival traditions being diluted by the intense rhythms of modern life. So much so that the impossibility to go back home for the New Year celebrations and the longing to see one’s family has become a popular theme in seasonal advertising.

Apart from the hardships endured in 2020, this feeling might just increase during the celebrations for the arrival of the Year of the Ox. With many Chinese people deciding not to return to their native cities and villages due to the Covid-19 persistence in 2021, the question of how Chinese consumers are going to spend this year's Spring Festival is all but obvious.

Partial References

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Importance for Luxury Brands in China to Adapt their Strategy Quickly

January 28, 2021

Covid-19 created an economic downturn that ultimately exposed the weaknesses of some retail brands in China. It also brought opportunity for brands to explore new avenues of retail storytelling and create a stronger digital presence. It’s important for luxury brands to understand the changing ecosystem in China and how they can adapt their strategy to stay stable in China’s market in the long run.

Image Source: Aljazeera

Throughout 2020, many brands in the luxury sector experienced significant growth in China. In fact, the luxury sector had a consistent level of growth compared to other global markets. This is something that is expected to continue over the next decade. Spending power of GenZ consumers accounted for more than 40% of the luxury sector (Chozan, Statista). This spending power is due to half of all consumers in this age category holding a university degree and strong confidence for the future, enabling them to spend a large portion of their monthly income. Though, Covid may have shaken their confidence, they still hold a strong presence in the luxury sector.

Image Source: Chozan

Understanding how to connect with these consumers can be a challenge for some brands. When looking at China’s market, it should be understood that Chinese consumers are different from Western consumers. Their understanding of a brand and its products goes deeper. They look at the whole picture to understand a brand and highly value the story behind a brand and its products. If the consumer does not feel a connection to the brand they will not buy its products.

Image Source: East West Bank

One of the biggest shifts in China over the past year is mainly due to a stronger focus in domestic spending. With strict requirements for exit and entry, international travel is not an option for most consumers. Due to this, local tourism and travel saw a boost throughout the second half of 2020 as the number of cases continued to stay at a very low number. Destinations like Sanya, in Hainan province saw a huge uptake in domestic travel. Special administrative duty-free shopping zones enabled consumers to buy luxury goods at tax exempt prices. This led to an overall increase of more than 90% in luxury consumption in Sanya since October 2020 (Bain & Company).

"International Duty Free Shopping Complex in Sanya, Hainan Providence, China"
Image Source: China Daily

While the world continues to wait for things to go back to ‘normal’ or pre-covid shopping habits, it’s important for brands to make the changes needed to be successful in China’s market. As it’s been written many times before, brands need an omni-channel strategy, and more importantly at the present, a strong overall digital strategy. There are four key points that are important to building an effective digital strategy for Chinese consumers.

  • • Brand Storytelling
  • • Consumer Engagement
  • • Relevant Content
  • • KOL Strategy

The most important factor that will help bring brands success in their digital strategy is adaptability. Trends can come and go quite quickly, therefore, it is extremely important to find a strategy that can be adapted easily and fast. Having a strategy that enables the brand to have real time brand and ROI management is important for being able to adapt. As for the other basics, a well researched plan and a clear understanding of target consumers and their characteristics is an important factor in building this plan.

In order to integrate online channels into a strong overall digital strategy, it is also important to connect these strategic points to the physical retail store. Consumers want experience, they want to feel unique and stand out in a mass market, and they want it to feel personal to them. There are four key ways to achieve this in retail design.

  • • Digital integration points that connect to online channels
  • • Pop-up stores
  • • Customizable products in stores
  • • Storytelling elements

Omnichannel shopping is shifting retail strategy in China. A study by McKinsey in 2019 showed that 85% of consumers utilized both online and offline channels to purchase from a brand. Making further adjustments to adapt the overall strategy quickly is an important factor for creating long-term stability and success in China’s market.

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Color of the Year 2021

January 25, 2021

Last month, Pantone announced their pick for 2021’s color of the year. Ultimate Gray paired with Illummante, a soft and inviting yellow. The two colors paired together symbolize strength, optimism and overall positivity after a year that was filled with challenges beyond expectation.

”Illuminating & Ultimate Gray” – Pantone

Image Source: Pantone

Ultimate Gray symbolizes the connection to strong materials found in nature. Rocks, pebbles and other stones help us to build structures with a solid foundation, which provides a place for mankind to seek shelter, find protection, and build a community. On the other hand, Illuminating yellow complements Ultimate Gray bringing in an added warmth to the space. This warmth helps to create a cheerful atmosphere meant to inspire creativity, bring joy and an overall feeling of hope. The main theme behind these “ultimate” and “illuminating” colors are to bring people together and feel renewed as we embark through the unpredicted events that will unfold later in the year.

Image Source: Architonic

Image Source: Arch Daily

Complementary to Pantone’s color of the year, PPG recently identified their colors of the year full of neutral tones. The three colors they chose, “Transcend”, “Big Cypress”, and “Misty Aqua” are meant to draw a bigger focus on the mind, body, and spirit of consumers by putting a stronger focus on embracing mindfulness, and intention. The neutral tones of their 2021 palette are meant to create a comfortable environment and reinforce the ideas of sharing compassion and optimism. Benjamin Moore chose “Aegean Teal” as their color of the year. Again, they too also hope to create a nourishing environment for the spirit with this comforting balanced mid-tone.

”2021 Color Palette” – PPG

Image Source: PPG

”Aegean Teal” – Benjamin Moore

Image Source: Benjiamin Moore

As we enter into 2021, shoppers can expect to see these colors appear in stores across the world, from products that line the shelves, to window display design, to retail store design itself. After a year filled with unexpected scenarios, creating comfort in an uncertain environment is just one thing these colors promise to bring consumers.

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Pop-Up Stores’ Adaptable Exclusivity
5 Star Plus Series: Adaptable Retail Design

January 21, 2021

Adaptable retail design is an effective tool to call for consumers' attention in an information-saturated retail environment. In this series we have examined traditional retail strategies that include adaptable design examples and how customizable elements in retail design have contributed to modernize retail spaces.

The four main elements that can be easily customized in-line with seasonal promotion are:

  • 1) Façade Design
  • 2) Interactive Experiential Points
  • 3) Product Displays
  • 4) Pop-up Stores

The need to entice and bewilder customer with new experiences has brought retailers to seek new solutions and courageous design integrations. After focusing our attention to the products and the best adaptable product display designs, in this fourth part of the series we are going to explore the popular phenomenon that has characterized the last years of design: Pop-Up Store.

Pop-Up Stores

Pop-Up Stores are the adaptable retail design elements par excellence. It uses the surprise effect of ‘popping-up’ almost announced, to attract customers, and are easy to set up and dismantle thanks to its short-term nature.

In the last decade, Pop-Up stores have taken the brick-and-mortar environment by storm, galvanizing customers, and answering to the specific need for novelty and excitement. These special spaces are usually set up in busy locations, where the foot traffic can maximize the brand’s exposure. For example, Pop-Up Stores in China tend to appear in malls: this allows brands to strictly follow local regulations, but also to address the right demographics and benefit from the lively commercial environment.

By being expositions limited in time, these stores provide customers with a feeling of exclusivity: a Pop-Up Store is usually present for only a few weeks, and it appeals to customers’ “Fear of Missing Out”.

Goals of Pop-up Stores

Pop-Up Stores have revolutionized retail spaces. Their main goals fit perfectly with brands’ needs in the crowded retail space.

  • Increase brand awareness: leave a positive lasting impression on customers, amaze them into try something new.
  • Focus on experience: create a connection with the brand, promoting new products through tailor-made experiences designed for the occasion.
  • Provide ‘massclusivity’: maximize attention and foot traffic, while still providing a feeling of exclusivity to customers.

2019 Spring/Summer Collection, Tory Burch

For the launch of their 2019 Spring/Summer collection, Tory Burch displayed an experiential pop-up store in Shanghai Kerry Centre Shopping Mall. The pop-up store was placed in a large atrium not far from the brand’s main boutique. Customers were invited to travel virtually through the holiday fantasies inspired by the collection’s moods and prints, allowing the brand to reinforce their image and promote the launch. During the visit, customers also had the possibility to play touch screen memory card games designed to show the prints and colors of the season’s collection, and winners were then redirected to the brand’s boutique to collect their prizes.

Image Source: Windowswear Awards

Image Source: Valiram

2020 Absolue Gold Power, Lancôme

Between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, Lancôme chose Sanya International Duty-Free Shopping Complex in Hainan to set their new Pop-Up Store experience. The space was a celebration of the brand’s new Absolue soft cream, with the design taking inspiration from the French rose scent of the cream. The widespread installation interested the outdoor area, decorated with hundreds of pink roses surrounding a golden Lancôme jar. The indoor installation included golden finishing and 3D screens, as well as a vast selection of skincare products, skincare professional consultants, and exclusive offers only for Sanya International’s guests.

Image Source: DFNI Frontier

Image Source: Inside Retail Asia

Launch of 2020 Pre-Autumn Collection, Bottega Veneta

The Invisible Store proposed by Bottega Veneta was undoubtedly one of the most discussed Pop-Up Store example of the last years. The installation was presented at Plaza 66 in Shanghai, and it used 3 meters high mirror panels to enclose an area of 100 square meters. The visual illusion created by the panels wowed customers and prompted them to share their experience on social media. The store successfully attracted customers into discovering more of the pre-Autumn Bottega collection, which featured leather entry level products for new customers, and ready-made apparel for both men and women.

Image Source: Wallpaper*

Image Source: WWD

Benefits for Brands
Pop-Up Stores provide a window for customers to peek through and get a taste of the brand’s new collections, but they also have strictly practical benefits for brands:

  • Testing the market: collect data on customers’ reactions and preferences.
  • Redirect customer: lead customers to the nearby store to complete their retail journey with a purchase.
  • Increase sales: use the exposure to enhance the likelihood of successful sales.


In the Adaptable Retail Design Series, we have covered the best practices for featuring versatile elements into brick-and-mortar store design. The adaptable elements in design can help amplify the novelty effect of new products or product lines releases. This can drive more traffic to the main retail locations and increase sales.

The challenge for the future of Adaptable Retail Design is to measure its current sustainability and rise to the challenge of a world where recycle takes the place of disposal.

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Singles’ Day vs Black Friday

December 25, 2020

Singles’ Day and Black Friday are without a doubt the biggest online shopping campaigns in November. Singles’ Day targets Chinese consumers while Black Friday, originally from the US, now reaches consumers across the globe.

Both campaigns rely on online marketing in order to further engage their existing and potential customers. Regarding digital marketing platforms, brands have to know their target audience, what platforms they use and what content resonates with them the most. Brands also have to be aware of the limitations huge online campaigns can have. Even though Singles’ Day promotions sound like the perfect occasion for foreign brands to promote their products in China, there are a lot of requirements that are important to consider, from having a sufficient amount of the product, to ensuring perfect logistic and local customer services.

Singles’ Day, the Celebration of Being Single

Singles’ Day takes place on 11.11 or double 11 to represent solo living or being single. In 2009, Alibaba’s Tmall promoted Singles’ Day for the first time by creating a connection between Singles Day and online shopping. Consumer spending grew 0.83 billion USD to 74.1 billion USD on Singles’ Day between 2011 and 2020 making Singles’ Day the biggest online shopping campaign in the world.

In China brands need to begin preparation for major ecommerce holidays like Singles’ Day, approximately 2 months prior the campaign. 2 weeks before the big day brands start to create buzz.

In the recent years, live-streaming featuring KOLs were very popular on Taobao Live. This year more than 15 million USD in sales were generated by only 30 live-stream channels. The two biggest KOL names are Viya, a queen of Chinese live-streaming, who reached a record breaking 37m views and Austin Li, who sold 15,000 lipsticks only within 5 minutes last year. Global stars also participated in this year’s promotions. Taylor Swift collaborated with Viya to launch her exclusive collection on Tmall while Miranda Kerr promoted her own skincare products with Chinese KOL Cherrie. Another huge sensation was Cartier’s first live-streaming where they showcased a necklace worth 28.3m USD, and reached over 800k viewers.

" Kim Kardashian collaboration with Viya in 2019 "
Image Source: China Film Insider

" Tmall Global Walk of Fame "
Image Source: Alizila

Not only Chinese and worldwide famous stars could generate views this year. Some of the most unexpected live streamers were: farmers, blacksmiths and chefs who promoted their products and companies.

" Unlikely live streaming stars. The lady on the left made huge pancakes for hours to showcase her company’s corn flour. "
Image Source: Hylink presentation

Black Friday, the Start of the Holiday Season

Black Friday is one of the most profitable days of the year for retailers and businesses. However, the pandemic had an effect on shopping habits of US consumers. During this year’s Black Friday people stayed at home, avoiding large crowds and used the more convenient online purchasing options. According to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent 9 billion USD online which was an 21.6% increase compared to last year. Curbside pickup increased by 52% as well.

" Customers queue outside Bath&Body Works during Black Friday "
Image Source: CNBC

Retailers knew it way before November that revenues wouldn’t be the same if they stuck to their typical strategy for Black Friday. Instead of door-busting discounts, major players in the industry spread discounts throughout November and launched online sales events in October.

When it comes to digital marketing platforms, Western users love Instagram Stories. GAP resized its Facebook advertisement video to fit the Stories format. The result was an attention-grabbing video with dynamic movement and happy people showcasing GAP clothes.

Another trendy twist was the cross-platform nods, where brands took a specific format of a platform and posted it on a different one. Blenders eyewear smartly used a popular TikTok “Wipe It Down” challenge and then posted the video on Facebook.

Image Source: Blender’s Facebook page (left) and Lululemon’s Instagram (right)

Lululemon posted an unconventional yet very strong and emotional video on Instagram right before Black Friday. Instead of colorful ads and promotions they decided to let their brand ambassador to create a video reflecting to the difficulties of this year with soft background music and narrative.

Singles’ Friday

Ecommerce sales is all about highs and peaks both in China and in the West. The goal for every retailer is to make the most of the highs and prepare everything according to the marketing strategy in the peaks or as this very challenging year showed us, adapting to the situation quickly. Knowing the latest digital marketing trends, creating unique content, and featuring influential people in the advertisements are the main ingredients for a successful online shopping campaign everywhere.

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Visual Merchandising and New Adaptable Displays
5 Star Plus Series: Adaptable Retail Design

December 22, 2020

Highly adaptable elements in retail design can be a constant source of attraction for customers. They can amplify the novelty effect of new products or seasonal promotions, catching customers’ attention from afar with excellent façade adaptations, or increasing their level of engagement with the brand using interactive experiential points.

The four main elements that can be easily customized in-line with brands’ promotion are:

  • 1) Façade Design
  • 2) Interactive Experiential Points
  • 3) Product Displays
  • 4) Pop-up Stores

Part one of this series has introduced how excellent façade designs can help attract customers from the street into the store. Part two has focused on how brands have improved customers’ participation and in-store experiences through interactive points.

In this third part of the Adaptable Retail Design Series, we are going to re-focus our attention on the products and provide excellent examples of adaptable product displays.

Putting Adaptability in Product Display

Product displays come in various formats and with the ability to fulfill various needs in the retail space. The two types of product displays used to fulfil different needs are exterior and interior displays. Exterior displays provide customers with a clear signal that new products are available. Interior displays enhance the retail space providing consumers with a pleasant visual experience.

While the main composition techniques have maintained their best practices throughout the past century, innovations -such as artificial lighting, new materials, and new promotion channels- have shaped the development of product displays. Modern product displays are adaptable to the fast-pacing retail calendar and easier to customize following the brand’s identity and aesthetics.

Goals of Adaptable Product Display

The strength of visual display strategies is that they communicate with the customers in a “silent” but effective way:

  • Showcase the product at its best: make the products shine and highlight their details.
  • Change the conformation of the store: impress customers in a time/cost-effective way.
  • Highlight brand aesthetics: communicate the brand values and aesthetics through visual channels.

Window display – 2020 Autumn/Winter Collection, Yang Maoyuan with ST. JOHN

In November of this year, American luxury brand ST. JOHN unveiled their latest seasonal window display for the Shanghai boutique. The display, designed in collaboration with Chinese artist Yang Maoyuan, interprets in visual terms the concept of “Venus” and embodies the modern elegance of the brand’s last collection. The display uses black and gold colors that complement the new collection’s bold animalier print.

Image Source: LinkedIn 复星时尚 Fosun Fashion

Interior Modular Components – Hermes 2020 Autumn/Winter Collection

The Hermes 2020 Autumn/Winter collection display for their Shanghai location combines minimalist design with colorful backdrops. The tables and modular components are equipped with semi-visible wheels, allowing for a quick reshaping of the space at need. The display format communicates the artistic value of the product, as well as the high quality and the refined image associated with the brand’s identity.

Image Source: China Daily

Mannequins – Hiroshi Fujiwara for Moncler’s “Genius Collection”

Livestreams are a new promotional channel for brands in China, and product displays are becoming important to add tridimensionality to these events. As part of the ongoing “Genius Collection”, in June 2020 Moncler launched its new line designed by Hiroshi Fujiwara in a one-week marketing campaign. The launch included a livestreaming event for the Chinese public, welcoming attendees in various settings including a white futuristic room. The presence of Moncler’s ambassador Song Qian helped viewers connect with the brand, but the mannequins displaying the new Moncler fragment line helped customers envision the outfits, getting a clearer idea of how the products would fit.

"Understanding your target customers for successful online lead generation"
Image Source: Weibo 北京时装周官微

Point of Purchase Display – Bulgari “Serpenti” Prelaunch for China Duty Free Group and Luxottica

In 2019 Luxottica partnered with China Duty Free Group to host the prelaunch of Bulgari’s sunglasses line “Serpenti” in various locations. The collection featured a tailor-made point of purchase display perfectly sized to fit the limited retail space. The display’s area was emphasized by a small black rug, and the campaign’s signature colors made the POP display stand out from its surroundings. The crystal encrusted sunglasses were orderly arranged on three asymmetrical table displays, while a small mirror invited customers to try on the new line.

Image Source: Hunter

Whether presenting a new line, a prelaunch, or the opening of a new store, adaptable product displays have several benefits for brands: Key Benefits for Brands

  • Increase foot traffic: adaptable product displays can help drive more traffic to the store and draw customers in from the streets.
  • Boost excitement for new products: excellent examples of product displays can increase the appeal of the products and leave a long-lasting first impression on customers.
  • Increase sales: product displays can their capacity to envision themselves using the product and enhancing the likelihood of a successful purchase.


Visual merchandising practices have been part of retail strategy since the birth of modern brick-and-mortar stores. Product displays have curbed a role for themselves, putting products under a spotlight: the right product display calls for customers’ attention on specific products and lines, but also complements the interior design of a store beyond functionality.

In the last article of this series dedicated to Adaptable Retail Design, we are going to focus on one of the protagonists of the last ten years: Pop-Up stores.

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Celebrate the Holiday Season at Gubei Water Town – Designed by 5 Star Plus

December 21, 2020

5 Star Plus Retail Design helped create a wonderfully warm and welcoming environment for the holiday festivities at Gubei Water Town. Located to the Northeast of Beijing, Gubei Water Town is a historical village reconstructed to showcase a traditional Northern water town around 150 kilometres from the city center.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

This year’s decorations were inspired by a Christmas storybook. The idea was to create an environment that showcased a traditional European style Christmas. Different inspirations were taken from the classic story of the Nutcracker. Guests can walk into the storybook and experience the tale from the perspective of a character.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Other features around the Water Town feature festive lights and classic statues of reindeer and Santa Clause. We were happy to create such a magical environment for guests to enjoy for this year’s holiday celebration. The decorations will stay through the end of December.

Image Source: Gubei Water Town

Special thanks to the Gubei Water Town board for organizing a fun holiday celebration!

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

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The Versatility of Interactive Experiential Points
5 Star Plus Series: Adaptable Retail Design

November 30, 2020

Adaptable retail design is part of brands’ excellent strategies to maximize the effect of seasonal promotions. Brands benefit from using adaptable retail design to engage loyal customers and attract new ones with eye-catching new designs, new themed experiential points, and on-brand exciting temporary elements.

The key importance of adaptable retail design becomes crystal clear in the context of Chinese retail market, where brands are constantly competing to attract customers’ attention and provide long-lasting shopping experiences.

The four main elements that can be easily customized in-line with brands’ promotion are:

  • 1) Façade Design
  • 2) Interactive Experiential Points
  • 3) Product Displays
  • 4) Pop-up Stores

Part one of this series presented three examples of excellent customized façade executions for the Chinese market by globally famous luxury brands. Part two will dive into the topic of interactive experiential points, as temporary in-store spaces invite customers to engage with a new product line in a more personal and impactful way.

Benefits of Experiential Retail

Experience-based retail has been affirming its role more and more in today’s crowded global marketplace thanks to its customer centric approach. Experiential retail focuses on building a closer connection between customers and brands, as well as, providing strong inputs to develop an emotional connection to the product. Customers have been increasingly valuing the in-store and online experiences brands can provide, thanks to the high level of personalization and long-lasting impressions of new products and services.

Experiential retail can help brands optimize and enhance three fundamental steps:

  • Customers’ participation: experiences increase both duration and quality of customers’ visits, as well as customers’ participation levels.
  • Product knowledge: engaging customers in experiencing the product’s features firsthand helps educate customers on product qualities and brand-new features.
  • Brand awareness and brand loyalty: experience-based interactions can enhance the customers’ brand awareness, as well as increase trust and service satisfaction to build brand loyalty.

Interactive Experiential Points

Interactive experience points are spaces in the store offering customers experiences that are both functional and entertaining. These spaces can engage with customers’ senses and stimulate curiosity towards seasonal products or launches of new lines and designs, but also offer a deeper level of interaction and go beyond immediate needs and wishes.

Especially in China, experiential points have proven themselves to be a useful tool to remain relevant and to adapt brick-and-mortar stores to the latest trends and innovations. Creating interactive experiential points can provide an in-store space to host popular Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) events that will draw online fans and curious by-passers in the store, or digital immersive experiences that will impress tech-savvy Chinese customers.

WeChat integrations – Burberry 2020 “Social Retail Store” Opening

In July of this year, Burberry opened their new “social retail store” in Shenzhen with an exclusive partnership with Tencent. The store tech integrations are powered by a WeChat mini-program that allows customers to book fitting rooms, access exclusive items and additional on-brand experiences as “The Trench Experience”, as well as scan QR codes on items to gain more information on the product. This new store’s integrations render the store incredibly flexible and will grant the seamless adaptation of the space for any of the brand’s future collections and new designs.

Image Source: Frame

AR Smart Mirrors – Swarovski 2019 Chinese New Year

In 2019, Swarovski Store in Chengdu opened its doors to customers with new interactive experience points. The store displayed interactive screens, presented as Swarovski crystal framed mirrors and equipped with front cameras and control panels. Through these interactive mirrors, customers could “try on” any piece from the brand’s jewelry new collection appropriately themed for the Chinese New Year. In addition, the interactive mirrors allowed customers to take pictures with Swarovski stickers and share them with friends.

Image Source: Weibo @SWAROVSKI施华洛世奇

KOLs/Brand Ambassador Events – KAPPA 2018 Autumn/Winter Collection

In 2018 Kappa presented their new 222 Banda Autumn/Winter collection with a live event in their Xi’an store. The event saw the participation of the brand ambassador and popular actress Zhu Xudan, who interacted with customers with quizzes and other entertaining activities, rewarding the fans of the brand with gifts and prizes. The brand’s strategy for the new collection launch also included a live event in their Beijing location, which saw the participation of various popular KOLs and reached 39.7 Million views on Weibo, boosting the brand’s online presence and driving in-store traffic.

Image Source: Sohu

Exposition Displays – Huawei 2020 Smart House Floor

For the opening of their new Shanghai flagship store, Huawei has adapted an entire floor to showcase their latest innovations in Smart House technologies. On the second floor, customers can live the experience of various domestic settings, including a home gym where they can monitor their heart rate on the treadmill connected to a Huawei smartwatch. The exposition is fully immersive and provides a truly personalized experience, which will allow customers to picture themselves in the environment and guide their purchase decisions.

Image Source: Huawei

Key Benefits for Brands

Brands can benefit from creating interactive experiential points to promote new launches and seasonal products in three ways:

  • Create reusable stations: interactive experiential points can be temporary or permanent, and they can be used to draw attention to one or more seasonal promotions and new launches.
  • Connect with key market segments: brands can showcase their tech affinity and attract key target groups like Gen-Z and Millennials. KOLs and Brand ambassador events can also help connect with younger generations and drive both online and in-store sales.
  • Expand promotions reach: customers will share their experiences through their social media channels, creating a loudhailer effect and maximizing promotions’ reach.


Interactive experience points are highly adaptable ways to display different collections and seasonal promotions throughout the year. WeChat integrations, smart mirrors, KOLs events, and exposition displays can bring all the benefits of experiential retail customer-brand connection and increase brand loyalty.

In the next article of this series dedicated to adaptable retail design, we are going to focus on ways brands can magnify the impact of their products on customers using adaptable product displays.

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SSEF 2020 in Review: 5 Star Plus Retail Design Highlights

November 25, 2020

At this year’s 10th Sino Swiss Economic Forum 2020, the topic focus was called Together for a better future – smart & sustainable and highlighted the efforts of businesses in the Sino-Swiss community. 5 Star Plus Retail Design participated in the forum to add to the discussions and share about the company’s sustainability efforts.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The forum took on a different focus and format due to the unusual situation faced around the globe. This enabled the participating companies to partake in more in-depth conversations throughout the year on a multitude of topics. The final event took place on November 20th at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beijing with a Panel discussion and gala dinner.

Image Source: SwissCham.org

Our Client Manager & Marketing Coordinator, Samantha Chalmers, was invited to be a part of the SME panel and share insights on sustainable efforts in the retail design industry. She also touched on the sustainable efforts of 5 Star Plus Retail Design and the key sustainable considerations we take into account when it comes to design and execution of our projects. The panel discussion was led by China’s leading anchorwoman for international broadcasting for CGTN, Tian Wei.

Image Source: SwissCham.org

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

5 Star Plus Retail Design also acted as proud visual sponsor at the event. As visual sponsor, 5 Star Plus Retail Design developed the event's visual identity including the design of the key visual, backdrop, menu, tickets, and signage, among others. The creation of a festive atmosphere was important; further inspiration for the event design concept was the optimistic outlook for a better future. Overall, it was inspiring to hear from other companies and share our insights towards future sustainable goals in China’s market.

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CIIE, FHC and ProWine 2020 in Shanghai: Review by 5 Star Plus

November 19, 2020

November is a busy month for events in Shanghai. It marks the kick-off of the China Internal Import Export (CIIE) Exhibition. This was the 3rd year for the expo to take place and it was quite different from previous formats due to the safety pandemic prevention measures.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

CIIE featured an impressive turnout of both Chinese and international companies coming from a variety of sectors including consumer goods, technology, and food products. Apart from brands that have exhibited in years past, there were a number of new brands eager to showcase new products ready to enter the Chinese Market.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Following CIIE, is the annual China Hotel and Food (FHC) exhibition, which takes part in conjunction with the ProWine exhibition. These expos feature F&B products and other industrial goods related to F&B. While the show was slightly smaller from last year, there was positive growth in the presence of domestic brands.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Overall these three exhibitions served as a valuable opportunity to bring global companies and industry experts together in order to better share insights, exchange information, and showcase their latest products and services.

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Closing the Circle with Technology Integration
5 Star Plus Series: Excellent Retail Design in China

October 29, 2020

Retail stores are an important tool for marketing a retail brand to consumers. From the outside in, consumers need to be attracted to a retail store in order to effectively have an experience that will resonate and entice them to purchase more goods, and become more loyal to the brand as a whole. Incorporating technology into the design of retail store can enhance design elements, while also bringing customer experience to the next level as they explore the retail space. Technology integration also helps to close the circle in the omnichannel ecosystem.

Key Goals of Retail Design

Retail design starts with a concept that achieves key goals for the brand. While the specific goals vary for brands, there are four key design goals that should be keep in mind of retailers which include:

  • • Technology integration
  • • Brand Story
  • • Attractive retail window displays
  • • Retail experience

When combined into retail design, achievement enables retailers to successfully increase brand awareness and sales.

A Connected Retail Experience

Technology has become an integral part of daily life, and even more so in the retail landscape. It’s important for brands to utilize this daily dependence of their consumers as a way of building a deeper connection to their brand as a whole. Technology integration can be used in many ways from a stronger and dynamic display, interactive store elements, and eye-catching, movable design elements. Designers can play with technology integration as a way of attracting the eyes of consumers to key focal points that help to better market a brand and its story.

Other points of technology integration are a bit more obvious, and can tie more strongly towards having a strong new retail design. This type of technology integration enhances the consumer’s overall retail experience, and can also allow them to learn more about a brand’s story in a more unique way.

A great example of this is the American footwear brand, Nike. This brand has a strong presence worldwide, from retail stores to integrated omni-channel experience, customers follow a complete brand journey regardless of market. Today we highlight one of their recent most innovative retail design concepts that focuses on new retail strategy. Nike ‘House of Innovation’ is their latest concept that has three locations around the world in New York City, Shanghai, and their most recent opening in Paris.

Image Source: Frame

Nike ‘House of Innovation’ started in 2018 with the opening of their new flagship store in New York City with the launch of their House of Innovation 000 marking it as the first location in the world to follow their new retail model. The large flagship store features the latest products and customizable experience zones with a unique Nike ‘Speed Shop’ stocked with items that are in high demand for that particular location, which is based on their data sources.

Image Source: Nike

Seamless connectivity with Nike’s mobile app allows customers to scan mannequins, view products and available sizes, try them at a reserved dressing room, and even purchase online for delivery later. Instant check out stations located throughout the store enable customers to make faster purchases as well.

Image Source: Frame

Their second house of innovation opened last year in Shanghai. This three story flagship store features a pretty similar set up to their House of Innovation 000.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Adaptable displays allow them to adjust the design style depending on the promotion of goods. As of October 2020, Nike’s Shanghai store is focused on the promotion of their shoe line worn by famous basketball player Lebron James.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Many displays break down the physical make up of each material that goes into making the shoe perfect. Other displays create excitement by relating it back to Lebron. The central experience point incorporates technology into a hybrid experience by enabling customers to try on a pair of the shoes in their size and take the challenge on an LED enhanced basketball court. If the customer successfully completes the challenge, their stats are displayed periodically between promotional videos on a screen that can be seen from every level of the store.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Other technologically enhanced points include dynamic lighting elements added to the mannequin platforms, shelving, mirrors, and store map itself. Other interactive features can be accessed by use of the Nike app while shopping in the store.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The year 2020 has put a strain on many industries, including the retail industry. This did not stop Nike from opening their House of innovation 002 in Paris this past July. Though the method behind shopping in-stores has changed, Nike’s retail strategy was unknowingly capable of undertaking such a change. Technology interaction points that allow customers to control how much physical interaction they have with clerks, and merchandise enables the customers to control their shopping environment while also complying with new safety measurements required post-pandemic.

Image Source: Nike

Overall, Nike’s House of Innovation concept design is just one of many concepts they have rolled out in recent years to better meet the needs of their consumers in a new retail age.

Excellent Retail Design in Review

Throughout the series we have taken a look at four retailers with a presence in the global market to see how they successfully implement the 4 key goals of achieving an excellent retail design.

  • • Adidas: Attractive window displays are an important factor of grabbing the attention of consumers and getting them through the door to experience, learn about the brand, and purchase products.
  • • Hermes: Providing consumers with a tailored, memorable, and unique experience is an important part of creating a strong brand loyalty of consumers.
  • • Timberland: Expressing the story of the brand enables consumers to better understanding of the quality of the brand and its products.
  • • Nike: Integrating technology into retail design allows for the combination of all three elements and creates a shopping experience most desired by consumers.

Achievement of the key design goals creates success for brands in a highly competitive global market.

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Digital Content Marketing in China

October 28, 2020

The key for successful digital marketing is having quality content that is both informative and entertaining. In China, it plays a particularly huge part in influencing potential new customers as well as keeping the existing ones. Brands usually expect a high and fast return on their digital marketing investment and in order to reach that goal they have to create personalized content for each specific market, suitable for each different platform.

What is the Goal for Content Marketing?

There are 3 target points when developing a digital marketing strategy:

  • • Generating a buzz for the brand or product.
  • • Driving sales to online and offline channels.
  • • Promote specific products.

Image Source: Brotzeit official Wechat Channel

Content created by brands needs to be in line with their existing positioning of brand elements. This means that content connects to the brand story, builds from consumer experience with the brand, and ultimately increases brand recognition and visibility on the platform. A digital marketing strategy needs to connect to the overall retail strategy. The most successful international brands create their content around a positive, strong message, like the happiness of Coca Cola, the independent, unique mindset of Apple, or the hard work and dedication of Huawei.

Social Media Platforms in China

The platforms that can be used for digital marketing campaigns are completely different from the Western ones; instead of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Google, brands utilize WeChat, Weibo, and Douyin. They all have their own specifics and the content posted on them varies regarding the style and their target audience.

  • WeChat: This is one of the most useful apps in China. Users can chat, browse, pay, and read about their favorite brands and updates. Brands can publish their company details, articles with text, video, and pictures, share promotions throughout their official accounts, mini-programs and moments feed.
  • Douyin: Originally, the app was used among millennials to share fun, short videos but nowadays brands can make the most out of this platform as well by creating brand-specific challenges, using product placement and KOL promotion in their videos. This platform is similar to its Western counterpart, TikTok.
  • Weibo: Literally translates to microblog that allows users to share short updates with a 140 character limit. The platform offers similar functions as the combination of Twitter and Facebook and allows brands to host their official account, connect with other users while promoting the brand.

Image Source: Tim Hortons

Marketing Platforms in Use

One example of a successful WeChat campaign was Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Kissing Habits’ survey. It captured users’ star sign and gender and then it created a personalized lipstick recommendation from their latest collection. The second part of the campaign was ‘A Time To Kiss’ mini-films. These short films featured the love stories of couples with a theme of lipstick color. In order to encourage proactive participation in the campaign, they extended its reach by letting customers tag their friends for a chance to win a lip gloss.

"China: This Week In Digital Luxury Marketing"
Image Source: Jing Daily

The general direction for successful marketing campaigns on Douyin is to create an innovative, trendy video and to participate in challenges. Haidilao, a hotpot chain restaurant successfully combined elements of offline and online marketing. When Douyin users order their special DIY recipes, the delivery staff bring a special hot pot set to change up their hot pot experience. Users posted their hot pot videos on Douyin together with a number of KOLs to boost the campaign. The result was more than 2,000 videos and more than 50 million views in total.

"Douyin Marketing Guide: 7 Examples of Successful Douyin Marketing Campaigns"
Image Source: www.walkthechat.com

When Starbucks released its special limited edition “Cat paw” cups, they used Douyin, Weibo, and Xiaohongshu as a marketing tool for the pre-launch. The social media presence generated high discussion volume and excitement for the actual launch.

Wagas is a Western-style restaurant serving healthy food. It was founded in Shanghai and has restaurants in more than 10 cities all over China. Their social media presence is remarkable. They are consistent in building up their healthy lifestyle brand both on WeChat and Douyin. Aside from their more informative postings, they never forget about their younger followers and create videos with dancing challenges.

Image Source: Wagas

Challenges of Content Creation

Content creation is not always a smooth process and requires a lot of research and analysis. The ultimate goal of content creation is to reach the target audience. This means understanding the type of content they want to see and providing it to them in the right format. In addition to this, the content presented on platforms needs to fit within the ecosystem of the social platform seamlessly. Understanding trends in the fast-changing environment of these platforms becomes an important factor.

The core is to find the best style that resonates with the target audience:

  • Written content (articles and reports) is a great way to convey logical information and analysis to the reader.
  • Influential content featuring KOLs, trending discussions, and hashtags are great tools when it comes to connecting with Millennials and GenZ.
  • Video content either short or long, video is the most effective tool for visual messages and to get the attention of the viewer.
  • Gamification has also become increasingly important within the past 5 years. Chinese consumers love to participate in interactive promotions especially if it is incorporated into online games.

When it comes to content, the general expectations in China are quirky, engaging, fun, and interesting digital marketing campaigns. Social media users prefer to take part in games, challenges, and competitions.

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How Customized Façade Design Maximizes Seasonal Promotions
5 Star Plus Series: Adaptable Retail Design

October 26, 2020

The core strength of adaptable design is flexibility. Adaptability in retail design allows for a quick and agile implementation of strategic changes, reshaping the space with new designs in-line with the promotion and leaving long-lasting impressions of the brand and products. The elements of an adaptable retail design give the possibility to put hands back at any moment to the appearance and conformation of the space after its realization.

Goals of Adaptable Retail Design

The goal of adaptable retail design is to provide brands with the possibility to expand the reach of their seasonal promotions and effectively maximize their effects:

  • Attract customers: brands can effectively engage loyal customers by reshaping an already familiar space in new ways. It also allows for implementing high-impact designs that help attract new customers.
  • Provide experience: setting up temporary experiential points can expand the range of entertaining activities customers can engage in while visiting the store.
  • Promote new products and designs: eye-grabbing new elements complementing the main design help focus the attention on the new lines and seasonal items.

Elements of Adaptable Retail Design

In this four-part series we are going to explore the possibilities of the main elements in adaptable retail design. The four main elements that can be easily customized in-line with the brand’s promotion are:

  • 1. Façade Design
  • 2. Interactive Experiential Points
  • 3. Product Displays
  • 4. Pop-up Stores

These four adaptable design elements enable brands to achieve key goals. While these elements can be combined, it is important to see how some brands successfully implement them separately. Part one of this series will examine how to execute façade design adaptation for seasonal promotions and new product launches.

Customized Façade Design Execution

Changes in the façade designs are often one of the first indicators for prospective customers of the brand’s new products and seasonal lines. The façade of the store has to enhance brand recognition through its best representation of the brand’s new concept and complement the main design of the store while revamping its image altogether.

A simple but effective way to signal novelty in façade design is the use of temporary window decal stickers in line with the collection promoted. While windows stickers used to be applied by lower cost retailers in the past, a number of luxury brands have adopted this customization technique in creative and exciting ways in recent years.

Gucci – Qixi Festival

For this year’s Chinese Valentine’s Day, or Qixi Festival, Gucci unveiled a new limited-edition line inspired by the English saying “Apple of my Eye.” The new design of the two interlocking GG in red print introduced an apple motif used to revamp the monogrammed accessories and apparel, but also the façade design of key locations. The stickers of the GG apples and the winged hearts covered the façade of the store two floors, with larger-sized stickers for the top floor allowing the brand to expand the promotion’s visual reach and to catch the eye of pedestrians even at a distance.

Image Source: QQ

Image Source: Cunman

Dior - 2018 Autumn/Winter Collection

On occasion of their 2018 Autumn/Winter collection launch, the French brand opted for a hyper-visual and very stimulating façade design. Their collection, renamed “Youthquake”, took inspiration from the 1960s French youth cultural movements and used various slogans of the time as design elements. The collection’s new design visually translated in impactful stickers shouting the campaign slogans in large letters, as well as in a collage of black and white old-style photos and splashes of color. The vinyl decal stickers allowed the brand to present their new collection globally from avenue Montaigne in Paris to Beijing Shin Kong Place, easily adapting the concept to the façade conformation of different locations.

Image Source: BBC News

Image Source: Xuehua

Montblanc – 2020 Re-opening Campaign

For their Shanghai Grand Gateway re-opening and for stores across the country, Montblanc has adapted their global brand campaign “What Moves You Makes You” in a new monogrammed pattern in fluorescent blue. The location’s façade glass windows and glass doors are covered in decal stickers arranged in diagonal lines. The stickers thin format allows them to keep the storefront transparency, while creating a well-ordered rhythm that gives movement to the store façade. The new campaign design maintains the classic and high-end appearance of the Montblanc Maison, but also manages to successfully spin its looks and add exciting new elements.

Image Source: LinkedIn

Image Source: LinkedIn

Key Benefits for Brands

Brands can benefit from customizing their storefront façade to launch seasonal promotions in three ways:

  • Catch Chinese customers’ attention: the most important benefit of façade adaptation is the possibility to signal to customers that there is something new in store for them. This is particularly relevant for Chinese consumers, who expect certain special feasts and seasons to be celebrated with products specifically tailored for the occasion.
  • Implement omnichannel strategy: excellent façade designs drive in-store traffic and increase online engagement with the brand. In an omnichannel promotional strategy, eye-catching decal stickers will impress customers and bring them to engage with brands also online.
  • Cost-effective design adaptations: decorative elements like window stickers in vinyl are a practical and cost-effective solution to adapt the brand’s new collection concept and designs to its physical space. They allow modifying the entire façade of the store without the need for complex structural changes.


Adaptable retail design integrates the brand’s core visual identity with exciting new elements and theme-variations on the design. Façade design adaptation provides the possibility to customize relevant elements of the storefront, like the front entrance and glass windows, without impacting or changing the main architecture.

In the next article of this series dedicated to adaptable retail design we are going to present another way to impress tech-savvy Chinese customers and invite them to interact with a new product line: Interactive Experiential Points.

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2020 Relaunch - The Beginner’s Guide to Retail Store Design

September 29, 2020

You’ve got your products; you’ve got your brand; you’ve even had success selling online. So much success, in fact, that you are looking to open a bricks and mortar store. You’re looking for a place to showcase your products and entice new customers, somewhere that sells the idea and principles behind your brand. Opening a flagship store sounds easy in principle, but a lot of work goes in to making sure the retail store design is right for you. 5 Star Plus Retail Design are experts at design and have decided to share a few helpful hints for you to consider when opening a new retail store.

1. Budget

Rather than thinking ‘how much does this cost?’ think about ‘how much do I want to spend?’ If you approach a designer with an unlimited budget, they can carve out a little piece of heaven, but the same effect can be achieved with a smaller budget. Designers are adept at making cheap look chic and using low-cost alternatives achieve the same effect as high-end. They can come up with creative solutions, using ingenious design to make an impact. For example, using perspective to make the store appear larger and more open.

" Li Xiang’s Zhongshuge bookstore is stacked full of wonder "
Image Source: Frame

The use of tall mushrooms in the Zhongshuge flagship bookstore design makes the customer see the store as a big, wondrous place full of possibilities.

2. Store Layout

When designing a store, it is important to think about how your customers will move around. When they enter a store, most people turn right, so this space should be filled with exciting retail displays that draw people in. Through clever unit placement, the customer’s journey can be plotting so that they will spend more time instore browsing. Other things to consider include where to place the till, how to include storage on the shop floor, and providing additional facilities for guests such as seating.

It is important to consider your own store needs, as the layout must be functional. If products have to be stored on the shop floor, then storage space must be integrated into the design. If staff members have to carry goods or require equipment out front, then there has to be enough space to allow for its use and clear access paths.

"Shoe & Accessories Store Concept Design, Högl"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Our Högl store design China created a path for customers to walk around the store, with interesting displays in the center. The till was placed at the back of the store so that customers were required to walk past the products to make a purchase, whilst also being close to the employee space.

3. Materials

Design materials are often split into natural and man-made, each giving off a different feeling. For example, a natural material such as wood can feel more welcoming and wholesome than man-made plastic. The properties of different materials conjure different mental images, which can impact on how your brand is perceived. To appear traditional, the use of bamboo can tie a space together. If you want to appear industrialized, metal is a good choice.

Texture is also very important for adding depth and warmth to a store design. Shiny, reflective surfaces are used for bold, clean, futuristic atmospheres, whereas using fabrics can create a sense of warmth and comfort.

"Old Fiberboard Ceiling Tiles"
Image Source: Sad Waters

With expert handling, even cheap materials such as fiberboard can be made to seem sumptuous. These fiberboard ceiling tiles can be used to create a rich, traditional atmosphere.

4. Shapes and Colors

Think about what feeling you want your brand to represent. Are you a healthy, nurturing brand? Then use soft lines, bright lights and colors such as green and yellow that induce a feeling of happiness and growth. Shapes, colors and lighting all combine to create a subtle, often subconscious set of cues that impact on the overall mood of a store. Knowing what each color or shape represents will help you to align the store design with your brand. Also, consider the gender of your audience. Soft curves are traditionally considered feminine, whereas sharp edges and right angles are more masculine.

"Bloom Bloom Bloom Pop-up Shops by Emmanuelle Moureaux"
Image Source: retaildesignblog.net

Colors have been kept to a minimum in Issey Miyake’s retail store in order to bring out the contrasting bright colors of the products. The use of white surfaces with bright lighting and soft shadows draws the customer towards the products.

5. Lighting

Lighting is important to draw attention to the product displays, grabbing the customers’ attention and highlighting the products. Ensuring a well-lit, bright display helps to showcase products and results in more sales. Generally, the brighter the store, the more products will be sold. Integrating well-designed lighting into a retail design can be challenging, as it combines placing the lights in the right location, integrating the lights themselves with the store design, considering wiring in the store infrastructure, and ensuring the light quality is in-keeping with the store displays.

"Diamond Dazzle Stores by Reggiani, Beijing & Shanghai – China"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

Diamond Dazzle’s Store Design Beijing & Shanghai: both stores use bright lighting, integrated into the design itself. Spotlights on the ceiling and behind mannequins help to highlight products and eliminate shadows. The large light, shown above, incorporates lighting into a piece of art.

6. Windows and Instore Displays

A captivating window display helps a store to stand out in a crowded marketplace and brings in new customers. It’s a great place to get creative and show the brand concept, emphasising the personality of the brand. Instore displays are also a very good way to emphasise the brand concept whilst displaying the products. It is a useful way to highlight the benefits of products and can include information on the benefits of a product in a visually appealing way.

Image Source: A Silent Scream in a Noisy World

Barney’s window displays designed by Lady Gaga brought to life surreal scenes designed to entice and inspire.

7. Digital and Interactive Elements

Modern retail design should try to incorporate interactive elements in order to engage the customer. Having something to do within the store turns shopping into an experience and encourages them to spend more time getting to know the brand. Including digital elements in the design is a great way to promote omni-channelling and provide more information, specialist options and include an element of imagination. AR technology in particular is helping to revolutionise the shopping experience and can be applied in many ways.

"The Shifting Role of Retail"
Image Source: Voxx Exhibits

8. Trusting an Expert

Working with 5 Star Plus Retail Design makes this process a lot easier. Our team of designers understand how all the above elements work together to create an impressive, unique retail store design, realising your vision in an efficient and timely manner. Working within your budget, we know how much materials cost, how long construction will take, and can manage the creation of your store from start to finish. Opening a new retail store needn’t be stressful; making use of experts’ time and knowledge will save you a lot of stress and help to create a lasting impression.

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Offline Retail Reclaiming its Presence Thanks to Online-to-Offline Strategy

September 27, 2020

The epidemic has prompted brands worldwide to rely heavily on their online channels, bringing e-commerce at the forefront of retail spaces. However, as the situation in China keeps normalizing at a faster pace than the rest of the world, some brands have already started resuming their Online-to-Offline (O2O) strategy.

Online-to-Offline is not a novelty. Born in the second half of the 2010s, the term used to raise eyebrows for its confusing definition. Online-to-Offline used to signify e-commerce or online stores that could drive consumers to physical stores and motivate their offline purchases, and vise versa. With the introduction of Alibaba’s “New Retail” in 2016, O2O has taken the expanded meaning of a seamless and mutual integration between a brand’s online and offline channels. Nowadays, O2O has become an integral part of the omnichannel retail strategy and a necessary step to bridge offline and online environments, especially for those brands who were born online and now wish to create an all-round experience for their customers. The purpose of new O2O strategy is to offer a consistent level of interaction with the brand by way of experience and retail design.

In 2020 this process was partially disrupted, with offline retail enduring the consequences of social distancing norms and post lock-down regulations. Despite the difficulties, O2O strategy is appearing to be making a come-back in the Chinese retail ecosystem.

Planning for a Future O2O

One of the last examples of Online-to-Offline strategic implementation comes from Alibaba Group, which has confirmed its investment in Helijia (a Chinese booking-platform for beauty services) and has resumed the efforts to bring the start-up´s offer of on-demand manicures and beauty treatments in its TMall Beauty kiosks around China.

Image Source: Alizila

After a fall of 10% in retail sales during the first quart of the 2020 (National Bureau of Statistics of China), the Beauty Industry in China has experienced a faster recovery than other sectors. While international players like Sephora were still aggressively promoting their online retail spaces, domestic beauty brands like Harmay, The Colorist, and Perfect Diary were laying out their O2O strategy to create or expand their offline network. According to CBN Data, The Colorist has opened more than 100 offline stores in benchmark shopping malls and has plans to open 200 by the end of 2020, and Perfect Diary has planned to open 600 stores in Chinese lower-tier cities over the course of the next three years. O2O planning is also extending beyond the Beauty Industry: this is the case for C2C platform Ymatou, which has built a name on bringing foreign luxury goods to Chinese consumers through live commerce broadcasts and fast delivery. The company recently announced the planned expansion to open 1000 offline retail spaces across 100 cities in China.

Benefits of going Offline

What are the benefits of entering the physical retail space through O2O strategy? We have identified the main three:

  • 1. Improving Overall Consumer Experience
  • 2. Shrinking of Offline Operational Costs
  • 3. Leveraging on the “Net-Celebrity” Status

1. Improving Overall Consumer Experience

Integrating online and offline channels improves the overall experience consumers have with the brand. For example, the Beijing store of cosmetic company Harmay reflects its uninterrupted consumer experience even on the design level. The industrial design of the location gives the feeling of peeking behind the curtain and into the cosmetic brand’s warehouse: this enhances the sense of continuity between a visit to the store and the online platform, but makes the two experiences different enough to keep consumers entertained and feeling they are at two complementary steps of the same journey.

Image Source: Arch Daily

2. Shrinking of Offline Operational Costs

Brands investing into an offline retail space can benefit from the shrinking costs gaps between operating online and offline channels. According to an interview to Ymatou CEO Zeng Bibo, traditional stores used to have high operational costs but after the epidemic there has been a substantial decrease in rent costs. At the same time, logistics costs in first- and second-tier cities are currently rising, making online operations less convenient than before and opening up new possibilities for offline spaces.

3. Leveraging on the “Net-Celebrity” Status

Brands can leverage on their successful online presence to stimulate consumers brand recognition and endorsement. For example, Chinese aromatherapy and lifestyle brand To Summer is widely considered a “Net-Celebrity” brand and has opened its first pop-up store in Beijing on the 12th of September. Thanks to an extensive online campaign, To Summer high-end room fragrances and rough crystal diffusors have become a successful presence on social media in the past. Despite not having opened a Tmall store, the brand is already widely sold through the self-operated WeChat mini program. Plans to open a permanent retail location in Beijing’s popular Sanlitun district are already in the making for December of this year.

Image Source: Jiemian

While the global pandemic seemed to have had unfavourable outcomes on brick-and-mortar stores, Online-to-Offline strategy and its enhanced role in the New Retail is providing the answer to guide brands in reclaiming their physical presence. Treating online and offline channels as complementary instead of as competitors has proven to be a successful strategy in the past, and Chinese domestic brands have already resumed their efforts to provide a better integration between the two channels.

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5 Star Plus Retail Design Insights: Creating Experience Online

September 18, 2020

On September 10, our Shanghai Client Manager, Samantha Chalmers, gave a talk on creating more online experiences for B2B brands. The webinar was a collaboration with AdChina.io and was organized by them. Her presentation shed light on the changing needs of Chinese consumers as they recover from the effects of COVID-19. It then took a look at different digital marketing strategies and how they can be applied for B2B companies. Later, she touched on the overall outlook for these methods moving forward.

While looking at the Chinese market, it’s important to understand exactly how the needs of consumers has changed in the past 9 months, as well as, the transformation of the digital market in China. Being one of the most digitally competent markets in the world, it’s no surprise that China would experience further acceleration into a digital economy. Despite being more digitally focused, consumer experience is still highly valuable to consumers.

Marketing must provide experience to consumers. The three pillars of success for marketing are:

  • 1. Personalization
  • 2. Experience
  • 3. Storytelling

Samantha addressed three different digital marketing methods that help B2B brands achieve the three pillars of success.


The first digital marketing method focuses on personalization, specifically by use of VIP consultants. This method allows VIP consultants to create a WeChat group or personal chat to connect with potential clients. Most contacts that the VIP consultant connects with comes from within their personal network. They can then utilize the group to send daily messages, promotions, answer questions, and arrange personal appointments with Clients offline or online. This method can be enhanced with the assistance of WeChat for work.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design


Experience is an important part of creating engagement with a brand. Virtual experience allows consumers to do so in a unique way. In fact, 95% of Chinese consumers have interacted with VR technology in the past month alone.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

This format allows the consumer to enter a virtual showroom or exhibition stand and interact with the products by virtually picking them up, reading about product information, or even exploring the components inside the product itself. Live engagement features such as a chat room, or video conference can allow a brand to host a virtual event in a whole new way.


Live commerce was something that brands started to work with more during this time. This method allows a brand to live stream on multiple platforms to enhance their marketing by showing consumers a different side to their brand. This method can take shape in many forms, and the actual use and strategy is dependent on the goals of the brand.

Image Source: Digital Commerce 360

Live commerce formats can be set up in various different formats. These live-stream sessions can be hosted by a KOL, showcase an event, feature a Q&A or panel discussion, or even take place in the form of a webinar and tradeshow event. Regardless of the format, this method enables the brand to express their brand story and values, showcase in-depth information about a product, and creates direct interaction and engagement allowing consumers to directly connect with the brand and other sales methods.

Benefit for B2B Brands

A major challenge for many B2B brands is understanding exactly how digital marketing can be valuable to them. Many B2B brands question if their efforts will actually show a return on investment. Some may think that they won’t be able to reach their target consumers as effectively through digital channels of marketing. While offline marketing is still highly important for B2B brands, studies indicate that digital marketing does in fact create a positive ROI for their efforts.

Digital marketing for B2B brands will continue to evolve over time. While the true benefits are not fully known, there is no doubt that improving digital marketing channels will help brands to enhance their overall omni-channel strategy resulting in increased sales.

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Enhancing Virtual Events

August 31, 2020

The year 2020 has thrust the entire world into a new realm that has no limit on which industry is impacted. During this time, companies across all industries have been able to cope with the implementation of webinars. Webinars have become a standard form to offset a huge lack of physical events. As the world continues to recover, it brings attention to whether or not webinars will be here to stay?

Image Source: Medium

It is very likely that webinars are a sustainable way to have events moving forward. One major challenge with this form of virtual event is that that consumers, clients, and investors are unable to interact with a brand and its products like before.

Benefits of Online and Hybrid Events

As a sales person, it may be seen as a hindrance to attend or host an event online. A big factor of this is the overall engagement and interaction that can take place between attendees. However, there are still many benefits to this new event format for brands, three key points being:

  • •Sustainable
  • •Cost effective
  • •Higher engagement

VR Event Showroom

A virtual reality showroom brings guests into a virtual space and allows them to virtually walk through as if they were actually there. They can interact with products, learn more about their features, and engage in other activities that enable them to learn more about the brand story.

Image Source: Xconomy

The design of the virtual space can be much like an exhibition stand, factory space, or retail space depending on the needs of the brand. After the guest has had time to interact with the virtual space, they will then be connected to an online live stream or video platform that allows the guest to partake in a webinar or one-to-one meeting format.

The design process is similar to that of a physical retail space, but instead of constructing it, it is built into a virtual program. Programing options can customize to best suit the needs of the brand. Interactive elements can also vary.

Sustainable Difference

Traditional events meant people far and wide would need to travel across time zones in order to attend and connect with each other. It also meant that brands would need to build up a physical space in order for guests to come and attend.

While the experience of doing so is quite pleasurable, it’s hard to ignore the fact that doing so creates much waste from a sustainably green point of view.

The use of VR in order to execute events helps to cut back on the non-sustainable impact of traditional events.

Cost Savings

The creation of a virtual space provides flexibility for brands to be able to adapt the design and features of the space as the needs of the brand change overtime. The cost of making adjustments to a virtual space are significantly lower than a complete recreation and buildup of a physical event space. In addition to this, brands have the ability to adapt the features of the space depending on their specific needs for each event or even for use between different markets.

For example, the key features of a product might be of different importance between consumers in China and Singapore. The adaptation of the virtual space would allow a brand to adjust the positioning prior to each event taking place for the different consumer segments in these markets.

Higher Engagement

Will VR space truly create an overall higher engagement level for participants? The truth behind this is quite subjective to the actual target attendees and their typical behaviors. However, it is easy to see the shift of behavior for Chinese consumers since the beginning of the pandemic. According to a study by McKinsey, 85% of consumers still prefer to have some sort of physical reaction with a brand.

Image Source: VentureBeat

Virtual reality provides a different type of interaction with a brand, but still creates engagement through the use of a VR system. The point is that the impact of the experience itself is far greater than just a webinar.

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SMALL-Format Stores with BIG Prospects

August 24, 2020

This year proved that that even when something unexpected happens in the world that has an effect on the market, brands need to quickly adapt to the new circumstances. The current state of social distancing has forced customers to also adapt by changing their shopping habits: avoid crowds, shop online and use home delivery services.

What is the learning outcome for brands? Firstly, better, more structured omni-channel presence and secondly, improved, more functional brick-and-mortal stores. When it comes to physical stores, brands; just like customers, are looking for a space that can accommodate social distancing and necessary sanitation procedures. Customers are more aware about their shopping experience and how safe they are in the store. A solution for these problems can be one of the upcoming trends from recent years: small-format stores.

What is the Small-Format Store?

Small-format stores are not recent inventions, but they definitely have the potential to come out as the winners of the pandemic situation. These stores first appeared after the great recession in 2008. They recently started to gain more popularity among both retailers and consumers. Big-box brands in the US, like Target and Walmart started opening smaller store formats with limited product selection to adapt to urban requirements and to optimize their portfolios in the world of multi-channel shopping. Having lots of small-footprint outlets in a variety of areas helps brands to reach specific customer groups (university students, families with children or office workers), while maximizing their profitability by only offering a streamlined selection of goods most needed by the core customer segment in each location. Small-format stores are usually 75% smaller than other standard stores of the brand.

"Small-Format Target Store"
Image Source: Target Brands

Benefit of Small-Format Stores

There are four key advantages of small-format stores:

  • 1. Less expenses, Better pricing: The opening and operational costs of a smaller store are much less than that of a larger store. These cost-savings help contribute to the overall cost of goods within the store. Operational cost-savings from small-format retail enable a brand to match prices of their competitors more freely. Overall price position of goods can also be adjusted between locations.
  • 2. Greater Customization, and Hyper Local Marketing: Multiple store locations allow brands to cater to the specific needs of the local consumers. When retailers identify these needs, they can vary the merchandise in the store to address them. Brands are also able to test out innovative product ideas specifically to a certain customer group without investing in larger, traditional commercial spaces.
  • 3. Improved Accessibility, and Convenience: These small-format stores usually have a strategically important location around residential areas, which provides great accessibility and convenience for their customers. When it comes to convenience the location is not the only great advantage. Smaller shopping area also means easier navigation. The whole shopping experience is smoother, the checkout queues move faster resulting in more people are being served at the time.
  • 4. Omni-channel experience: In the ever changing world of retail having a strong omni-channel presence is a necessity. More and more retailers realize the importance of this and try to use every possible tool to maximize their presence both in the online and offline world. Small stores can support online shopping, in-store pick-ups, easy returns and home delivery very effectively. Instead of having all the products on the shelves, they can be linked to different e-commerce websites and function as regular stores, pick-up and return points. This gives those brands utilizing small-format shops a competitive advantage over retailers who only utilize a 100% online e-commerce system.

Examples from the Chinese Market

IKEA opened their first small-format concept store last month in Shanghai. The new format with its 3,000 m2 total area is much smaller than the IKEA stores we are used to. The store takes into consideration the customer’s working location, shopping methods, and living conditions. It creates a brand new home retail experience integrating shopping, leisure and social interaction. The products are more concentrated, clothing and apparel can be customized. These products are chosen based on the characteristics of the surrounding customer groups. Projectors are placed over the beds to display different duvet patterns so they don’t require addition display area. Due to the limited area and the advanced electronic payment methods, the shopping speed is increased.

"IKEA Small-Format Store in Shanghai"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Hema has recently introduced their first two Hema mini concept stores in Beijing. If the format turns out to be successful, it will be rolled out and use across the country in order to enter more residential areas. With 800 m2 total area, the size has been significantly reduced. Due to downsizing, the store doesn’t use hanging chain conveyor anymore, but relays mainly on manpower. The types of food they offer for home delivery is also limited compared to the Hema fresh stores but they make sure that the selection is focusing on the basic categories common in the residents’ lives.

"Hema mini Concept Store"
Image Source: twgreatdaily

As mentioned before, one of the benefits of small-format stores is that brands can test new products, design or technical changes. Carrefour opened their small-scale concept store in Beijing in 2019. The concept store is highly digitalized, with advanced in-store technologies and applications such as “scan and go” facilities and mobile payment.

Small-Format Stores as the Future

After observing the current trends and customer needs, it’s safe to say that ‘bigger’ doesn’t necessarily mean better. Instead of placing more products on the shelves, brands are looking for ways to provide immersive customer experience for their consumers. This can mean customization, digitalization or convenience as well.

The most innovative, forward thinking brands were never afraid to try out new formats, to test and learn, therefore always embracing the future. For these brands, smaller shops provide more flexibility and allow them to be bold and adventurous.

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Retail Strategy Best Practices from Caroline Xue, Managing Director at Kurki Fashion China

August 17, 2020

We have interviewed Caroline Xue, Founder and Managing Director of Kurki Fashion, the company importing, producing and distributing the Finnish silk scarves and fashion accessories from brand Marja Kurki in China. The brand has been one of the earliest foreign fashion brands to enter China in 1995 and has since then been extraordinarily successful. Caroline shares insights on the fashion brand’s success factors as well as strategies retail brands in China need to follow should they want to flourish. Marja Kurki has 40 physical retail stores and 5 online stores in China.

" Caroline Xue, Managing Director at Marja Kurki China"

Dear Caroline, why is Marja Kurki doing so extraordinarily well in China?

Marja Kurki entered China in 1994, 26 years ago, at a time when there were few international brands. This gave us a head start. In addition, we are a Chinese company of WOFE, with a Chinese founder and a Chinese team that is still made up by the same people as in the beginning. This means that we have an excellent understanding of the Chinese market and local consumer habits. Our localization is certainly one of our key success factors. In order to establish Marja Kurki as a top brand in the earlier years, we organized top level fashion shows at the most exclusive places. Finally, we have developed a range of B2B channels to diversify our revenue streams. We work with banks, government offices and corporate clients to produce Marja Kurki customized gift items.

What are general best practice tips for retail brands in China?

KOL/influencer marketing is certainly very important, it helps a brand to gain momentum, to strengthen its positioning and increase sales. Events marketing still continues to be significant, it helps to maintain relationships with long term clients, media and VIPs. And it’s important to have a solid strategy of both physical stores and online stores that complement each other and often reach different customer groups.

What has Marja Kurki done to lessen the negative economic impact during Covid-19?

At the beginning of the year, when store traffic decreased considerably, we started livestreaming. We schedule one hour of livestreaming per day during which the team in the store introduces products. Topics covered are how the products look like on a person, how they can be worn and combined, the material characteristics, and the sales price. We offer a voucher for a very small discount on the presented pieces at the end of the live streaming session that has a limited validity of one hour.

"Living Streaming from the physical store and through the online store platform"
Image Source: Marja Kurki

Before Covid, the sales in physical stores and online stores had a ratio of 50/50% and has changed to approximately 30/70% at the beginning of the crisis. In the past months, the sales revenue originating from both channels has become more balanced again.

How has the marketing of foreign fashion brands in China changed over the years?

From 2002 to 2010 we used a lot of print advertising which worked extremely well. We also regularly organized top notch events including fashion shows at the Art Gallery at the Ming Dynasty Wall at Dongbianmen, an event for 300-400 people, as well as shows at the National Centre for Performing Arts and a 10th anniversary fashion show at the Wanfeng Art Gallery in Forbidden City which was attended by many high level VIPs and the brand’s Finnish founder. Each year we had several events, larger and smaller ones.

After print media became less popular, we started to work with “Wanghong” and celebrity marketing. I believe that this is an integral part of the marketing strategy for fashion brands. Marja Kurki has been working with several famous celebrities and movie stars over the years to maintain our top image and popularity.

"Christy Chung and her Husband wearing Marja Kurki scarves"
Image Source: Marja Kurki

"Jingwen Jia wearing Marja Kurki scarves"
Image Source: Marja Kurki

Around the same time we started to use Wechat and Weibo which are the largest social media platforms in China. We have 35,000 followers and our own editors, it’s important to produce high quality content. But – exactly because those platforms are so large and accessible to everybody, it is harder to create a noise as a brand. In the future, we might start to use the video platform Douyin but have not decided yet.

Why do brands need both physical and online stores, and what is the purpose of each medium?

Most importantly, physical retail stores create trust, which is the most important factor when promoting and selling branded products. Secondly, customers can try out the products. With a physical store you are enabling a consumer experience. These aspects are very important for all fashion brands.

With digital channels you reach a broader market, and here, the conversion from social media visitors into online buyers is important. Online stores are more suitable for the sales of materials that do not need to be touched. The consumers are younger. It is also very important which photos you use, certain types of photos generate sales and others do not. At Marja Kurki, we produce special limited collections just for online sales. In order to be successful on online channels, you need to conduct consumer research and use the right key words and product names. Fast and free shipping is considered an important part of the customer experience in China which then in turn leads to a higher conversion rate. Brands need to define and analyze metrics, the most important one probably being the conversion rate (buying customers/visitors).

One important additional difference in consumer behavior online and offline is that there occurs usually more impulse shopping in physical retail stores. Online consumers tend to know what they want before buying.

You have recently launched a new store design. Why was that important and which aspects were particularly important to you?

We wanted to create a new store design concept that fits our classical, elegant brand positioning with a very subtle modern touch. The Nanjing store and many of our stores are shops-in-shops, without our own ceiling and very limited wall surface. We therefore needed the store fixtures to make all of the visual impact and offer a maximum of flexibility to accommodate various product categories (silk scarves, woolen shawls, hats, leather items, umbrellas). It was important to us that the different product types could be displayed in a new, interesting way.

"New Marja Kurki Store Design, launched in mid-2020"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Thank you very much for the interview. We look forward to following the further development of Marja Kurki in China!

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Using VR Stores to Increase Brand Presence

July 31, 2020

As omnichannel retail strategy has become a marketing standard for brands, it’s time for brands to start seeking new ways to enhance their overall omnichannel strategy.

The three pillars of success for retail marketing are:

  • 1. Personalization
  • 2. Experience
  • 3. Storytelling

A unique way to combine these three elements is through virtual experience. Virtual experience provides consumers with a personalized experience while also enabling the brand to incorporate storytelling. Different types of virtual experience include, live-commerce, AI omnishopping, VR video experience and virtual showrooms.

Our previous article focused on how these different types of virtual experience can work. Today, we will focus on the benefits of VR stores in omnichannel marketing strategy by looking at a few brands who have successfully created virtual showrooms in the past.

What is a Virtual Store?

Virtual stores allow for omnipresence and personalization by creating a sophisticated brand experience online. A 2-D is not enough for online shopping. Despite the growing popularity of online shopping and live-commerce, a majority of luxury brand purchases are still made in physical stores. Even after experiencing the covid19 impacts, statistics show that 85% Chinese consumers still prefer to have a physical interaction with a brand before purchasing goods (McKinsey). The main use of virtual stores is to market products and help drive sales.

Evolution of Experience

Omnichannel shopping has been around since the 1970’s where consumers could order products from a catalog over the phone. This soon evolved into infomercials and home shopping networks. As technologies continued to evolve and access to the internet, omnichannel shopping took a very big leap with viral marketing, mobile applications, and virtual experiences online that utilize VR and AI technology.

Jimmy Choo Virtual Showroom

In 2014 Jimmy Choo created an omnichannel experience by launching a virtual showroom, allowing customers to pre-order products that were being released in their new Fall Collection. The virtual showroom was advanced for the time, the design style was much like a Google maps street view. Users could see live images inside of the store and observe real life product pictures and learn more about their features.

Image Source: www.glamourmagazine.co.uk

This was one of the first types of virtual experiences that provided consumers with a unique experience by giving them premier access to view goods that usually could not be seen until after fashion week. The campaign helped to create excitement for the new launch of products and increase the demand for the new shoe lines before they were even released in stores.

Ted Baker Virtual Showroom

In 2015 Ted Baker created a virtual showroom of their London flagship store. Similar to Jimmy Choo, users could view actual products but were able to engage in more interactive features. Users could zoom in on products to see more details, and share photos of the products on their various social media channels. The target of the brand was to utilize the showroom as a marketing tool while also driving sales.

Image Source: www.theguardian.com

The brand was able to track user data analytics to gain a better understanding of the consumer journey inside the virtual store and realize which products had the highest interaction. The brand could then use this data to enhance their retail store designs in the future.

Geberit Virtual Showroom

Virtual showrooms in 2020 look a bit different from previous models and incorporate a lot more interactive features for users. One of Europe’s leading sanitary brands, Geberit, launched a virtual showroom that does exactly this. The virtual experience takes the user into an interactive showroom where they can interact with different sanitary products and learn more about the features, styles, and directly make purchases through the connected links for products.

Image Source: www.international.geberit.com

This type of virtual experience, enables the brand to have a direct and interactive experience with consumers. The brand can track data and flexibly adapt their showroom design based on user needs. They can drive sales directly through the experience itself.

Overall Benefit of Virtual Experience Showrooms

Why should retail brands adopt virtual showrooms as part of their omnichannel retail strategy? In one word, flexibility. In light of the Covid19 pandemic, 2020 has shown the retail industry that brands cannot rely on a purely physical stores alone, and further stresses the need for brands to strengthen their omnichannel strategies. A prime example is the Finnish fashion accessory brand Marja Kurki, who usually sells 50% online and 50% in retail stores, saw an increase of online sales to 70% during the first months of the crisis.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Omnichannel retail strategy is evolving and interaction through every marketing channel continues to grow in importance. Virtual experience provides consumers with a personalized experience while also enabling the brand to incorporate storytelling. Virtual experiences also give brands better analytics on their consumer’s journey and enable them to see which products are most desirable. This allows the brand to then adapt their marketing strategy and physical retail design to fulfill the needs of their consumers.

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How Conceptual Design Process Makes Brands Win or Fail

July 30, 2020

In today’s retail environment, offline retail remains an efficient way to communicate and connect with consumers when compared to online retail. Whether it’s a retail store, pop-up store, or exhibition stand, the design of offline stores must be a clear representation of the brand. It includes much more than choosing the right piece of furniture or lighting fixture. It has to speak for the brand’s mission, values and vision. A key part of successful retail design starts by taking the client’s requirements into consideration at the early stages of the design process and prioritizing the brand’s values in the design stages that follow. This process is something we take pride in at 5 Star Plus Retail Design. This article takes a case study of our design process for a professional camera production brand needing an exhibition stand design.

Step 1: Analysis

Regardless of project type or brand, 5 Star Plus begins by conducting a thorough research and analysis of the client company and its competitors. This research includes a deep understanding of the brand, its products and history as well as the position of the company in the local market. Communication between the client and the designers is essential in order to identify the strategic brand goals and creatively brainstorm the best visual way to represent them.

"Creating Customer Persona Profile during the Analysis"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Additionally, during this step of the design process, our team focuses on research about the project location. The designers have to know the exact location of the stand within the exhibition area, the orientation, the general customer flow direction and the special requirements of the exhibitor. Depending on the scope of the project, the research and analysis step can take up to one week. In the case of the Camera brand, we utilized four designers to complete step one within three days.

Step 2: Mood Board

A mood board is a collection of ideas that set the mood and general aesthetic of the future store, restaurant or exhibition stand based on the brand values and guidelines. It is created by the designers to provide the client with a guiding abstract design direction before beginning the actual conceptual design. The mood board then serves as a transition between the initial design thoughts and the first drafts. Mood boards are an effective tool for visual organizing, setting the scene and establishing a point of reference. The images used for the board represent the brand or just illustrate a certain feeling or aesthetic. Having this kind of visual plan will provide a ready-made roadmap for the designers and help to speed up the designer’s work when it comes time to start the conceptual design phase.

"Moodboard Expressing Infinity"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Step 3: Zoning Based on Customer Flow

The layout of a retail space is strategically important because it gives the brand the ability to influence the customer experience. This step of the conceptual design process can be done in parallel with the previous, mood board phase. Within every exhibition stand as well as in a retail store, there are zones for different product categories or services. After understanding the product categories and the clear goal of the client, the designers have to create a logical connections between these zoning areas. Each zone is meant to evoke a different reaction from the visitor, either rational or emotional.

The two main components for the layout are the customer flow and the overall design. The design includes the strategic floor plan, while the customer flow is the pattern of behavior and the way visitors go through a store or exhibition stand. Creating zones using merchandise displays, interactive experience points, and signage develops semi-separate areas. All three types of design elements act as speed bumps to keep the customer in the zone and slow down. The main idea is to grab the attention of the visitors and entice them inside the stand by using different attraction points. Within the zones, secondary attraction points keep the visitors movement throughout the space fluid and maintain the customer flow in the stand. The design of the stand incorporates interactions at every point.

"Customer Flow within the Exhibition Stand"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The above design example introduces the brand’s history of camera production by using a tunnel that attracts the visitors into the stand while also showcasing different products. During their journey through the tunnel, they stay interested and excited while learning about the products.

"Short Movie Clips are Displaced using Hanging Screens from the Ceiling"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The other main zones are two different experience points. The broadcasting zone showcases the quality of their live streaming control system and cameras. The movie shooting area showcases the different features of their most popular cameras and allow guests to learn more about them. The background for both areas are very visual, unique and eye-catching in order to grab the visitor’s attention even from the distance. By creating a story for each zone and tying it all together through design, the entire stand builds a connection between the brand and its visitors.

Outcome of Conceptual Design

As the result of this stage of the design process, we can create a clear design direction which is easy to understand and interpret. A strong conceptual design serves as a solid ground for the next phases of the design development when the designers work on the details, draw the precise floor plan and elevations and later on create the 3D model of the space.

By investing into this creative part, we are able to achieve the best possible branding result for increased brand awareness and brand loyalty which, ultimately, is expected to translate into a higher sales turnover.

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5 Star Plus Participates in the 2020 SSEF

July 23, 2020

At this year’s Sino-Swiss Economic Forum (SSEF), 5 Star Plus Retail Design has decided to participate with the showcase of one of their latest design works. In celebration of the 70th anniversary of Switzerland-China diplomatic relations, the topic focus for SSEF 2020 is focused on “Together for a better future – Smart & Sustainable”. The event was initially scheduled to take place in May 2020 but has since taken a different format due to the effects of Covid-19. The new event format has given the participants more time to take part in dynamic discussions revolving around sustainable efforts of businesses in the Sino-Swiss community in China. The economic forum is a joint effort of SwissCham and the Embassy of Switzerland to create business synergies and share values of participants.

The Project Showcase

5 Star Plus Retail Design was commissioned by China State Grid to design a showroom that educates the public on their green initiative programs that help to efficiently and effectively use, create, and reduce overall energy consumption within China. Different interactive displays allow guests to be immersed in the specifics of each green initiative. The 390sqm space needed to be an open-concept design that allowed guests to move freely between each interactive technology point. LED lighting, aluminum, and rubber flooring create a functional and futuristic environment, durable enough to last for a long time. A holographic display table in the center of the room shows scale models of different cities and allows guests to see how the power is transmitted and conserved in different regions of China.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Our Goal

We take pride in being able to assist in creating a positive green impact in the design industry. Creating educational and functional spaces that help to highlight the green efforts of China is just one way we can help drive impact. Being able to have the opportunity to help other companies expand their green efforts through design and sustainable construction is the small impact we can make in a very large market. For the event, we hope our project inspires other companies and builds a stronger awareness of green initiatives and sustainable construction practices in the retail design industry.

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VR in Retail

June 30, 2020

Over the past decade the use of technology for retail strategy and marketing has grown tremendously. As consumers now have more access to mobile devices and internet while the core of the technology has improved, it has now become an industry standard to include some form of digital integration or technology into the consumer journey.

Consumers expect three core things when it comes to their shopping journey with a brand:

  • 1. Experience
  • 2. Convenience
  • 3. Omni-Channel shopping

These three elements have become the core of the consumer journey over the past decade. As a brand it’s important to question if these three things have already been incorporated into your overall operational and marketing strategy yet. If not, the question that follows is, why not?


As most industry leading brands already know, experience is a crucial part of the consumer journey. It is a key marketing tool to build a stronger connection with target consumers, grow brand awareness and loyalty, and most importantly, increase sales. Experience can come in many forms, from personalization of products, to KOL events and pop-up stores, as well as technology integration.

While there are many retail technologies already commonly used by most brands, many brands are still questioning how VR and AI technology can provide a better experience for guests compared to other, lower cost technology options.

The main advantage is the flexibility and adaptability of the programing over time. There are many different ways to go when it comes to designing a VR experience for your consumers.

TOMs, the American shoe brand utilized this technology to immerse consumers deeper into their brand story by virtually taking the customer on a Giving Trip to see the impact of buying a pair of TOMS shoes.

Image Source: VRScout

Volvo created a VR space for their customers to test drive the new XC90, which was not yet produced. Less than two days after launching the program at the Paris Motor Show in 2014, the brand had sold out all vehicles. In addition to this, they saw a 400% spike in their social media following.

Image Source: The Verge


A survey conducted by Worldpay revealed that 95% of consumers in China have used virtual or augmented reality in the past 3 months. Convenience in VR experience means that the programming needs to be easy to use. It can also align with the brand’s online marketing channels.

When looking at traditional VR, many see it as a bulky headset, attached to a system screen that can be limiting to the space and area in which the VR experience can take place. However, virtual experience can be integrated into WeChat mini programs and can be easily accessed by simply scanning a QR code.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Omni-Channel Shopping

Customers can then access the experience on their phone, exploring the virtual space through tactical touch of directional arrows or by moving the phone from left to right like a 360 video. Apart from interacting with different store features, customers can also connect to the online store to browse more products and make purchases.

IKEA utilized the technology to create a virtual retail space called “IKEA Place” that allows the consumers to actually interact with the products virtually and learn more about the materials, and features of the product before making a purchase in stores or online. It also allows consumers to virtually place furniture samples into their home space to get a better visual of how it will fit with their existing décor.

Image Source: Droid Life

Key Advantage

One of the biggest concerns brands have when it comes to VR experiences is the ROI of the programming itself. Much like live-stream marketing, the numbers on this truly depend on the brand and overall execution of the campaign itself. However, according to a study by ABI Research, VR technology used in retail and marketing sectors is expected to generate $1.8 billion by 2022.

A key advantage of building a VR program is that once it’s built, the software can be easily adapted and revised based on the current marketing needs without starting the design and integration process from scratch. The long-term flexibility of VR programs enables brands to continually change and refine based on the most current needs of their customers.

Overall VR experience enhances the overall marketing strategy of a brand which also helps to strengthen the consumer journey.

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Enhancing your Brand Image through Brand Story
5 Star Plus Series: Excellent Retail Design in China

June 29, 2020

Retail stores are an important tool for marketing a retail brand to consumers. By creating a strong first impression from the outside, consumers can enter the retail space to experience and learn more about a brand’s story. Facilitating a smooth consumer journey through retail design increases the purchase likelihood, brand loyalty, and overall sales.

Key Goals of Retail Design

Retail design starts with a concept that achieves key goals for the brand. While the specific goals vary for brands, there are four key design goals that should be keep in mind of retailers which include:

  • • Brand Story
  • • Attractive retail window displays
  • • Retail experience
  • • Technology integration

When combined into retail design, achievement enables retailers to successfully increase brand awareness and sales.

Telling your Brand Story Increases Brand Awareness

As the well-known saying goes, “knowledge is power.” This is certainly true when it comes to educating customers about a brand, its story, and products. The power behind the knowledge gained by the consumer is that they gain better insight of the brand heritage, realize the quality of the brand’s products, and clearly understand the brand’s core message. These three factors build a stronger awareness of the brand. According to 5W Public Relation’s 2020 consumer report, 71% of consumers prefer to shop with a brand if a brand’s core values align with their personal values.

Our next case study takes a closer look at the American shoe brand, Timberland. In the past 5 years, the brand has undergone a restructure of the visual identity design to highlight key marketing messages of sustainability. Tied to the story of Timberland, the design style of the retail space incorporates interactive elements to provide customers unique experiences that are also tied to their strong CSR message: “Nature Needs Heroes.”

Image Source: iPhone Qualityindex

The background of Timberland is a shoe company that set out to provide high quality functional work boots. They had one of the first waterproof shoes on the market. This original function evolved footwear brand into a pop-culture icon as many famous rappers wore and referenced their products in their music.

In recent years the brand listened to their core target consumers by putting a larger focus on sustainable fashion. Over the past decade, the brand further evolved that put sustainability at the forefront of their product design, marketing, and general strategy. At the end of 2019, the brand made an aggressive goal to plant 50 million trees by 2025. As their CSR strategy continues to evolve, the brand needed to adapt the design of their retail stores to better tell their brand story.

Image Source: twitter

Timberland created a unique concept idea called “Flex Retail” this allows them to adapt the store design every six weeks to best fit the theming and products for the season. This concept started with their first “Tree Lab” store at the King of Prussia Mall (PA) back in 2017.

"Timberland’s First Tree Lab Store"
Image Source: WWD

With their latest campaign “Nature Needs Heroes”, the brand decided to focus more on product education and interactive experience points that help educate consumers on the global environmental impact of the brand. Educational table displays help to showcase different materials that are sourced and the sustainable efforts behind the material makeup themselves. This can be found at their flagship store in London.

"Timberland Flagship store in London, England"
Image Source: Retail & Leisure International

This design concept really helps the brand to be able to better show their brand story and help customers to better understand the brand’s core motives and global impact on the environment.

Following the campaign, the brand also launched a series of pop-up stores in New York City to showcase the brand’s CSR efforts and provide local consumers with immersive spaces that allow them to learn more about the products and brand story of Timberland.

"Timberland Pop-up Store in NYC showcasing products made from recycled materials"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

"Timberland Experience Space in NYC brings Nature to Urban Customers"
Image Source: thrillist

In China the brand took a slightly different approach. While nature and sustainability is still the core message behind Timberland’s brand story, the brand adapted their name in 2016 to be more suitable for Chinese consumers. The campaign changed the name to: “Timberland - It's Really Teeboolang” which means “Unbreakable” in Chinese.

"Marketing poster used in Chinese markets (China, HK, Macau, Taiwan)"
Image Source: effie

Much of the retail and marketing strategy in the Chinese market focuses on the high quality and reliability of the shoes themselves. Most of Timberland’s retail locations in China reflect this by large product displays focused most on their classic shoe design, and strong brick décor. Tying to the brand’s global marketing message, their stores incorporate a slight touch of greenery and put a larger focus on the sustainable materials used within the products themselves.

" Timberland Retail Store in Shanghai, China"
Image Source: DianPing

Overall, Timberland has found success globally by sharing their brand story with their consumers in a creative way that is strongly reflected in the retail design of their many locations worldwide. As the brand continues to grow and evolve, they will likely deepen their brand story and continue sharing it with their consumers in thoughtfully creative ways to further build stronger brand loyalty. Regardless of where their story takes consumers, it will sure be interesting to see the impact they make if they achieve their goal to plant 50 million trees by 2025!

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Customer Journey Mapping

June 22, 2020

Creating Competitive Advantage on the Market

In the recent years, customer retention has become a measure of competition amongst brands. In order to keep existing customers, brands have to understand their needs and how they interact with the brand. Only after gathering and analyzing this information, can they offer a product or provide a service that would fulfil their customers’ needs. The customer experience (CX) that brands provide during the journey of their customers helps people to decide between different buying options. The ultimate goal of every business is to make this decision making process easier for the customer and help them to achieve their goals effortlessly.

Customer Journey Map as a Tool

In order to turn the above mentioned idea into an action, brands need a tool that help them to identify the journey their customers take. This is when customer journey maps come in the picture. But what is a customer journey map exactly?

“A customer journey map is a visual representation of the activities and situations a customer goes through before, during, and after engaging with a service.” (Marc Fonteijn)

The visual journey map helps to understand the customer perspective, and find any gaps or pain points where the ideal retail space differs from the actual one. Brands can use journey maps to track customer interaction and analyze their touch points inside the store. Taking omni-channel strategy into account, these touch points for their customers can occur at any point on their various retail channels. Though not every customer will follow the same journey, analyzing this data helps brands to identify trends by showing them the “most likely path” their customers will take.

What is the outcome? What do we want to achieve by creating customer journey maps?

  • • Better understanding of the customer
  • • Discovering the pain points of the customer journey where the brand is falling short of consumer expectations
  • • Utilizing it as a marketing tool
  • • Creating a visual that will help the whole company to better understand how the service process should look like

A report from 2018 shows that 67% of the surveyed business professionals are using or have used customer journey mapping and almost 90% of them said they experience a positive impact in customer satisfaction.

Essential Elements to Create a Customer Journey Map

Even though the aim of a customer journey map is to have a very simple, easy to read and understandable design, there is a lot of research, analysis, and work required to ensure a simple end result. Without enough detail, a journey map has no use, but too much detail can overwhelm people and they can easily lose focus without understanding the map.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

As a first step, brands have to create a buyer persona and understand his/her goals. Only after that can they start to map their interaction with the company.

Here are 5 of the most important elements that brands need to understand when creating a customer journey map:

  • 1. Customer lifecycle: This part is the stages or phases of the journey. They can refer to a time (before, during or after the purchasing process) or alternatively, they can represent an action as well (brand awareness, planning, purchase, delivery, installation, usage, and repair).
  • 2. Customer activities and situations: This part includes those relevant activities that the customer does and those situations, circumstances that have a significant influence on their experience.
  • 3. Customer needs: This is an extremely subjective part which is connected to the customer who's going through this specific journey and shows the requirements at each stage.
  • 4. Customer experience: This curved line shows how satisfied or dissatisfied the customer is throughout the journey.
  • 5. Extra elements: Communication channels, Back-end processes or IT Systems.

Benefits for the Brand

The customer journey map gives an important perspective to brands allowing them to see how their existing and potential customers actually experience the brand. Understanding this allows them to compare this result with the ideal “perfect” scenario.

Based on Aberdeen Group research (2016) using a customer journey map will result in 54% greater return on marketing investment and 56% more cross- and up-sell revenue. It also can generate 24% more positive mentions on social media platforms and 18 times faster average sales cycle.

When consumers can achieve their goals along their journey path, they will be more satisfied by the end of the journey. Higher satisfaction of consumers increases their brand loyalty which makes them more likely to shop with the same brand again. Improved customer experience also leads to lower operational costs, and increases profits for the brand.

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Moving Forward: Leading Retail Brands Do Well. Not Just In Good Times

May 29, 2020

It is without doubt that the virus outbreak has brought a serious crisis upon the retail industry. For many retail brands this meant a strong decline of revenue, even leading some to come to the difficult decision of declaring bankruptcy. On a more personal level, many may have been confronted with the loss of their job. While all of these circumstances are incredibly difficult to handle and overcome, facing challenges should never stop us. Instead of remaining paralyzed and unable to act, we need to look past this, and start to make plans and move forward.

Challenges help us to grow. While this is a spiritual principle for some, it is also a proven concept that change management firms and personal development coaches teach both on a personal and company level.

"Overcome Fear to Reach the Growth Zone"
Image Source: CPC

Going one step further, a challenge always has several sides to it. If you look at the same difficult situation from a different angle you might be able to identify opportunities. So here is the driving question: Is it possible to use the current threat and convert it into something positive for your brand?

At 5 Star Plus, we believe that it is not only a must, it is in fact our responsibility as managers to spin the situation around strategically until it is possible to gain leverage from it. Whether it’s by improving the overall business model, or creating a stronger market position, the overall result comes from the actions made by the brand today.

We owe it to ourselves, to our companies, and to our teams, to remain functional and keep creating positive impact.

So again, how can brand managers change their perspective and come out leading after the crisis? While there are no limits to creative leadership, here are a couple of examples how you can strengthen your retail brand:

1. Strengthen Personal Relationships with VIP Clients

People spend more hours at home and appreciate personalized service even more than usual. Sales consultants in stores have additional time since less customers visit the stores. While sales are low, focus more on personal interaction with your most valued clients with the help of digital means. This will help to improve loyalty while the market is down and increase your market share and revenue once spending picks up again.

2. Develop Digital Services

This could be full new services or small add-on services in addition to your standard product range, like the offering of professional styling advice through digital means. You should also review your omnichannel strategy and how digital channels might substitute physical ones in times of crisis. Having this will give you flexibility and resilience in times of crisis in the future.

3. Think of New Products

The mindset of consumers has changed during Covid-19. Topics that have become more important are sustainability, honesty/trust, quality, family, and health. How can you leverage these themes for your products, new collections or marketing campaigns?

4. Stabilize and Streamline your Base

Review your set of processes and operational structure. Does everything make sense the way you are doing it? Are there areas of excess bureaucracy that can be removed? This is a good time to train and empower your frontline staff.

5. Review Your Brand’s Positioning and Marketing Message

Is this still in line with the original mission & calling your brand had, when you were filling a niche and servicing to a need in the market, something that only your company would be able to do? Use the time to re-adjust your brand positioning and re-align your marketing messages to this crisp new vision. Then adapt your retail store design concept accordingly and make sure you engage customers in the brand’s story and lifestyle.

6. Sustainability

Use the additional time you and your team have on hand to digitize your documentation, and delete paper usage from your operations. While this should be done foremost with the value of environmental consciousness at your heart, you can also write about it on your social media and promote your business as an environmentally friendly brand.

7. Create Transparency as a Brand

In times of crisis, transparency and honesty are key. This applies to communication within organizations, but also to a brand level. Be as transparent as you can, and keep communicating. If this was not one of your strengths in the past, ensure to do so now.

At 5 Star Plus Retail Design, we have used the quiet months in early 2020 to develop new digital and virtual services. Knowing that our clients needed to push sales while most of their retail stores were closed, we wanted to help them facilitate sales transactions with new virtual retail spaces through which customers would still have their usual physical experience but then could also purchase products.

KJUS Flagship Store, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

What are the measures that you have decided to take? What are your plans to make the best out of challenging 2020? We look forward to hearing from you.

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Creative Retail Design

May 21, 2020

What is Creative Retail Design?

In recent years the retail concept design process has been refined and perfected by brands while, at the same time, has also become more competitive than ever before. This competitive trend will become even more important after Covid-19. As a response to the pandemic, offline retailers who were not yet utilizing omni channeling as means of sales, quickly transitioned their operational strategies to provide their consumers access to their products online. Since consumers can order literally everything from their homes, they will be investing in experiences over products when they go to retail stores. Retailers that can’t meet customer’s expectations will have to step up or step out.

Creative retail design is a memorable, unique design style that enhances brand recognition and customer loyalty by providing customers with interaction and experience through technology integration, personalization, or an unusual interior design concept. The benefit of investing in creative retail is the increased brand recognition, customer loyalty, and sales. It also helps the brand to stand out from their competitors in the market.

"Clothing store in Hangzhou"
Image Source: Weburbanist

"Bookstore Design in Zhongshu"
Image Source: Trendhunter

Creative Design Methods

A major challenge for retailers is getting customers through the door of their physical retail store. According to a recent survey (Wiser, 2019) when it comes to impulse shopping, 89 percent of women and 78 percent of men purchase additional items beyond their identified need when they enter a physical retail store. In order to succeed brands try to create an immersive environment with convenience-focused arrangements that utilize most up-to-date technology. We would like to introduce a few different methods that give a really good idea about creative retail design.

1. Hybrid solutions

Hybrid solutions mean the approach of combining multiple services under one roof. This can be the combination of a shop, a cafe, and a co-working space, or a shop, a tea bar and lounge room, as well as a restaurant and coffee-flower shop. Incorporating these slow-shopping methods into the retail design increases the overall customer time spent in the store which enhances their consumer journey and increases their likelihood of purchases goods. Only the imagination sets the limit of these combinations.

2. Technology

Customers look for inspiration when it comes to experience. It can be in a form of a smart makeup mirror at a cosmetics store, to an app that offers customers to virtually “try on” the products. Magic mirrors, virtual dressing rooms, and various other types of augmented reality experiences are often seen as the next wave of consumer expectation.

Virtual reality can increase sales in a remarkably creative way. A good example is KITKAT Chocolatier’s experience in São Paulo where the whole space is filled with product gamification, personalization, creative AR hotspots and VR tour in order to delight visitors. Since its launch, the store has welcomed more than 300,000 guests, reached 40,000 mentions on Google Search and has racked up thousands of followers and tags on Instagram, because of the direct effect of their unique, technology and experience oriented design.

Image Source: Fitch

3. Customer Interaction and Personalization

Brands are trying to engage customers during their customer journey. A good example of how to involve customers is Neiman Marcus’s store front that invites kids to climb into a tunnel, peek into the store and then go down on a slide back to the sidewalk. Meanwhile, their parents can control special effects inside the display or place themselves in space scenes by using their camera.

Image Source: Weburbanist

Best Practices from China

Our first showcase is a multipurpose retail space in Shanghai’s downtown area. The area includes a shop, a tea bar, a lounge room and a restaurant. The main concept of the space is developed from minimalism. The vision for the retail area is to create a harmonious and relaxing environment where visitors can turn off a bit and feel creative.

Image Source: Trendhunter

The interior of the luxurious Italian brand, Valextra has a library style design in a shopping center in Chengdu. The whole design style has a strongly romantic approach while channeling functionality, precision and overall passion combined into a library-style interior. Building on this motif, the retail space is divided into the library area and the reading room. The “library area” is a circular space that displays the luxurious products on walnut shelves, while the reading room showcases units that boasts the most exclusive designs.

Image Source: Trendhunter

Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore in Southwest China provides space to read and study. It also includes a children's reading room and a social area. The overall feeling of the space is mysterious wonderland. The center of the store is a double-height hall, which features horizontal and vertical sets of stairs where visitors are encouraged to rest and read. Mirrored panels on the ceiling increase the size of the room and multiply the number of staircases. This central space is meant to reflect the stepped outline of Chongqing's landscape.

Image Source: Dezeen

What is the Future of Retail Design?

Looking ahead, the challenge for evolving retail store design is to keep up with the rapid transformation we are experiencing now. Brands will constantly need to create new ways of attracting visitors and provide them with unique experience.

According to the Consumer View report (National Retail Federation, 2019), 55 percent of millennials consider shopping in stores as a social activity and 66 percent prefers to shop in-store than online. This means that brick-and-mortar retail still has a lot of possibly yet to be tapped. The report also found that retailers who invested in technology and in-store experiences could reach a really good ROI. As a result, we can conclude that consumers are spending more on experiences than ever before, and retailers who can meet the demand in a creative manner, while also staying loyal to their brand identity are the ones who will rise above their competitors.

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5 Star Plus Storytelling Series: Senses

May 7, 2020

Now that we have an understanding of the impact emotion and colors can have when it comes to storytelling, let’s examine the impact sensory storytelling can have on consumers. Incorporating sensory elements such as light, smell, and textures into retail design helps to enhance the brand story of a retailer while also effecting the customers’ thinking and ultimately their decision making.

Importance of Sensory Storytelling for Brands

The psychology behind storytelling is that the natural instinct of the human mind craves for meaning. Storytelling helps us to process information and remember it. Even though this is a benefit, it’s important to remember that a common fault of the mind is to forget some of the facts. When this happens, the mind will invent connections so that the information can still be processed by others. This innate human error is exactly why sensory storytelling becomes very important for brands. While engaging with stories, the sensory cortex in the brain is light up, allowing the listener to feel, hear, taste, and even smell the story.

Zara, one of the world’s leading fashion retailers and proud to be a high fashion, yet affordable Spanish brand. The story behind Zara’s success is that they are seen as a company with great style and fashion consciousness. To express that in their physical stores, Zara uses black and white on the walls, and to make them look even more elegant they utilize a very minimalistic design with monochromic fixtures and shelves. Another added detail to enhance their story are the characteristic spicy scent used in every store, and the relaxing yet trendy background music in order to create an upbeat environment.

Image Source: pinterest

When customers make decisions, they are based on impulses, gut feelings, or force of habit. Not every decision can be rational due to limited amount of time. Quite often it is a design element, like size or color that gives the final push to customers when it comes to choosing a product. Even tiny design decisions can influence customer’s choices at an unconscious level.

Abercrombie & Fitch is another good example to show how a brand can build up a certain personality and incorporate the different senses to their brand’s story. The image they want to show towards their customers is a “cool and good-looking teenager”. Their fragrance for men they use in the men section is a clean scent of citrus and warm dusk. They are also known for their loud music in the stores which makes them able to maintain a more youthful clientele. Apart from building up their brand image, the dimmed lights, loud and vibrant music also encourage impulse shopping.

Image Source: The Columbus Dispatch

Image Source: Retail Design Blog

Storytelling Design Tools

1. Rule of Three

The logic behind rule of three comes down to the way the mind processes information. Humans are very good at recognizing patterns and three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern. Consumers are not only able to build a pattern with three elements but are also able to break it. In this case the last item is something unexpected and breaks the pattern that was set by the first two. The aim is to surprise and satisfy at the same time.

The magical number can appear in various elements of the storytelling. It can be three facts about the brand, three mannequins grouped together, three words as a catchy slogan or three different product lines placed next to each other.

Steve Jobs applied the rule or three in almost every presentation he held about Apple. When announcing the first iPhone in 2007, he built his whole presentation around it. He claimed Apple would introduce three revolutionary products: a new iPod, a phone, and an internet communication device. He repeated each of them slowly until the audience figured out he was talking about one device, the iPhone, which was the third revolutionary product category after Macintosh and iPod.

Image Source: Business Insider


For designers it’s essential to understand how the target consumer’s vision works. What makes them look at certain things longer, what determines the order in which they look at objects? Can this wandering, searching movement of the vision be influenced? Without a deeper knowledge of this activity, designers won’t be able to create an impactful retail design to successfully tell the brand’s story. Colors, borders, words, pictures and shapes like arrows are used in order to control vision and to attract the gaze of users. Certain graphic elements can captivate the eye while others help the vision to wander along a path. This constant search for change moves the gaze from one point to another, constantly changing the focus.

Image Source: Justin Zhuang

3.Guide through Your Story

The Swedish brand, IKEA doesn’t only sell furniture to their customers, they also tell them a story which is about ‘loving where we live’. The key brand goal is to make their customers feel understood. IKEA showrooms are like labyrinths which means they are designed in a way to carry along customers on a controlled journey. The customer journey through the store brings guests through different room examples to show how their homes can look like, how it would smell and how it would feel living there. Guests can try out every piece of furniture, sleep in the beds, and relax on the sofas. The unique design of different showrooms allow guests to their senses of sight, touch, to envision what IKEA products could look like in their own home.

Image Source: study.com

Image Source: Fohlio

What Comes Next

The right brand story has the power to increase the value of your business’s product or service. After accessing their brand identity, brick and mortar stores have a huge advantage over their online competitors by communicating across five senses. The key is to trigger an emotional response by building up a multi-sensory in-store experience.

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The Store of the Future – Post COVID-19

April 21, 2020

The outbreak of COVID-19 is transforming the economy and consumer habits that will have a long term impact on how people shop and what role retail stores will play in the future. Considering these trends, we imagine what the store of the future will look like.

1. Virtual Stores and Online/Offline Integration

The outbreak of COVID-19 has made it evident that operations in different industries need to be prepared to quickly shift their offline strategy to an online strategy with digital platforms during times of crisis. Traditional offline retail and marketing channels include brick-and-mortar stores, pop-up stores and trade shows, among others. While digital channels played a supportive role for achieving effective retail strategy in the past, they will soon become as important as offline channels and partially replace offline functions in the coming years.

Virtual retail stores, that are designed to either look like real stores, or have a conceptual high-impact approach, will complement offline stores. Virtual retail stores are spaces where consumers can walk through, browse the products, learn about new collections or the brand, and be exposed to promotions. Interactive features and links to e-commerce websites or WeChat mini-programs, allow consumers to immediately purchase products.

The required flexibility of retail channels made apparent by the virus outbreak and the current economic crisis, exposed the need for a much better definition of the purpose and functionalities of each channel as well as a better technological integration. Key functionalities of brick-and-mortar stores like retail sales and promotional events will need to be flexible and easily movable between offline stores and online channels as required.

Offline stores will continue to play an important role in retail strategy by providing contrast and excitement through tactile stimuli that online experiences are lacking. Virtual retail stores can be built fast at a limited cost and with essentially no design limits. They will become an integral part of the retail strategy and provide brands with the much needed dynamic to satisfy the Chinese consumer’s hunger for content post COVID-19.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

2. Increased Level of Personalization & Customization

Increased time at home has increased the level at which consumers online shop. Their favorite online stores have saved their personal style preferences and can send them customized messages with product recommendations. They can also interact with both virtual and real shop assistants and stylists through the app. Besides sharing styling advice and product recommendations, the stylists will offer to take care of the planning and management of the virtual wardrobe or product portfolio of consumers. The value of this service is that individuals do not need to dedicate time and efforts to think about what they need or should wear at certain occasions in the future, as well as, professional styling advice for free.

In the offline retail store an AI store assistant supplements the customer with product information, recommendations, answers questions as well as books orders of customized products that have a different color, stitching, size or accessories.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

3. Focus on Health Aspects

Post COVID-19, retail brands will have to ensure their stores are safe and make certain health related information available to consumers. This might include the body temperature and good health status of employees being on duty and working in the store on that day, which will be visible on a screen close to the entrance. This concept is somewhat similar to the kitchen hygiene requirements which are already mandatory for restaurants in China. At the moment, in China, food delivery apps already display the current body temperature of the person delivering the food.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

When consumers enter the store of the future after COVID-19, their body temperature is registered. Some retail brands might go even one step further by screening vital functions. When emergencies happen like a customer being of ill health or having a heart attack, the AI system in the store automatically calls an ambulance. Retail stores will also have hand sanitizer and facial masks ready in the stores in case of need.

In terms of shopper psychology, consumers will be more aware of the shopping process, which may affect their overall interaction with the brand and its products. Making appointments in advance to visit stores and try the products, and ensuring that they shop at times where the store is less crowded are likely to be new consumer preferences.

4. Shopping for Personal Experience and Indulgence

The above factors will lead shopping in offline retail stores in malls to become a more conscious, often pre-planned process which consumers look forward to thanks to the unique personal interaction with the brand, sales consultant and the products.

The shopping experience and the interaction with a certain product in a store will become something more appreciated; a special moment. The quality of personal service will increase and be a valued factor in purchase decisions.

Those retail brands that have realized the importance of authenticity, sustainability, and have made the effort to build a strong brand identity, will be the most successful ones. They will be the ones that have gained larger brand loyalty from consumers, which makes them feel safer going to these store and buying from this particular brand.

5. Brick-And Mortar Stores become Multi-Purpose Spaces

A big part of offline events will be replaced by digital events. Live streaming, interaction supported by virtual spaces and video conferencing technology are already becoming more important today and will further increase in importance. Retail stores in malls will have an important but slightly changing role:

They will become more conceptual, experiential spaces and include artistic, lifestyle, or food & beverage consumption elements to complement product displays as part of the overall brand representation.

Stores will sometimes host events that are streamed live to customers at different locations. Brands will also host offline events with a limited amount of VIP guests as well as more interesting promotion designs, that span through various online and offline channels.

6. Design Challenges

What does all of this mean for retail designers? With the adjusted overall retail strategy of brands and changing role of offline stores, retail design agencies need to develop new store concepts and propose solutions to some of the existing challenges.

One of the biggest challenges will be the clear definition of the purpose and functionalities of offline stores. Flexibility will be one of the key aspects, which in terms of design strategy is often contradictory with creating a strong brand experience, maximization of products in a space as well as cost control.

Lighting concepts of stores might increasingly include ultraviolet light that is switched on a few times each day for a short period of time to kill germs, bacteria and viruses.

Stores will also need to be designed in a way that seamlessly integrates online channels and technologies. In-store technology that explains products by scanning QR codes, screens and AR will become standard.

We believe that COVID-19 is giving brands an opportunity to review their current retail strategy and strengthen it. The creativity and development that are currently happening in the industry are actually pretty exciting. We look forward to a future with smart retail brands that thrive, online and offline store concepts that make sense economically, and consumers who enjoy the brand experience and its products.

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Creating Retail Experience Online

April 7, 2020

The recent outbreak has affected the retail industry on a global scale. Brick-and-mortar retail is currently going through a transitional period to cope with that. While many shoppers have increased their standard amount of online shopping, many are still craving to have in-store experience. The challenge for brands is being able to provide that to their consumers, now.

Experience needs to provide three essential keys to consumers:

  • • Personalization
  • • Memorable
  • • Customizable

These three parts combined help consumers to grow loyalty towards a particular brand, generates excitement for its products, and can ultimately help to increase sales.

Generally, in-store interaction has been a standard for creating experience for consumers. Pop-up stores, events, in-store technology, and in-store product customization are just a few ways that consumers can interact with a brand in-person. Now that the Covid-19 outbreak has effected markets on a global-scale, providing in-store experience for consumers is not fully possible.

Many brands are finding ways to bring new and unique experiences to their consumers online. Recently, fashion brands participating in Shanghai Fashion week utilized live-stream portals to actively participate and showcase their new product lines online.

Image Source: www.alizila.com

Another way brands can connect consumers to their offline space is by providing a 3D walk through of the retail space. This can be a simple video that takes the viewer through the store space to a more in-depth VR experience.

A 3D walk through helps to showcase the design of the space. Whether it’s of the actual retail store, of a pop-up store, or event space. It allows brands to connect with media partners and customers to create excitement for future in-person events. It can also encourage and inspire consumers to visit the online store and look at products more in-depth.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

A VR experience facilitates the same connection as a 3D walk through but incorporates more features. As users walk through the space, they can interact with items in the store. By selecting an item, customers can view a real-life image of the object and read more about the product details and connect to the online store to purchase.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Augmented reality is another way for customers to interact with brands online. Customers can select the item that they are interested in purchasing and virtually try it on by pointing the camera at themselves and seeing what it would look like on them through the viewfinder.

Image Source: www.nairaland.com

There are many advantages to providing this experience to consumers. Here are the key advantages of utilizing one of these technologies:

  • • Customers can explore the space right now.
  • • Promote your brand.
  • • Upgrade your brand image.
  • • Enhance your existing brand strategy.

Adapting quickly in a fast-changing and turbulent environment is a true test of your brand strategy. Utilizing new tools that align with your brand strategy in a new way will only help reinforce your brand presence and reliability to your consumers. There’s no better time to enhance your omni-channel strategy than right now. Promoting your brand in a new way will send a message to your customers that your brand is in the future now. Brands need to explore new ideas to stay relevant with consumers despite the current constraints. Doing so will benefit your brand both now and in the future.

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5 Star Plus Women Series: Shuang Li, VP and Director of Finance

March 31, 2020

In closing our celebration of International Women’s history month, this article highlights our VP and Director of Finance, Shuang Li. She has been a devoted counterpart from our very first days as a company.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Shuang has experience in the field of accounting and finance management for multinational companies like Siemens and Coty. Her main role is to buildup accounting system, oversee accounting operation, monitor month end closing process, and ensure the accuracy of financial statements; from finance stand point, Shuang provides management with various financial and non-financial analyses to support strategic leaders in making better business decisions. She has also worked closely with different business teams to compose budget and update forecast, developed and monitored key performance indicators, ensured that financial targets were achieved while reducing the financial risks. Her track record in developing and implementing financial management systems has improved financial operational productivity via IT automation and process optimization.

We asked Shuang to share her expertise on financial management.

Q: What are the most important aspects to consider from the financial point of view when building up a new business?

A: Establishing strong financial infrastructure is critical when starting a new business. A company needs establish an accounting infrastructure that will allow you to know what’s really happening in your business, support your company operation and help define your financial strategy as you grow. The key to set up this system is to firstly set up an accounting system that is in compliance with accounting standards. This system should include the right accounting method, chart of accounts and three main financial statements. The second step is to ensure a reliable accounting operational process in place which requires the right people with right roles, the appropriate software to comply with internal control. The last step is to build up financial management processes. This should include composing budget, setting up targets, developing and monitoring KPIs and ensure the preset financial targets to be achieved. In order to set up this financial management process, finance people need work closely with across functional teams to understand business operational process, objectives and challenges, and then, to figure out how to provide financial solutions to make business run better.

Q: As the business grows, how does financial management change and what are the factors that have to be considered in different stages of a company’s development?

A: Accounting, budgeting and financial analysis consist of main basic functions throughout all stages in business development. During the startup phase, a company needs build an accounting system to track financial transactions, create financial statements and statuary reports which are in the compliance with accounting standards, legal and tax regulations. A company also needs implement budgeting and financial analysis processes to support and monitor business performance.

When a company enters into the growth stage, it faces a new level of a few financial challenges. At this stage, a company should seek operational investment from both internal and external sources. Financial analysis is required to support the need of this additional investment to provide insights for business expansion. According to an article from Harvard research, the companies who can fully deeply analyze the data and apply these insights into operation can improve 5%-6% productivity over competitors. It’s important for a company applying financial management to each stage in the business life cycle.

Q: Your professional experience includes work for service, retail distribution and consumer goods companies. Which financial considerations are the same and which are different depending on the type of industry?

A: No matter which industry you work in, it’s important to have a strong foundation framework in compliance with the basic principles of accounting. The effective financial management system is equally important to support business across all industries, cash flow management is essential to ensure the smooth business operation.

For service-based industries, such as consulting firms, they normally charge customers based on hourly rate. Therefore, accountants need spend more time on collecting working hours and defining price based on different level of consultants. This will affect the accounting process. For retail distribution and consumer goods companies, accountants must spend more time on managing inventory than some industries do. They also need spend more time on promotion and channel analysis to support business operational strategies than other industries do.

Q: What are the financial management aspects that have a direct impact on operational and sales performance? What is the strategic value of good financial management?

A: The KPIs metric is an important financial management approach to impact on operational and sales performance. It evaluates the success of operational and sales performance by analyzing the deviation between the actual and targets of these performance measurements and implementing necessary actions to ensure business operation achieve its targets.

The value of good financial management is to support business growth at different stages by providing valuable financial analysis and solutions, such as scenarios analysis of business development cases and price strategies of different products and services.

Q: What are areas that many companies often overlook in terms of financial management?

A: In order to do a good financial management job, it’s important for finance people to become important business partners. To become business partners, finance people need understand business operational process and targets, be more analytical and be more strategic. They need focus on business and figure out how to support business to implement the strategy to “get stuff done”, not just be the numbers people.

One of the best practices of financial management is to set up effective KPIs system to support business achieving its targets. This KPI system includes setting up targets, analyzing variance and implementing measures to achieve its goals. Another best practice is to improve efficiency and accuracy of reports by automating service billing and generating performance management reports.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Q: How do you imagine financial management in 2050 will be different from today?

A: As the global technology has evolved over the years, artificial intelligence has begun affecting our life in many aspects. AI technologies like machine learning and deep learning help accounting and finance professionals to perform repetitive tasks more efficiently. Process automation and actual process of robotics in the field of financial management have become more and more popular among large transactional accounting volume in big enterprises. Accountants will play a major role in interpreting and analyzing data captured by AI technology. In the future, accountants will have more time to focus on analysis and to support business strategy with the aids from AI.

Q: What advice would you give to retailers to help better manage cash flow issues during periods of economic turbulence?

A: Financial management is very important to manage cash flow during periods of economic turbulence. Managers must make financial projections of cash flows in advance, so that they can have some ideas on how much capital will be needed to fund business operation under challenging economic situation. Planning and budgeting for these financial needs are crucial. Essential parts of financial management are finding the proper source of funds at the lowest cost and making sure the leverage of debt is not too high to be managed.

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5 Star Plus Women Series: Olga, Senior Designer

March 23, 2020

In continuation of our celebration of International Women’s history month, this article highlights one of our Senior Designers at 5 Star Plus Retail Design, Olga. She is an experienced architect and retail designer working with both Chinese and European companies that come for different retail sectors including, fashion retail, FMCG, consumer electronics and more.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

To fully understand her role, Olga describes a retail designer as working in-between two worlds: world of interior design and world of marketing. As a retail designer she aims to not only create functional, comfortable, and beautiful space for people but also depict and fulfill business goals of each client. This can be a challenge when working with a variety of different commercial projects. She takes pride in focusing on the brand’s vision, positioning, and sales strategy and translating this message creatively into the physical space. The main goal of her design creations is to deliver this message to customers while also enabling them to have a unique and memorable experience.

This week we asked Olga to share her design insights for creating impactful designs in the Chinese market.

Q: How can retail design affect the sales performance of a store?

A: There is no denying that retail design has a direct influence on a store’s financial success. By using retail design instruments we can improve customer experience, change the market positioning of the brand, as well as attract attention to the retailer’s services and brand story. The design details of a retail store should be thoughtfully incorporated to ultimately encourage slow-shopping and keep customers inside the store longer by encouraging interaction and testing of their products. The longer a customer stays in the store, the more likely they are to buy products. As a result, a well designed brick-and-mortar store can help to not only increase sales but also bring long-term brand loyalty of customers.

Q: Please describe some of the techniques you use to attract customers into a store.

It is important to create barrier-free access to the store to encourage people come inside and shop. By creating a broad open entrance, the retail environment becomes more welcoming for customers. Brands can also place a video screen, or attention grabbing display with the selected products at the store entrance.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Q: Analysis is the first step when creating a retail store design. Why is analysis so important when creating a new store design concept?

A: It is impossible to find a solution to the problem without first objectively understanding the current market and customer needs. There are numerous different methods on how to depict and analyze business processes and their customers which can be done by observation, questionnaires or data analysis. Only by understanding friction points in current design format, and identifying clear goals for the new concept, can we create a new successful design concept for the brand.

Q: As a retail design professional, how do you express a brand identity in a 3D environment?

A: Like every designer I have a toolbox of colors, shapes, textures and light. However, as a retail designer, I have the unique ability to design interaction points between the customer and the brand. I believe that the experience that customers have in the store can truly define brand identity.

Q: In this fast-paced world, what retail design formats do you think are important for brands?

A: Generally all the formats should be customer centered. Now the border between formats is blurred. Online retailers are going offline and vice versa with the goal of making their stores more efficient and convenient for the customer. This gives brands the challenge of finding more ways to reach customers. For this reason, traditional brands are implementing creative pop-up stores, experimenting with differentiating services in stores to meet the needs of their customers. Brands are now integrating experience spaces into their retail store design including, coffee corners, providing space for things like yoga classes, and building collaborations with KOLs.

Q: As a retail designer, what are important technological aspects that can be integrated into store designs? What do you think of shopping with AR?

A: In the new era of electronic technologies and e-commerce platforms, brick-and-mortar retailers should adopt and consider implementation of new retail strategy into store design to create a more seamless experience between online and offline brand representation. Brick-and-mortar retail stores can consider to integrate tablets, and other interactive technologies into the store design that link their clients to the online platforms in a meaningful way.

The idea of AR technologies being incorporated into the shopping experience for consumers has been heavily investigated by retailers in recent years. While some brands still struggle to identify a meaningful strategy for implanting this type of technology, other of the brands, like Zara have already integrated AR into their brick-and-mortar stores. Other brands are using AR as a supporting instrument in their loyalty programs.

"Zara’s “Shop the Collection” campaign in 2018 connected customers with a Zara app that showed AR models at in-store display"
Image Source: marie claire

Q: When you walk through shopping malls in China, are the things you notice that most brands do not do well enough when designing their stores?

A: I think retailers in China are doing amazing work in terms of retail design. However, the design layout for lighting can be improved for some stores.

Q: What are the differences in retail design between the Chinese and the European markets? What can these markets learn from each other in terms of enhancing the overall retail experience for consumers?

A: It’s no secret that China is far ahead of Europe in terms of online shopping. In Europe, a lot of retailers are only just beginning to put a stronger focus on increasing online sales. Currently, online sales account for 4% of overall retail sales in the European market. For this reason, European retailers are implementing offline pick-up points in stores for online orders. This allows customers to have an easier and convenient shopping experience.

Offline shopping in the European market tends to be more competitive than in the Chinese market. In the Chinese market, many European retailers are more willing to experiment with unique retail designs compared to Chinese retailers. As the result a lot of interesting retail concepts have appeared recently.

Nowadays a fundamental design trend is providing experience for the customers. Consumers are not only going to the store to buy goods, they also seek emotion to be generated by interacting with the brand through retail experience. Retailers are trying to provide this additional value to consumers. Right now, I would say that China is leading this phenomena and setting retail design trends in this regard. The practice of new retail design, with a heavy focus on experience and creative design, is one thing that the European market can learn from China’s retail market.

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5 Star Plus Women Series: Phoebe, Senior Retail Consultant

March 16, 2020

In celebration of International Women’s history month, we want to highlight some women leaders on the team who specialize in different areas of our company. We kick off the series by highlighting one of our Senior Retail Consultants at 5 Star Plus Retail Design, Phoebe.

With an experience of 15 years in retail operations management, Phoebe started her career in Qingdao’s most upscale department store as the regional director of cosmetics. This was where she learned about the positioning of international brands and gained strong insights on different types of management style and corporate culture. Coming to Beijing a few years later, Phoebe joined FREYWILLE, a decorative jewelry brand, for three years. Managing several stores, Phoebe worked on the front line serving customers and leading the sales team to quadruple their sales performance.

Image Source: Phoebe Guo

A later step in Phoebe’s career path was to become Operation Manager for Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, being responsible for the operations and management of the brand in mainland China. Phoebe opened the first flagship store, developed the distribution network and coordinated media activities such as arranging interviews with Ivanka Trump for the Chinese press.

In addition to jewelry and cosmetics, Phoebe has extensive experience in the fashion industry having worked with fashion brands like Pull-In and Guess. Today, Phoebe owns and operates a business where she imports and distributes international skincare products in China. She plans to expand the portfolio to include other categories as well.

At 5 Star Plus Retail Design, Phoebe helps retail clients improve their operational performance. A while ago, the 5 Star Plus team supported Chinese designer brand Pureones in building up their brand through the definition of a clear brand positioning, development and publication of marketing content, the design of concept stores and pop-up stores, as well as the buildup of strategic collaborations and events. Phoebe defined and implemented target setting and reporting processes in retail stores and facilitated a long list of operational in-store improvements including the training of the retail staff and management team. She also created and implemented a strategy for promotional activities and events in order to increase brand awareness, attract customers into the store and increase sales.

This week, we asked Phoebe to share some of her insights on the outlook of the retail market.

Q: In today’s growing world of e-commerce and m-commerce, how can traditional retail brands with brick-and-mortar stores stay relevant in the shopping ecosystem?

A: I don't think any brand can afford to remain a traditional brand at present. Taking into account the current trends, a brand who can continue to develop and adapt to the fast changing market is a masterpiece.

Three years ago, brands such as Lancome and La Mer did not see the value of live-streaming because they believed that this sales form did not suite their brand positioning. However, today there are no skin care brands in the market who do not want to explore the e-commerce market and live-stream video market.

Q: What is the role of pop-up stores in today’s shopping ecosystem, how do you see this changing or evolving in the next 5 years?

A: Profitability is not a major consideration for pop-up stores today. Pop-up stores bring dynamic and have a positive effect on the brand image and the people behind it. This can lead to an overall positive impact on the brand.

Q: A retail store is often described as a brand’s best advertising medium. Everything that a customer knows and expects of a brand needs to be fulfilled and over-delivered in the retail store. What do you see as the biggest advantages of retail stores for brands besides generating sales? What is the strategic value to operating traditional stores?

A: The advantages of offline stores are more reflected in the transmission of the brand culture and philosophy. Trends can be reincarnated, design can be imitated, but the atmosphere and the spirit conveyed should be correctly represented by offline stores. Offline stores should focus on keeping the brand tone in stores, regardless of whether most customers accept it or not. Do not cater.

Q: Can you share some best practice examples of what some of the retail brands are doing?

A: SKP-S, which opened at the end of last year, I thought was great and opened another door for a lot of people to luxury brands. Not just bags, clothes, shoes, jewelry, but a cultural precipitation, the power of persistence.

Image Source: superfuture

Q: How can brands stay relevant and fresh to cater to a continuously changing target market and consumer preferences?

A: At present, Chinese customers are divided into many different types and groups. A brand needs to position itself first. Analyze your target market and don’t develop products blindly.

Q: Which sectors within retail, luxury and fashion do you think will have the most potential in the coming years?

A: It’s likely to be a fusion, the combination of luxury and fashion brands, even personalized customization, can set off a wave. Of course, I personally like brands and designs with a certain sense of history.

Image Source: Phoebe Guo

Q: Please share your top recommendation on how retail brands can improve their sales performance in stores. What are some factors that are often overlooked by retail brands?

A: A consumer’s sense of value is particularly important. It is not limited to high-priced products that convey the value of brands and products to customers. Some low-priced products can actually do better. Guests feel that they can make a choice. This aspect is sometimes an advantage for offline stores.

Q: As an experienced retail operations manager, what aspects do you consider most important for the retail design including the design of stores and pop-up stores?

A: I think design is sometimes incomprehensible to many consumers. They will only feel good or not good inside the store. Many brands invest a lot of money and time for the design of retail stores and pop-up stores. The results are really great, but only they themselves and the media know the inspiration and reasons for the store design. Sometimes the employees don’t even know and the customers do not understand. My suggestion is to let the customers know more about the design and concept of the store, so that the store employees and products can be integrated. Many of the display cases in Ivanka Trump Fine Jewlery's store have a hexagonal fixture design because they are inspired by the jewelry cabinets of Ivanka’s mother. As a result of the fixture design, many pieces from the collection sold very well. Every detail of the store is closely related.

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2020 Relaunch - How a Strong Retail Design Leads to Increased Sales

February 28, 2020

While concept stores can change the layout and color scheme of their store design, they must first realize why it is so important to focus on these changes. Having a strong store design ultimately leads to a better customer experience and thus increased sales. First impressions really do matter, especially in retail design. Instead of focusing too much time and effort into the product that companies are trying to sell, they need to focus on where the product is being sold. In order to optimize the customer experience, companies need to invest in their store design.

1. Start with the Entrance

Since first impressions are often what stick with customers the most, it is essential for concept stores to have a strong store design starting at the very entrance of the store. The entrance is what sets the tone for the rest of the customer experience. Store designs should focus on creating engaging window displays the catch their customers’ eyes. Displaying the merchandise in a creative and exciting way will start off the customer experience the right way. The next factor to focus on is the door. Everything from how large or small, the material used, and the color is important in conveying a certain message. Concept stores should keep in mind their target customer and use materials and colors that are fluid with their store identity. Being able to successfully combine all these components will attract more customers into the store design and increase the popularity of the store. Below is an example of the Versace store design entrance. They used a glass door to complement their elegant and chic store design. They also used engaging window displays in order to attract customers into the store.

"Versace on verge of being sold for $2bn"
Image Source: Retail Gazette

2. Keep the theme Fluid

Once the customer has been intrigued to visit the store design, it is important to keep the customer in the store design for as long as possible. Investing in a strong store design will allow customers to have a more positive experience within the store. Concept stores need to identify the customer they are targeting. For example, if a concept store like Michael Kors is attempting to target affluent, older women, they need to use colors, designs, and appropriate lighting techniques that are appealing to that target population. In fact, just focusing on improving lighting within store designs “increases sales by 1.93% per customer” (Perillo Construction). Below is a Michael Kors store design that incorporates all of these concepts successfully. Keeping this theme consistent with their logo and promotional techniques will make the brand more recognizable and stronger. 91% of customers have visited a store because of an online experience, so it is important to get customers interested with social media promotions but then keep them interested once they enter the store design (Marketing land).

Image Source: Pinterest

3. The Results:

Success in these different areas will result in increased sales by 50% (Entrepreneur). Having a strong concept store is so important in the success of a company. Concept stores need to constantly be thinking about how they can improve their store design to create the optimal experience for their customers. By identifying exactly who the company wants to target and creating a strong first impression with window displays, entrance mats, and continuing the theme with strong design, coloring, and lighting, concept stores can increase sales and make a positive customer shopping experience. Having a good product only goes so far. A strong store design to accompany a great product is the successful way to increase sales.

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Enhancing your Brand Image through Consumer Experience
5 Star Plus Series: Excellent Retail Design in China

February 26, 2020

Retail stores are an important tool for marketing a retail brand to consumers. From the outside in, consumers need to be attracted to a retail store in order to effectively experience that will resonate with consumers and entice them to purchase more goods, and become more loyal to the brand as a whole. The design of retail stores for a brand to tie to the overall brand story while also incorporating important needs.

Key Goals of Retail Design

Retail design starts with a concept that achieves key goals for the brand. While the specific goals vary for brands, there are four key design goals that should be keep in mind of retailers which include:

  • • Brand Story
  • • Attractive retail window displays
  • • Retail experience
  • • Technology integration

When combined into retail design, achievement enables retailers to successfully increase brand awareness and sales.

Building Strong Connections to Consumers = Stronger Brand Loyalty

Retail experience for consumers helps to build a stronger brand loyalty for brand. The experience of the consumers has a big impact as to whether they will continue shopping with the brand. If they have a negative experience they are highly unlikely to shop with the brand again. If they have a good and memorable experience, they are more likely to continue shopping with the brand.

A great example of this is the French luxury retailer, Hermes. This brand has a strong loyalty worldwide. A big reason for this is the experience and design of their 310 retail stores throughout the world.

Image Source: Pinterest

The key part of Hermes that makes their brand so unique is their long driven history and relation to heritage and integrity of their brand. With over 130 years of history, the brand constantly relates their focus on quality, integrity and heritage back to the core of their experience for consumers who are interested in the brand. Along with this, they continually adapt their experience based on the different markets they operate in.

Starting from their foundation, France, the experience of their retail stores primarily focus on the traditional elements of the brand. Their various retail stores in France are tailored to meet the needs and expectations of consumers who come both locally and globally to experience the traditional elements of the brand.

Image Source:Pinterest

Their flagship store in Paris, only allows entrance to those who have scheduled an appointment months in advance. Window displays, convey the traditional elements of the brand, related to their founding in the horse industry. Apart from the limited amount of products on hand, to reinforce the exclusivity and special quality of the brand, they even have an exclusive rooftop access point that allows guests a unique view of the city featuring a memento of their heritage with a figurine of a horse racer on the roof top.

In New York City, the brand brought experience to a whole new level during the holiday season by featuring an advent calendar experience for guests. Each day featured a new and different product that allowed guests to experience different elements of their brand throughout the holiday season in a memorable way.

Image Source: Pinterest

Their branch store located in the Meatpacking District of New York City, focuses on providing a unique experience to new and young shoppers of the brand by incorporating interactive displays tailored to the interests of this target demographic that features, music, skateboarding and other sports like cycling. To create a more welcoming and friendly experience for the young guests, the service employees are dressed in more casual products, such as, Hermes sneakers and casual silks. The store also adds unique services, like a free coffee and champagne bar and lower range products starting at only $100.

Image Source: Forbes

In Asia, and China in particular, the brand has found great success in creating unique experiences for their consumers. In the Chinese market, Hermes has been able to incorporate more features that enable the brand to connect with the consumer through different sales channels including WeChat. For the Chinese market, the main part of creating unique and personal experiences for consumers stems through the design of their pop-up stores, which, drives consumers to the actual retail locations and build stronger connections to their target consumers through WeChat.

Image Source: Pinterest

Their flagship store location in Shanghai is one of their three “mansion” locations in Asia. This location features multiple stories that feature the product and show rooms that allow the brand to feature certain products depending on events. These events tend to be highly exclusive and only grant access to VIP guests, thus enforcing the exclusivity and unique experience of the brand.

Image Source: Pinterest

Last year Beijing’s famous shopping district, Sanlitun, featured a pop-up store location that tied the unique and fashionable designs of their silk products to different music albums. As guests went through the pop-up store they listened to music of their favorite albums and saw covers that incorporated the latest designs of their products. Guests could also scan QR codes to learn more about the products through the company WeChat page.

Image Source: JingDaily

The Purpose of Experience:

The global execution of Hermes to incorporate unique retail experiences through their design help to create a stronger reliance and loyalty of the brand. The unique experience of the various retail locations throughout the world, overall, reinforces the exclusivity of the brand while also tying to the strong brand story that is Hermes. Providing unique experiences to consumers in the retail design of stores is just one element that helps to achieve the design goals of a retail store. The strategic role of incorporating retail experience into design is to grow consumer’s overall brand loyalty and reliance to the brand’s identity. Thoughtful planning and design feeds the consumer’s desire and interest of the brand, thus enhancing the overall retail strategy that ultimately helps to increase sales.

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5 Star Plus Insights: 2019 in Review

February 21, 2020

We believe that design has to achieve strategic goals set by the brand such as an increase of sales revenue, achieve high impact through design that creates a wow-effect that strengthens the brand image and enhances customer loyalty. Last year we continued to create impact for our clients through thoughtful and creative design.

Retail Design:

For the Swiss Ski-wear brand, KJUS, 5 Star Plus gave their first flagship store in Asia a new futuristic look. Cool metals, and dynamic lighting that contrasted with tones of grey and orange, helped us to achieve this look.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Singapore based German brand, Brotzeit, wanted to enhance the design of an existing location in Hong Kong. Use of leather, greenery, and other warm colors create a welcoming and casual dining environment for a nice lunch break or a family meal.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Sinsian Black Jelly Brand, a new grass jelly dessert brand based in China, requested 5 Star Plus Retail Design to create a store concept design for their premier flagship store in Beijing. The design was inspired by Sinsian’s brand identity of tradition, health, and purity through the minimalistic design features that showcase the product including light, warm colors and hand-drawn motifs of natural herbs and leaves to highlight the fresh quality of the jelly.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Exhibition Design:

Our exhibition projects allow us to work with clients across different industry sectors. From full scale design to production and logistics services, we enjoy the opportunity to work with clients new to China’s market by providing guidance and tools to have a successful show.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Austrian luxury eyewear brand, Silhouette, expanded their operations to mainland China in 2019. To make a statement, they participated in 2 different International Optics Fairs in both Shanghai and Beijing with both stands above 100sqm. 5 Star Plus Retail Design was responsible for support with the design development, technical exhibition stand design as well as the production and build both stands.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

MEBO international, a global pharmaceutical company specializing in wound and ulcer treatment, participated in the 29th conference of The European Wound Management Association 2019 in Sweden. The concept of the exhibition stand design was to create a dynamic and modern structure whilst boasting scientific connotations and a stylish aesthetic. 5 Star Plus Retail Design were responsible for the project management and overall production of the exhibition stand.

Image Source: MEBO


Last year we helped with the design and production for a variety of different events from conferences, to delegations, and other networking and promotional events.

Image Source: ecoplus / ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Shanghai

Last April, a delegation from Lower Austria came to China to celebrate and recognize the positive business relationship between China and Lower Austria. As part of this, Advantage Austria hosted a two part Lower Austrian Networking Reception in both Shanghai and Beijing. 5 Star Plus managed the design and production for both events.

Image Source: ecoplus / ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Shanghai

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

Visual Identity & Graphic Design:

Every brand needs to define its visual identity to ensure that the brand positioning and message is communicated across all channels and visual tools. Our team understands the importance of adapting and refreshing visual identity in order to create a strong brand image in China.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

A new brand “LuxStory” antique boutique, co-financed by Huaxia Pawn Shop and Japan KOMEHYO, needed an elegant visual identity design to create a strong brand image in the market. The logo is composed by the letter “L” and “S”. “LuxStory” means "Luxury Story." Combing the colors of gold and brown to create a luxurious and unique feel, 5 Star Plus designed multiple elements including administrative items, packaging, and advertisement posters. The overall visual identity design provides a sophisticated look that creates an international appeal.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

5 Star Plus Industry Insights:

Last year, our marketing team gave talks on variety of Chinese Retail related topics.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Backed by extensive research we focused on three key industry points:

  • A
  • - Storytelling through Retail Design – How to effectively adapt your brand story to speak to Chinese consumers, and the benefits for brands.
  • - New Retail, New Design – Adapting your retail strategy and store design to fit the current needs of Chinese consumers.
  • - How to market yourself better in China – Whether it’s a B2B or B2C company, marketing techniques need to be adapted for China.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Our Managing Director, Barbara Seidlemann, also shared her insights on China Global Television Network’s New Money business program. Her interview demonstrated insight into the importance of aesthetics in both home and retail context, whilst also providing and discussing the design market itself.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Outlook for 2020:

Throughout 2019 we had the opportunity to work with some unique brands and interesting clients to help them achieve their strategic design goals and see success in the retail industry. As the new lunar year has just begun, our goal is to continue providing valuable services to retail brands that help them to achieve their new goals for 2020. We also plan to maintain an up to date knowledge of the Chinese retail market, regulations and the relevant design trends that help us understand the market development. Finally, we seek to foster the relationship with our existing vendors and partners in China so that we can continue providing the best possible quality to our clients. 5 Star Plus Retail Design understands what it means to build up a brand identity and strategically use our services to create a maximum benefit for our customers through creating emotional connections between the customers and the brand. We look forward to creating more impactful designs in the coming year!

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5 Star Plus Storytelling Series: Colors

January 23, 2020

Storytelling with Colors

In the second part of our storytelling series we will discover the effect of colors as a powerful storytelling tool. By using colors we can create any mood and ultimately stories. As humans, our minds instantly respond to these stories.

The psychology of each color depends on the personal experience of the customer as well as the “personality” of the brand. A mix of perceptual and cultural factors combined with the right colors helps create a dynamic environment that ties to a brand’s story and speaks to their consumers’ emotions.

"Visualization of Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions "
Image Source: moraritsipanificatie

Influencing the Mood with Colors

Colors serve as an important storytelling tool, because they create a sensory impression that reflects mood and emotion of a retail space. Psychological studies have shown that feelings of joy and happiness are often associated with warm and bright colors, where as cool hues and dull shadowy tones are more downbeat.

Before brands choose the respective colors for their stores, it is important to decide which hues represent the brand identity in the best way. Brands have to be aware who they are, who their target audience is, what story they want to tell and ultimately what mood they want to create for their customers. Designers also have to think about how the color is used with other elements like text or photos.

The Concept of ‘The Color of the Year’

Every December ‘The Pantone Color of the Year’ is awaited with much excitement and anticipation by designers, branding experts and the creative society as a whole. When the Pantone Color Institute first announced the color of the year in 2000 as a trendsetting concept, it was not known how influential their decision would become for the retail industry.

The Institute does not just randomly choose any color. They follow a very strict evaluation method during the decision making process that takes the current fashion and marketing trends, social media status and even politics into consideration. Their ultimate goal for each year is to select a color that reflects the current global mood. The result is a color that is inspired by us meant to inspire us for the coming year.

Classic Blue

Let’s examine the color of this year and see what its story is! The chosen brand new Color of the Year is Classic Blue. As we entered to a whole new decade, Pantone Institute wanted to pick a color that gives everyone the feeling of good foundation of faith and peace. The main idea behind choosing such a well-known, familiar color is to give us a sense of reassurance.

Image Source: Pantone

If this color was a person, it would be someone who is reliable and creates a calming environment that also brings sense of tranquility to the human spirit. This person would also be able to bring clarity, help with the concentration and ultimately re-center other people’s thoughts.

Classic Blue’s Story

Since 2007 Pantone not only picks a color but also creates a lifestyle, and a whole story around it. As part of their marketing campaign, in collaboration with partners across industries, Pantone created a multi-sensory Classic Blue experience that they showcased at their color reveal ceremony. To help people experience the personality and story of the color, they developed the smell, sound, taste and texture of Classic Blue.

Classic Blue in Retail Design Storytelling

Since colors need to be able to show and tell a brand’s story, spark interest and also inform customers they have to be carefully selected. We would like to show some examples where Classic Blue was incorporated into the retail space storytelling.

Image Source: Dezeen

The images above are good examples of ‘Past meets present’. When designing this café and bakery in Ukraine the designer used Classic Blue and the very contrasting Living coral, the color of 2019, as an accent color to put emphasis on the takeaway area. The color concept is based on the cold shades of pink, blue and grey, which emphasizes the warm color of bread.

Image Source: Dezeen

The nail salon above, located on the Beverly Boulevard in Las Angeles, is surrounded by hip coffee shops and clothing stores. Their uniqueness is in the Japanese style gel that they use. The designer wanted to create a coffee shop style interior with industrial-style surfaces and pops of blue that help represent a sense of discovery while also avoiding the predictable design style to reinforce the fact that this place is everything but an ordinary nail salon.

Image Source: Designboom

The clothing store design above creates sections of different items with use of Classic Blue flooring. It’s a symbolical piece that defines and characterizes the space as a minimal setting in a calm environment.

In general, when it comes to using Classic Blue as part of the retail storytelling, brands express a sense of calm and the feel of luxury with it. Usually it reminisces of the ocean and sky and these elements provoke a sense of peace which is the perfect choice when brands want to create a slow shopping experience.

Finally, let’s not forget that color is about much more than just a nice hue or the perfect shade. In fact, studies have shown that 90 percent of impulse judgments about brands and impulse purchasing are based on colors alone. It’s never the color itself that has this effect, but how well that color complements the brand story.

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Future of Retail Design through the Eyes of GenZ – Pop-up Store

January 22, 2020

We are very excited and eager to show you how pop-up stores will evolve in the future in terms of their impact on the brand and engagement of the customers as seen by GenZ.

Strategic Importance for Brands

The strategic role of pop-up stores is highly concentrated on branding. One way to achieve this is through creative pop-up store design. Since pop-up stores mainly focus more on the products, the designs tend to utilize strong theming centered on the product line itself. Considering the vision of GenZ shoppers, the ideal pop-up stores in the future will need to create a strong, attention-grabbing statement that will attract them into the store. It is also important to make every corner of the store photo and video friendly for GenZ guests to be able to capture and share their experience on-line with friends and followers.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Creative Design Techniques

Our GenZ representatives pictured one possible direction for ideal pop-up stores where the general design is eccentric incorporating art elements. As mentioned before, the store itself is a photo background which can be achieved by playing with different color-combinations, and by making the design look a bit surreal and changeable. GenZ customers need to be surprised in order to catch their attention. Bold colors, dynamic LED light, combined with interesting materials and textures play a big role in achieving an eccentric pop-up store design style. The store design can also have a bit mysterious look from the outside which will likely be grab attention and pull customers inside.

Another idea the GenZ representatives came up with was a pop-up store design that has many different themes that slightly connect through different elements. These ideas are definitely opposite of boring, however it’s important for brands to remember that designs need to be cohesive and not overstimulate customers. If the design style is too busy, it will take away from the strategic goal of branding and highlighting the new products.

Unique Examples for Future Pop-up Stores

The first specific example for the future pop-up store is a space and starts themed concept. Here the products are hanging from the ceiling just as if they floating in sky with shooting stars, while all the walls, floor and ceiling are painted black. As a decorative and surprising element, an astronaut is carried around the store by balloons of planets. The atmosphere is mysterious yet elegant.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The second idea is an underground pop-up store design concept. With the aim of making the store more hidden or mysterious, the location is moved underground. Customers can enter the store from above by stairs or descend using elevators. Customers are already able to see the pop-up store before entering through its glass ceiling. The ceiling is decorated with normal or light graffiti. To make it personalized, the light graffiti has the feature to change shape and color. The floor is painted with black with white paint spots and the whole atmosphere has an artsy, exhibition like vibe.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Future Direction for Brands

The creative works of our GenZ representatives showed us that their vision was completely in line with the direction the retail design industry is heading towards. Even though they are considered to be digital natives, brands tend to forget that GenZ prefers to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. Their decision making during shopping is already quite impulsive when it comes to choosing a store, restaurant or pop-up store to enter. Their preferred choice will always be the one that fulfills their needs for technology unique experience, and creative design. Retailers have to keep in mind that this generation that already holds $44 billion in buying power and have a strong opinion. They want to be amazed and have high expectations when it comes to design.

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Retail Design Trends through the Decades

January 19, 2020

The start of a new decade is always significant. The past 50 years have brought many trends that have come and gone but have seem to come back through strong influences of the World’s geo-political, economic, and sustainability. As 2020 has just begun, we want to analyze retail design trends of the past 50 years and examine what trends are likely to come next.

Innovative 1970’s

The 1970’s was an interesting time for the world. Advancements in technology, innovations in pop culture and geopolitical unrest led to new ideals that opened the minds and expanded the creativity of consumers during this time.

The environmental movement was reflected in design through Earth-toned color palettes including, orange, green, brown, yellow, and blue. The use of greenery in design was not uncommon either.

Image Source: Ochistorical Blogspot

Image Source: Instagram

Terrazzo became a popular material for retail space and is still popular to this day. The speckled marble like material added a sophisticated and colorful effect to the retail design space that could be used for both counters and flooring in stores.

Image Source: Tumblr

Furnishings and lighting utilized sleek and modern geometric shapes that created a futuristic feeling. Common materials for furnishings included vynal, plastic and Scandinavian style wood pieces. Accents of chrome and brass added to the futuristic effect.

Image Source: Pinterest

The first type of omni-channeling also originated in this decade. Colorful catalogs and the introduction of home shopping networks on new color TV sets allowed consumers to browse products at home and place an order over the phone. Items could later be picked up at the store or delivered directly to their home.

" Omni-channel add from the 1970’s "
Image Source: Macleans

Futuristic 1980’s

The 1980’s brought new technologies that truly shaped design trends in this decade, inspiring contemporary designs that created design combinations of bold and soft, and complex and simplistic. Marketers had more information on consumers and could target products towards customer segments more accurately which helped brands to form unique brand identities.

Image Source: Mirror 80

Image Source: Pinterest

Image Source: Pinterest

Geographic shapes, and funky graphic design, combined with minimalism created a fresh new look for retail design in this decade. Materials used for flooring and furnishings stayed relatively the same.

Image Source: Pinterest

Image Source: Tumblr

"Colorful Graphic Design for Shoes in the 1980’s"
Image Source: Pinterest

The Booming 1990’s:

The 1990’s saw similar trends to the 80’s in a more refined way than the previous decade. Large retail brands jumped into the picture and brand identities continued to strengthen having an effect on the design of their retail locations.

Image Source: Frame Publishers

Pale woods, exposed brick and other natural elements of the raw space were incorporated into the retail design of the store to create a more edgy an urban feel. Light fixtures became more standardized and product displays were changed more frequently for each season.

Image Source: Bustle Digital Group

2000’s Begin the New Millennium:

The 2000’s marked the start of the new millennium. The future was here and starting now. Easy access to the internet, and the birth of the smartphone and social media created an uncharted territory for online shopping and advertising. Retail stores began to incorporate more technology into their designs by use of TV displays.

Image Source: Tumblr

"First Apple Store, 2001"
Image Source: Macworld

Nostalgia of the past shaped the trends seen in this decade. Beige and dark woods became a popular retail design trend. Large graphic images and pops of color added to the branded visual identity of the space. In an effort to be more environmentally cautious, reclaimed materials became popular for flooring and fixture design. The use of ceramic wood and carpet tiles became more popular as the decade progressed due to the durability and functionality of the material.

" UGG Store, 2006"
Image Source: UGG

Image Source: Pinterest

Tech-focused 2010’s:

At the beginning of the 2010’s, many markets were still in a recovery period from the Great Recession that came at the end of the last decade. This led to very minimalistic design styles. Early trends focused on simplistic and functional design styles that incorporated the raw space as part of the retail design. Exposed brick, air ducts, and polished cement flooring became a common trend. With advancements in technology and increased consumer interest for online shopping, retail design started to focus more on creating a slow-shopping experience for consumers.

As the economy picked up speed, retailers began to focus more on consumers experience in the design of their stores, thus leading to the creation of New Retail and omni-channel strategies. LED screens and in store technology and personalization of products and shopping experience. It was during this decade that retailers realized a brand could be equally successful online and began implementing aggressive strategies to reach consumers through all channels of shopping.

Image Source: David Dalziel

The 2010’s saw many waves of mini-retail design trends that were common in the previous decades in order to feed consumer’s desires of nostalgia. Lifestyle branding also became an important part of building a deeper connection to consumers.

"70’s Inspired design "
Image Source: Interior Design

"80’s inspired design"
Image Source: Best Design Books

"90’s Inspired design"
Image Source: PAGE

Outlook for the Next Decade:

A look at the past 50 years of retail design allow us to see its course of evolution. As the world enters the new decade, retailers can expect that nostalgic retail design will continue to be a trend. Retailers will likely master how to effectively implement new retail strategy for their brand and in turn continue building deeper connections to their consumers. Lifestyle branding, slow-shopping, and omni-channel strategies will continue to be highly important for the success of brick-and-mortar retail. The use of sustainable materials for construction will become a standard practice for all retailers. Retail brands will rework their brand identity with more future forward strategies in an effort to continue increasing sales across all platforms.

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The Store of the Future, Designed by GenZ: The Ideal Restaurant

December 24, 2019

In our article last month we introduced the “Fashion Store of the Future” designed by a group of 16-17 years-old representatives of Generation Z. During the project the students created hand drawn sketches to illustrate their ideas. The results have advanced technology and personalization for the maximization of customer experience at the core - in line with the New Retail philosophy of retail design. In this second article we present their ideas for the “Ideal Restaurant of the Future.”

The Ideal Restaurant Design and its Key Features

What does the dream restaurant of Generation Z look like? We wanted them to think outside the box. What are design elements that further enhance the dining experience? What makes the experience unique and unforgettable? What design elements or technology can cause a surprise effect? What can exceed dine-in expectations? How does Generation Z imagine the restaurant design of the future? The young participants of our project group all agreed that the real difference - aside from the most obvious, the quality of the food – would be the comfort and personalization delivered by modular elements and technology.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Dining Table – Full Customization to Suit the Occasion

Placing orders through technology and gadgets rather than with a paper menu is already becoming more of a common practice nowadays, but in the restaurant of the future customers will only order their meals and drinks using touch screens at their table. The ordering system is very advanced with screens that are not only water proof but also 100% self-cleaning and germ-free, just like the table itself. The seating can be altered depending on how many guests need to be seated. For a smaller group, chairs can be sized for an individual, and for larger events they can be expanded to accommodate 2-3 people. Keeping sustainability in mind, every piece of furniture will be created from recycled or reclaimed materials.

Image Source: Guess Where I'm Writing From?

The intensity of the light can be adjusted for each table so customers feel in control of the mood, suiting formal business events, a meetup with friends or romantic dinners. Drinks are served on conveyer belts similar to the system already in use at some sushi restaurants. Vytopna Railway Restaurant, a train themed restaurant in Prague, has in fact implemented a similar concept with small trains that deliver the ordered drinks right to the tables.

See it, Smell it, Order it

Choosing meals from the interactive menu will be a more visual and fun experience. Menus will create a 4-D experience using holographic and sensory technology to display different meal options. Once a food item is selected, a holograph of the dish will appear and guests can smell it by gently wafting their hand towards their nose. The entirety of the ordering process will create a fun interactive experience that will likely increase the guest’s overall satisfaction with their meal, instead of the current selection process that can sometimes be a hit or miss choice. To make the experience even more personalized, guests will be able to customize their own food based on their dietary needs and preferences. After they order, the software will collect this information and provide recommendations and health tips. When they return to the restaurant, new recommendations will be given based on their previous visit.

Color and Mood Changing Bar Counter that Provides Information

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

When sitting at the bar, guests will realize that the entire counter is an interactive LED screen that can be used to see and browse information regarding the date, time, weather, news, recommendations and of course order drinks. The style and color of the counter top can be easily changed based on the design preferences of the restaurant. During the daytime, the restaurant can set the counter to be a bright solid color and during the evening a color changing mode can be set to create a more dynamic and fun atmosphere.

What Comes Next?

Getting great insights into the imagination and requirements for the future from Generation Z inspired us to continue this project. In the third and last part of this series next month we will present the most exciting “Pop-up Store of the Future”, developed to attract customers from GenZ.

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Maximizing your Image through State of the Art Window Design
5 Star Plus Series: Excellent Retail Design in China

December 16, 2019

Retail stores serve as an important tool for marketing a retail brand to consumers. Advancements in technology have created trends that come and go at a quicker pace and faster consumer learning curves for Chinese consumers. Excellent design needs to reflect the needs of the Chinese market now in order to drive sales.

Key Goals of Retail Design

Retail design starts with a concept that achieves key goals for the brand. While specific goals vary for brands, there four key design goals that should be kept in mind for retailers which include:

  • • Brand story
  • • Attractive retail window displays
  • • Retail experience
  • • Technology integration

When combined into retail design, achievement enables retailers to successfully increase brand awareness and sales.

From the Outside In

Attractive window displays play an important role in marketing for brands. The first impression for consumers is the retail window display of products. Window displays have to be attractive, enticing, and occasionally interactive. The design goal of a window display is to attract customers and lead them into the store. Window displays should also tie to the brand story of the company and its products.

"Retail Displays"
Image Source: TIME

A strong example of retail window display design in China is the German athletic brand, Adidas. This retailer has a strong brand presence in top tier one cities in China. They also have the largest flagship store in Asia located in Beijing China. Their four story location in Sanlitun features striking window displays that are changed periodically depending on the season or products they want to promote.

"Adidas Flagship Store in Sanlitun"
Image Source: imondi

Last October, they created an impactful design for the upcoming Beijing Marathon to promote a new line of running shoes.

Adidas Store, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Their most recent display highlights their new line of ‘boost’ shoes. A key product feature is the comfort sole that gives the wearer a ‘cloudlike’ feeling. To show this in the display they adapted a cartoon-like cloud often seen in Children’s stories in China. The use of LED displays and dynamic lighting help to attract attention, create excitement, and connect to consumers on a deeper level, leading them into the store.

Adidas Store, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Shanghai has a number of Adidas locations throughout the city that are much smaller than the flagship store in Beijing. These stores specialize in specific products and take on a window display that connects to this.

Adidas Store, Shanghai
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Their location on the popular tourist street, East Nanjing Lu, features products mainly seen as part of leisure wear. The smaller window space is maximized by highlighting key products in attractive displays and utilizes the logo design in the entryway to draw the eye to a featured product inside the store. This display leads the passerby into the store to see the product more closely.

Adidas Store, Shanghai
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Another location in Shanghai’s Jing ’an district focuses specifically on two styles of shoes for running and basketball. Each side of the store features a specialized window display that relates to the products themselves. For the running side, a map of Shanghai along with bright LED lighting that reads ‘Boost Shanghai’ draws attention to the various products and mannequins on display wearing Adidas products. The main entryway also features a map-like wall where different running shoes are displayed below a slogan that reads ‘boost your run.’

Adidas Store, Shanghai
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The other side of the store is centered towards basketball and features mannequins playing basketball in front of a basketball court shaped LED screen. The screen shows different videos that highlight product features and shows some popular NBA players in China wearing Adidas products on the court.

Adidas Store, Shanghai
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Excellent Retail Window Display Design Enhanices Retal Strategy

Retail stores serve as an important marketing tool for retail brands. Effective retail window display design is just one element that helps to achieve the design goals of a retail store. The strategic role of window display design is to attract customers into the store while also exposing them to the brand’s identity. Thoughtful planning and design creates consumer interests that will enhance the overall retail strategy ultimately increasing sales.

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5 Star Plus Storytelling Series: Emotions

November 26, 2019

About our Storytelling Series

Storytelling is a powerful tool that make audiences relate to brands through content. If brands utilize it correctly, it can educate, entertain, and engage customers. It is a great tool for building a strong brand reputation. But what is storytelling exactly? This is what we will explore in this series of articles. In the first one we would like to show how storytelling can effect emotions and through these emotions build stronger brand loyalty.

How to Connect to Consumers?

Storytelling can bring the brand to life, humanizing it through all aspects of the physical world that appeals to each of the five senses. Consumers can not only see the brand’s story, but also hear, smell or touch it. To go one step further, brands build a deeper connection to their brand story through emotions.

"Reinventing Retail"
Image Source: Fashion United

The ultimate goal of storytelling for retailers is to forge a strong emotional bond between the brand and its customers. Once they connect to a consumer’s heart and mind, the consumer feels this and holds a sense of loyalty making it harder for other brands to tempt them with a single offer. Using this engagement and retention tool, companies can easily communicate their brand values. Brand values can communicate a brand’s origin, objective, and distinct qualities about the ingredients and components of their products. To achieve this they have to be able to answer the following questions. What is the exact message they want to convey? Is there a statement they want consumers to believe in or a heritage they want them to be proud of? Is there anything special, or unique about the product or its ingredients? Is there a mission that the brand is striving to achieve? Are there any additional services included and is there anything interesting about the store design and merchandising?

When it comes to luxury brands, their ultimate goal is to establish connection with the customer on three different levels. The first is the connection to the brand itself, the second level is to the product, and the third level is with the sales consultant.

Best Practices

Let’s first explore some really good examples from the Chinese market starting with Starbucks. Their brand advantage is that they don’t make a story about products; they make the story about people. They make sure to connect with their customers in all possible ways from the lingo of the beverage sizes to writing customer names on the cups. By writing the names of the customers the cashier indicates a more personal contact. In the largest Starbucks in Shanghai, customers get an amusement park-like experience all while drinking their favorite Starbucks drink. Customers can walk through the store and see many processes of how their favorite coffee drink comes together. From viewing areas of fresh beans being roasted to the tubes that transport the beans directly to a barista for packaging and roasting. A large retro board displays what type of beans are currently being roasted that also shows information about taste and origin. Customers can also experience French and Italian style food and pastries that pair well with their coffee. Every aspect of the design is about creating experience through entertaining and educating customers.

"Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai"
Image Source: Business Insider

"The Rise of the Experience Economy"
Image Source: Ellen Lupton: Design is Storytelling, 2017

Lush, a cosmetics brand from the UK, builds their whole story around the following words: fresh, handmade, ethical, transparent and honest. These statements come to life in every detail of their stores. Customers connect to their values through sight, smell, sound, touch and even taste. Shop assistants are called “happy people.” Customers are invited to refresh themselves before exploring the store and trying out the products. Some of the fresh ingredients used to make the products, such as plants can be found in the stores as well. Their goal is not only selling products, but educating people about being environmentally conscious. They don’t try to hide anything, rather proudly show off that they fight against animal testing, and that all the ingredients in their products are 100% vegan, ethically purchased and handmade. They even place a drawn image of the employee who created that specific product. All of these elements combined help tell the story of their brand as exposed, raw and honest.

" Largest Lush store opens in Singapore"
Image Source: The Straits Times

" Demonstrating and Storytelling in Retail"
Image Source: Start Reverse

Emotional Journey

A customer’s relationship to a certain product or service changes and evolves over time. The customer’s energy rises and falls as they feel curiosity, pleasure and satisfaction. They may also hit negative stages with frustration, anger or doubt. Their emotions towards a brand can be shown visually using journey maps. The difference between a simple plot and an emotional journey map is that a plot shows a series of events that make up a story, while an emotional journey map shows the feelings that inspire those events. Emotional journey maps help designers to think like the customers, and anticipate the potential lows and highs they encounter on their journey. This tool helps brands to understand and improve their customer’s relationship with a product or service.

"Emotional Journey of Finding a Summer Course"
Image Source: Ellen Lupton: Design is Storytelling, 2017

Building a Deeper Story

Retail brands keep discovering how to move from a more product-centric focus to a consumer-centric retail model through storytelling. They make use of the fact that stories help consumers remember things. They have control over the flow of information and when done right, they engage emotions. Once consumers are emotionally involved there is a significant impact on purchase decision-making. In the next article we will explore the different techniques that influence the human mind through design. We will show how utilizing these techniques can have an effect on customers.

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The Store of the Future, Designed by GenZ: Fashion Stores

November 13, 2019

The Future of Retail

At 5 Star Plus Retail Design, we are excited to present you the "Store of the Future". Are you curious how stores will look like in the year 2100 and what retail brands need to know to evolve and cater to younger generations? We had the opportunity to discover the answers to these questions working with GenZ representatives. In this article of our new series we present their image of what the “Fashion Store of the Future” will feel like.

Welcome to the Future

It’s all about experience and convenience. We asked our trainees to brainstorm ideas for the ideal “fashion store in the year 2100”. Imagination was allowed to go free and disruptive thinking was encouraged. The concept we received incorporated a strong design perspective in line with the New Retail philosophy: personalization with advanced technology for maximized customer experience and convenience. The store of the future will be all about maximizing the personal experience of consumers.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Politically Correct, Holographic Mannequins

Personalization happens from the very first second when entering the store and even before that. The mannequins presenting the newest collections in the store and part of the window displays all look different. They talk to customers having a different cultural, ethic and linguistic background from all around the world. In our “Store of the Future” the mannequins are placed on holographic pedestals and are able to change their body size, shape and color. This depends on the actual consumer demand making them highly adaptive and more human-like. Special materials are applied to shock and surprise: glass for the flooring and walls, and marble for the ceiling.

Intelligent Fitting Rooms for the Maximization of Space

The fitting rooms are tube shaped areas with transparent or holographic walls when not in use. They disappear, become part of the overall space, making the open area bigger and maximizing space in the most efficient way. Once a fitting room is occupied, the same walls turn into mirrors.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Virtual Fashion Advisor

A must have - the virtual fashion advisor. This artificial intelligence system analyzes the body shape and preferences of the customer and then proposes different product options. The fashion advisor then shows how a whole set of products would look on the customer using holographic technology.

Minimizing the Stock, Maximizing the Experience

In the shopping area the amount of clothes on display are kept at a minimum. A giant LED screen serves as an interactive catalogue. The selected items emerge from behind the screen, out of the wall. Clothing racks also appear from the ceiling or even from the ground. These surprise effects get customers both excited and entertained.

Payment Without Moving a Finger

Face recognition is used as the supporting technology for payment transactions. Once customers register, their face is linked to their bank account. The system recognizes which customer purchased a specific item and will automatically debit the account.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

About the World Traineeship Week

In order to get answers to our questions and gain valuable insights from this very interesting young generation which will play an important role in future retail, we partnered with BenCham to host four students from the Netherlands for four days. They took part in actual projects as well as brainstorming and the discussion of ideas. In the second article of this series we will present their view on the ideal restaurant design and features. We are excited. Stay tuned for more coming soon!

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Designing for Your Target Market

October 30, 2019

Customizing Store Design in China

Retail design in China plays a huge role in customer experience therefore stores need to target their audience with a customized design that is suitable for them.

In China the central government urged local governments to help companies to improve the layout of physical shops. They wanted to achieve a real circulation revolution in the retail sector by reducing rent and easing restrictive terms about decoration and remodeling.

How to Design for the Main Age Groups?

In this article we would like to show how learning about the Chinese demographics can help companies to create a store design with ease and make something their customers can relate to.

1. Baby Boomers

In China a very strong shopping power comes from the aged. In 2018 17.9% of the population was over 60 years old. The estimate for 2025 is 25%. Their annual consumption is RMB300 billion which makes them a demography worth focusing on.

According to statistics, around 30 million Taobao and Tmall users are older than 50. They spent an average of $794 online in 2017. The Taobao for Elders app is aimed to simplify the shopping experience for elders. Some of these features are streamlining payment methods, customizing shopping recommendations, and digitally connecting with children.

This demographic is experiencing a growth in purchasing power as well as free time. They are the most frequent users of WeChat with 80 percent of their cell phone data used on the app, compared to just 6.8 percent by Millennials.

When it comes to store design they prefer a classic, simplified design as they want to find out information easily. They like retail stores that are not too crammed with stuff. Products should be placed in a breezy manner. Proper lighting is crucial for any customer but especially important for this generation so they don’t have to strain their eyes.

Regarding any written signs or numbers in the store, the general rule of thumb is to have a font that is large enough to be easily readable but not too large so it would make them feel offended.

Baby Boomers value the painless returns process. Retailers should pay attention to this need and reevaluate or modify the design and flow of their returns counter. This could improve efficiency, ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

"Report says China's seniors are avid online users"
Image Source: CGTN

2. Generation X

This generation is referred to as the often-overlooked middle child who were born between 1964 and 1981. Meanwhile boomers and millennials get a lot of attention from retailers, studies show that this generation spends the most on groceries and other products. In China they make up the biggest part of the new Chinese middle class which was only 4% of the population in 2000 but it has reached more than 30% by 2018. Their shopping habits are more conservative than other generations which means they are more skeptical towards different marketing tools, they need a rational explanation and proof. Just like boomers they also appreciate quality service and brand loyalty.

When it comes to design they also prefer clear, obvious information. They like to see comparisons in the store together with reviews so they can make an easier decision.

"Move Over Millennials – Chinese Gen X are Just as Sexy"
Image Source: The Luxury Conversation

3. Millennials

Millennials, also known as Generation Y were born after 1981 and before 1996. In China they make up 28.4% of the whole population. This generation grew up using internet, mobile phones, they are good at multi-tasking which makes it quite difficult to keep their attention. They want to get all necessary information quickly, they prefer images and short, concise written content.

For Chinese Millennials traditional retail is still essential, but it has to be integrated with the online journey. A good example is Alibaba’s offline shop, Hema where customers use Hema’s mobile app to scan barcodes throughout the store so they can find out more information about the product.

"For holiday spending, Chinese consumers favor brick and mortar"
Image Source: technode

If you want to make your store design appeal to millennials try to keep a minimalistic approach, keep the design crisp, neat and tidy. They prefer quality over quantity so they are more likely to go into a store that has a high-end, elegant, upscale layout and design.

In terms of store identity design, easy navigation and a logical layout within the store is very important for them, as they are not as patient as the previous generations. They dislike loud, busy stores, and instead look for an environment with a calming atmosphere, where they can rest, relax and feel welcome. You can achieve this effect with a simple well curated space with fewer products. Natural tones and a limited color palette could be a solution. Colors taken from nature like pale green, sky blue, sand beige and white can make customers feel relaxed. It is possible to enhance this feeling with sound and taste. Natural sounds like wind blowing through the trees, babbling brooks or calm tranquil in store music combined with relaxing scents can help to create a feeling of a special oasis for the soul.

Phone charging outlets and free Wi-Fi in the waiting room is quite essential for this and the next generation as well. Finally, millennials are really open to humor, whether from novel, mannequin, playful imagery or witty signs.

Image Source: Pinterest

4. Generation Z

Generation Z, also known as iGeneration, is the generation who were born after 1996. Chinese Gen Z spend more money compared to their global peers. Only 75% of them are saving money compared to 85% of Gen-Zs globally. They have a spend more, worry less attitude and they value experience over products.

Even though this generation is digital native and much of their research is digital, Generation Z prefer to structure their shopping as a social activity with their friends. They still rely on their parents as financial safety nets, so they tend to spend money in a more careless way on luxury goods. Chinese Gen Z shoppers are impulse buyers. They more likely will go into any stores that look attractive to them. These attractive elements can be a great store window display, eye-catching sales sign, and interior design with a special lighting or theme.

In order to attract them the store has to keep up with their technological needs. Beside a strong social media presence, stores should provide a technology driven shopping experience including touchscreens and VR.

Regarding store identity design, Generation Z in China orient by contrast and color before exploring product features. They don’t look up when shopping and all signage is invisible for them. Music signifies that the business is open meanwhile silence suggests closing time.

Let’s see the differences in the influencer marketing between the two younger generation. Top-tier influencers and KOLs with a large number of followers don’t have a strong influence on Gen Z. However their parents who are mostly Millennials do trust in their opinion and see these people as trusted authority. Chinese Gen Zers are more likely to connect with people like their peers whom they can relate to. They are less interested in following mass trends.

Image Source: Pinterest


Customizing your store design for certain Chinese demographics can really help to communicate clearly the value you are offering to your target. For that you have to figure out what who your audience is. How old are they? What kind of things do they do? What music do they listen to? What products do they use? What do they feel and even more importantly what would they like to feel when they step into your store?

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Exhibition Stand Buildup for tectos at the Automotive Testing Expo China 2019

October 21, 2019

At this year’s Automotive Testing Expo China 2019 in Shanghai, tectos hosted a 42 sqm exhibition stand design build up executed by 5 Star Plus Retail Design. This was the first time for tectos to participate in an exhibition in China. The Automotive Testing Expo took place September 24 – 26 and featured over 300 exhibitors that welcomed thousands of visitors each day. This exhibition is the largest for vehicle component testing and validation technology and related services in China.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Austrian company brand name tectos actually stands for three parts that make up their core business. “tec” refers to technology, “to” refers to tools, and “s” refers to the solutions they find for customers. These three parts combined allow tectos to explore and implement high quality technology and tools to provide advanced safety and testing of engines and other automotive components.

To showcase their brand in China, tectos needed a stand that allowed guests to see the high-quality craftsmanship of their products and engineering services. 5 Star Plus Retail Design was responsible for the execution and support of the stand design provided by tectos. An eye-catching wave-wall in the brand colors of blue and white immediately drew guests to the stand to explore and learn more about tectos solutions. The open concept allowed for products to be displayed around the edges of the stand enabling guests to interact with the stand no matter what direction they were coming from. Putting a strong focus on the services provided by tectos created a buzz and brought many visitors to the stand throughout the exhibition. 5 Star Plus Retail Design also was responsible for the implementation of the technical exhibition stand design as well as the production and build the stand.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The tectos stand at the Shanghai Automotive Testing Exhibition generated a lot of excitement for their brand in the Chinese market. The exhibition served as a great chance for international brands to come together to reinforce their presence in China’s automotive industry. It was a pleasure for our 5 Star Plus Retail Design team to work with a dynamic brand creating impact through their technology in the automotive industry and we look forward to the future success of tectos in China’s market.

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KJUS Flagship Store: Opening Soon

October 8, 2019

About the Brand

KJUS is a Swiss-based, internationally operating brand, targeting 35 to 50 year olds who pursue high quality sportswear. The brand is named after the co-founder and Norwegian ski champion Lasse Kjus. KJUS has stores in 33 countries and now wishes to enter the Chinese market. 5 Star Plus Retail Design has been assigned to create a store identity design concept for the whole of China, one that fits the future-oriented vision of the brand and the high-tech clothing. 5 Star Plus Retail Design is currently working on a KJUS flagship store design in Beijing, which will open in December 2019.

Image Source: KJUS

Enhancing Customer Experience

The purpose of the flagship store in Beijing is to create a memorable customer experience, where consumers can try on and test KJUS sportswear, and ultimately develop a deeper connection with the brand.

The entrance of the store was equipped with an iconic KJUS product display which explains the core value and technological aspect of the product to customers. The central part of the product display combined LED touch screen and backplane elements to introduce the brand’s product story. There is also a comfortable VIP lounge and fitting room serving high-quality coffee where customers can try on KJUS sportswear, thus emphasizing the high-end positioning of the brand.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Design Concept

For the design concept, we wanted to create a futuristic, high-tech and luxury feel. In order to achieve this, we used cool, modern, and high-end materials such as metal and stone; since using stone elements in retail fixture and stone-look flooring creates a more luxury feel to the store. Another important element which communicated luxury was to ensure there was enough empty space in the store, without displaying too many SKUs.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

In order to establish KJUS as a state of the art sportive luxury brand, we used special lighting effects and technological advancements to explain product features, key products and collections. As seen in the rendering above, we used a self-illuminated frame structure with a light transmissive acrylic sheet inside. This special lighting effect emphasizes the cutting-edge technology of the product.

The LED large screen and futuristic cash register were installed at the focal point of the store entrance with a metal background wall and ceiling lighting. The dynamic LED screen attracts customers into the store, while the combination of light and material highlights the brand technology.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Since the store is located inside a shopping mall, it has to be eye catching and have a strong visual impact. Metal was used to emphasize the brand positioning of the KJUS store as a technological brand and to help the brand stand out from its competitors. Although other KJUS stores typically use wood, in this scenario wood does not achieve a futuristic feeling as it is considered a classic material. However, using wood on a smaller-scale helped to draw a connection to the Switzerland-born brand. As shown in the rendering above, a wooden background was used for some of the high-rack equipment, as well as wooden tables, which helped to create some warmth in an otherwise cool space.

In terms of accent colors, there are two dominating colors that separate the store into two main functional zones. The main sales zone has more grey colors, creating a background for colorful clout whilst generating a luxury feel and futuristic appeal. Since most of the traffic is concentrated on the right side of the store, a brand-colored “KJUS” orange wall was set up on the left side as a secondary visual attraction. This contrasts with the coolness of the stone and metal in the store, increasing visual impact and guiding people further into the store.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Overall, the design concept for the KJUS flagship store wholly emphasizes the high quality and price of the product so that consumers are aware it is a luxury brand. Once completed, the success of this design concept could lead to its implementation in other countries in the near future.

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Exhibition Stand Design for Silhouette at CIOF 2019

September 30, 2019

At this year’s China International Optics Fair 2019, Silhouette hosted a 140 sqm exhibition stand design build up executed by 5 Star Plus Retail Design. This was the second time for Silhouette to participate in an exhibition in China this year. The Optics Fair took place earlier this month on September 9 – 11 and featured over 700 exhibitors that welcomed thousands of visitors each day. This was the 32nd International Optics Fair in Beijing.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The prestigious eyewear brand from Austria hosted an elegant and modern exhibition space using a white color scheme with accents of bright colors. The exhibition stand design was created with clean cut lines and minimal displays to showcase Silhouette’s unique and elegant products. The central element of the concept was an attention-grabbing feature wall with a 3-meter-wide video screen and a sloping panel design framed by two LED strips that connected this area with the entrance of the stand. The exterior of the stand had transparent screens to create an exclusive sense of privacy for guests inside while also allowing others to walk by and see Silhouette’s exclusive brand designs. 5 Star Plus Retail Design was responsible for the execution of the stand including support with the design development. 5 Star Plus Retail Design also was responsible in the implementation of the technical exhibition stand design as well as the production and build the stand.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Silhouette stand at CIOF generated a lot of excitement for their brand in the Chinese market. CIOF served as a great chance for international brands to come together to reinforce their presence in China’s Optic industry. At 5 Star Plus Retail Design, we have thoroughly enjoyed working with Silhouette to provide to them a stand that feels as luxurious as their products and hope to achieve continued success in our future design projects.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Readers can view and learn about other projects 5 Star Plus Retail Design implemented on the website below or by searching 5 Star Plus Retail Design on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn.

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Chinese Festivals and Consumer Spending Trends

September 16, 2019

Chinese festivals have long been a central component of Chinese culture, but in recent years the country’s flourishing economy and rising affluence has led to increased spending over festival periods. Opportunities arise from these festivals for marketers to raise enthusiasm for shopping among Chinese consumers. There is an element of change in the air as consumers are on the hunt for something new and exciting, thus creating the perfect opportunity for new brands entering the Chinese market to become recognised. This article will examine consumer spending trends over five key Chinese festival periods which foreign businesses entering the Chinese market are sure to benefit from.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is undoubtedly the most important festival in China. According to data collected by ‘EDITED’, sales for this year’s week-long festival reached a record height of 1.01 trillion yuan ($149 billion), equaling 8.5% growth on last year. During this festival, Chinese consumers mostly spend their money on food and gifts for their family.

In a graph showing China’s monthly retail sales between 2018 and 2019 (Trading Economics), there is a significant spike in retail sales before and after the Chinese New Year celebration in 2019. Retail sales in China increased by 0.83% in January and by 0.92% in March. However, in February sales dropped drastically to 0.38%, proving that the Chinese don’t shop much over the duration of the festival. Marketers should consider starting their promotional campaigns three to four weeks prior to the festival, since Chinese New Year shopping sprees are now beginning two to three weeks before the actual festival. Post-Chinese New Year spending is equally increasing, as consumers are keen to splurge their hongbao (red packet) money, which gives retailers the opportunity to further optimise sales for an extra three to four weeks after Chinese New Year.

"What’s the significance of Lunar New Year red envelopes?"
Image Source: The Seattle Times

Qixi Festival

The Qixi Festival is the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. Although the Chinese also celebrate Western Valentine’s Day, a report jointly released by Ctrip and Suning confirmed that this year flower bookings over the Qixi Festival period surpassed those on Western Valentine’s Day. The Qixi Festival is a celebration for couples, benefiting mostly the hospitality and tourism sector in China.

Many businesses utilize this festival period to maximize sales through promotional campaigns, discounts and gift packages. During the Qixi Festival this year, many luxury brands released limited edition collections, such as Gucci’s limited Slyvie mini-bag, Michael Kors’s graffiti collection and YSL’s limited Qixi gift set. Valentino was head and shoulders above other luxury brands striving to stand out, thanks to its innovative marketing strategy that created an element of mystery and desire. Valentino’s limited edition LOVE collection was introduced to audiences through a video on WeChat, featuring the brand’s ambassadors dressed in items from the collection and holding a mysterious gift box for Qixi. The contents of the box remained a secret, which generated curiosity among consumers and prompted purchases of this desirable, limited-quantity gift. The first batch of boxes sold out within 20 minutes of release, leading the brand to release a second set of boxes which quickly sold out as well.

"Why Valentino Wins the Chinese Valentine’s Day Game"
Image Source: Luxury Society

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, and falls this year on 13th September. Families and friends typically get together to have dinner and to do activities such as moon gazing, eating moon cakes and guessing riddles. The celebratory mooncake treat is now being used by luxury brands to lure in Chinese millennials. For example, local designers in China are using mooncake boxes as incentives for VIP customers. The Mid-Autumn Festival is the best time for marketers to focus on branding as September is a major month for new collections. Whilst mooncakes still remain the traditional and most-bought gift, Chinese consumers are also actively looking for more creative presents to give to their relatives and friends. Therefore, marketers should take advantage of the Mid-Autumn Festival period to produce innovative ideas for marketing their gifts.

"Mooncakes and More! Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival!"
Image Source: Little Passports

Golden Week

Golden Week is a seven-day holiday from 1st to 7th October. It is a major travel period and generates a huge number of migrations. In the graph showing China’s monthly retail sales between 2018 and 2019 (Trading Economics), sales in October 2018 surged to 0.74%. This notable increase is likely to have been driven by the Golden Week festivities. During last year’s Golden Week, the number of Chinese tourists travelling overseas grew more than 8% from the previous year to reach nearly 7 million consumers. According to data released by Alipay, there were 2.2 times as many overseas in-store transactions during Golden Week 2018 compared to 2017, while the average total spend per user also increased by 30% to RMB 1,979 ($288) from the previous year’s RMB 1,534 ($223). This data reflects an annual increase in the number of tourists and total spending, highlighting a growing desire for foreign goods in China. With the large migration numbers that occur, Golden Week opens up opportunities for foreign businesses to increase brand awareness and sales.

Single’s Day Festival

The Single’s Day festival, also known as Double Eleven, is held on November 11th in China. Previously, this festival didn’t generate a large amount of spending, but since Taobao launched a 24-hour super discount during the festival period, Single’s Day now drives huge sales. According to data released by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, a record of RMB 213.5 billion ($30.8 billion) worth of products were sold over Single’s Day in 2018. As reported by Alibaba, over 40% of Single’s Day consumers purchased international brands, including Apple, Dyson, Kindle, Nike and Adidas. Popular sales items included health supplements, apparel, cosmetics and beauty products, mobile accessories, and everyday consumer goods. Shanghai shoppers spent the most among Chinese regions, followed by Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. Evidently, international products are in high demand during this festival period, rendering it the perfect opportunity for foreign brands to push promotional campaigns. For Single’s Day 2018, Farfetch created a mobile game on WeChat to test fans’ knowledge of the luxury brand. The winners got a chance to win a special Single’s Day gift package. This was an ingenious marketing campaign, as the interactive game not only captivated the audience’s attention but also educated them about the brand.

"Jing Daily’s Picks for the Top WeChat Luxury Campaigns of 2018"
Image Source: JingDaily

Overall, these annual festivals play a significant role in Chinese society and therefore greatly influence Chinese consumer trends. It is highly beneficial for foreign brands to understand the importance of Chinese festivals and how they impact the Chinese consumer market because it gives an indication of when the most suitable periods for promotional discounts and branding are.

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Translating Your Offline Experience to Grow Online

September 27, 2019

In China, the younger demographics are driving the growth of retail e-commerce sales, which leaves brick-and-mortar stores with the challenge of devising a new retail strategy. Brick-and-mortar stores have therefore transitioned from general retail stores into flagship stores showcasing the brand and giving customers a real-life experience, which is something online retail platforms cannot compete with. Through the seamless integration of omnichannel retailing, these offline experiences contribute to the growth of online presence and drive sales.

Omnichannel Retailing in China

The China market has emerged as the world’s omnichannel capital. As 82% of Chinese luxury consumers use a combination of online and offline channels to make purchases, brands are merging the online omnichannel and physical offline retail models to create flexible and gratifying experiences. One of the first steps in the omnichannel process is seamless channel integration. This ensures consistency across the retailer’s physical and digital channels, such as uniform pricing and assortment across all channels.

Retailers wishing to succeed in the Chinese market must enable consistent customer experience across various channels, as this enhances customer engagement. They must develop an omnichannel strategy with high interconnectivity across channels. For example, many companies in China now provide retail store pickup for online purchases. This service requires the online sales function to maintain close communication with retail stores, so that when the customer visits a specific store, their orders and products are available for pick up.

In order to enhance customer experience, giving the customer a voice is also essential. Leading companies should create platforms such as discussion forums to allow customers to share their opinions with fellow customers. This provides non-biased reviews from previous customers, thus developing trust in the product.

"How Omnichannel Retail Marketing Drives Sales?"
Image Source: Rishabh Software

The Role of Flagship Stores in Retail Strategy

Flagship stores are an effective countering strategy in sectors where there is an increasing trend towards online channels. The DJI Shanghai Flagship Store consists of 2 stories and is built with European-style columns and glass windows, creating a fusion of art and technology. The ‘Flight Area’ gives customers the opportunity to experiment with cutting-edge technologies and to enjoy flight demonstrations of the DJI drones. In the ‘DJI Story Corner’ room, the DJI’s development history is projected on a curved screen. Lastly, the ‘Product Gallery’ room displays all DJI products with touchscreens readily available for customers to learn more about specific products. This flagship store provides a unique and memorable customer experience and displays the brand’s history, all of which contributes to further promotion of the brand.

"DJI Opens Its Second China Flagship Store in Shanghai"
Image Source: DJI

Brick-and-mortar Design Elements That Tie to Online Platforms

According to data from ‘QuestMobile’, the number of monthly active users on mobile shopping in China reached 997 million in June 2019, an increase of 15.9% YoY. Since Chinese consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and demand transparency, physical retail stores need to incorporate the latest technology into their retail design. For example, the Yves Saint Laurent store in Shanghai has added augmented reality screens that use facial recognition to enable customers to virtually try on different makeup looks.

"The Future of Luxury: First Comes the App, Then Comes the Store"
Image Source: Jing Daily

E-commerce platforms have realised that having an online presence is no longer enough. Xiaohongshu (RED), China’s popular social e-commerce platform attests to this phenomenon. On 16th June 2018, Xiaohongshu launched its first offline store RED Home in Shanghai. Interestingly, the staff who designed the store had no previous offline retail experience. It was rather their years in online retail that led them to think outside the box when it came to the store’s layout, décor and technological integration.

RED Home has screens located throughout the store, designated for product reviews. Customers can bring a store item over to the screen, which will show review posts about that particular product on the Xiaohongshu app. The Xiaohongshu platform centers around a community who love to snap and upload photos of their lives online. With this in mind, the store aims to be a selfie-lovers paradise, having clearly been designed to give its customers the ultimate shopping experience.

"The Future of Luxury: First Comes the App, Then Comes the Store"
Image Source: Jing Daily

Aside from Xiaohongshu, there are many other online retailers who have expanded their offline footprint in order to improve brand penetration and further develop their brand. For example, Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi now has 2,000 exclusive Mi Stores across India in aim to increase its presence in small towns and rural areas. According to Xiaomi India’s managing director, these stores will help the company to reach its target of driving 50% of sales through the offline channel by year-end. Xiaomi expanded into offline retail in India in 2017, and experts say it was this push that enabled the company to surpass South Korea’s Samsung as the top handset manufacturer in the country.

Overall, it is clear that in order to succeed in the Chinese market, retailers must seamlessly connect their online and offline stores, ensuring consistency along all channels and giving customers a completely unified shopping experience. By incorporating an omnichannel retail strategy into their design concept, brick-and-mortar stores can provide the ultimate customer experience and significantly increase their retail sales.

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Adapting Visual Identity and Store Design for Chinese Consumers

August 29, 2019

Having a visual identity that appeals to locals is not only essential but imperative in any market. In an age where pictures are constantly being posted on social media your store design is a key part of your visual identity. An easily identifiable design that leaves a long lasting and favorable impression can go a long way in establishing yourself in the Chinese Market. Often brands fail to understand Chinese aesthetic tastes and local mind-sets. Understanding the needs of Chinese consumers allows brands to form a strong visual identity that consumers to build stronger connections to the brand.

Chinese Consumers

Trend reports show that Chinese consumers purchase goods based on value. The value of a good is not related to the value of price but rather, the value it brings to their lifestyle and the quality of the good itself. Chinese consumers prioritize product availability and technological integration over the price of the good. To attract these consumers, a brand’s visual identity needs to showcase the quality of their goods while also relating to the lifestyle of their consumers.

Common lifestyle trends for Chinese consumers include, pop-culture, fitness and health, and technology. Consumers desire to live life styles that are as luxurious as their favorite KOLs, healthy, and connected to modern technology. Chinese consumers are more willing to purchase goods that most directly relate to them and boost their social and self-esteem needs. Apart from online streams used to connect with consumers, retailers are able to also reach them through affective retail design and strong visual identities.

3 Keys Creating a Strong Visual Identity

1. Brand Story

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

In recent years annual spending of leisure travel abroad has increased by 1326% since 2001 for Chinese tourists (Telegraph). Chinese consumers value the opportunity to explore the world around them and through this build stronger connections to foreign brands. Therefore, for international brands it is important to keep this a strong part of their brand identity.

Building connections to the brand story through visual identity design helps to accomplish just this. Halti, a Finnish ski wear brand, adapted their visual identity with cool colors, clean lines, and dynamic lighting creating a clean and modern brand image. Design elements including curvatures in the ceilings and walls and a wooden cutout of a woodland animal connect to the brand’s identity and Finnish culture. To further connect to the brand’s story, a photo wall features pictures of the Finnish flag and famous ski professionals.

The window display also helps to set the tone of the brand through the visual identity design. An LED screen plays videos of skiers wearing Halti products whilst skiing. Videos from the Winter Olympics help the Chinese consumers to relate Halti’s products to sporting events that China takes pride in competing.

2. Color Palette

Color helps to create brand recognition and visual interest. Research suggests it can affect everything from brand perception to purchasing intent; more recent research goes even further stating that 62-90% of consumer decisions are based on color. Red, yellow and gold are strong colors used in Chinese retail that connect with Chinese tradition but do not necessarily have the greatest impact on the visual identity of a brand. The choice of color palette in retail design should be bold enough to create attention, while also connecting to modern motifs. The use of these colors should tie to the overall brand identity design or new products released as part of a collection.

This By Jove flower shop in Hangzhou creates a clean and modern feel by using only white. The white helps to highlight the clean lines of the architecture and the added use of mirrors creates a modern yet reflective feel. The white serves as a symbolism to the brand’s identity that allows customers to come in and create their own unique bouquets in an inviting space.

Image Source: FRAME

Color can also be used in the visual identity design of a store to highlight new product launches. A growing trend in retail is to temporarly change the façade of the retail store through colorful and artistic stickers that tie to the new products. These two luxury retailers utilized this idea in Shanghai. Burberry recently launched a new print for their products. To make a statement and create excitement for the new product, they covered the outside of their store in a sticker print of the product itself.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Louis Voution did something similar with a sticker that changed their logoed façade red, featuring the mysterious ‘Red Man.’ The goal of this was to draw consumers to the store by making them notice the building in a new way. It also highlighted some of their new products in the vibrant red color.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

China is a modern country and so is the color palette. It is important to be innovative with colors so that they are not only modern and connect with the average Chinese consumer but are also an extended part of the story of your brand and products.

3. Technology

The latest trend in China for store design is a clean, modern and premium look. Interiors are a new playground for aesthetic expression in China, especially so on the inside of stores.

Image Source: ALTAVIA

Consumers want to be connected to brands both online and offline. Finding the balance between the two can be challenging. In the new age modern world, Chinese consumers demand convenience, unique experiences and want brands that connect with their lifestyle. Chinese motifs such as simple lanterns, dragons and the great wall in the background are overdone and do not connect to the modern Chinese lifestyle. Chinese consumers are focusing the present and towards the future rather than back on the past.

Mac connected to Chinese customers with their rebranded visual identity design in their Shanghai store incorporating popular video game characters into the overall store design. The use of VR mirrors to test products and learn more product information enables the customers to interact with the product more. Direct partnerships with a popular game “Glory to the King” have allowed them to adapt their visual identity and build stronger connections to female gamers, and cosplay fans. Other instore features focused on customizable lipsticks and connected WeChat campaigns brings consumers connectivity offline and online in a seamless way.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Xtep in Changsha also managed to do this well as they incorporated the ability to experience wearing their shoes in their sport of choice into the store design by setting up AR and VR on screens inside the store.


Creating Impact

Different markets have different buying and eating habits, it thus makes sense that when targeting a new market, you have a new strategy. Utilizing thoughtful color palettes, technology, and telling your brand story in a meaningful way creates a strong visual identity that connects to Chinese consumers. In an increasingly globalized world modernity is progressively a shared aesthetic. Modernity with a Chinese twist is the best way to approach the Chinese Market.

A good visual identity and store design is not only strong enough to grow with you but is also one you can build upon as you expand. Connecting with Chinese consumers through their lifestyle, technology, and favorite influencers is an effective way to create impact through visual identity design.

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Designing with a Purpose

August 26, 2019

What makes us unique?

At 5 Star Plus Retail Design our main focus is brand identity. This makes us competent when it comes to luxury design and branded design in China. We start every project with a thorough research about the brand, its competitors, target market, local regulations, and its surrounding environment. Once we have gathered all the necessary information we can provide unparalleled designs, retail consulting and project management services to international luxury and design brands. Our multinational team is a mix of international and local designers, consultants and project managers. Their designs are based on international standards while taking the local market and its requirements into consideration.

Retail design is without a doubt our passion. We do not only understand retail operations in China but we’re also able to create a design in a most effective way to maximize sales. Our extensive background in Chinese retail operation makes our team experienced in both the in-store operation and the local regulations. 5 Star Plus creates designs that can fulfill marketing targets like visibility, brand exposure, marketing leverage and visitor experience.

What makes our design process unique?

During our design process we always keep in mind what the client would like to express, how the brand is positioned and what the brand message is. Thanks to this we are able to achieve increased brand awareness and brand loyalty which, ultimately, is expected to translate into a higher sales turnover. Here are a few examples from our portfolio to show how it works in real life.

When creating two restaurant designs for THE MISSION at two different locations in Beijing, one key strategy that we utilized was to design every restaurant with a slightly different approach, in order to create novelty and adapt to the local environment. For the first location in China World Mall, 5 Star Plus created a modern flagship store design. We wanted to express their healthy, fresh cuisine through the design so it inspired both the color set and the materials that were chosen for the projects. The flagship store at China World Mall resulted in an artistic restaurant design that conveys a cool vibe that can attract the younger generation. We achieved this effect with an open stainless steel kitchen that promotes cleanliness by allowing customers to view the preparation process. We integrated custom-designed metal elements, a wall sculpture and intelligent lighting.

THE MISSION Flagship Store Design, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

In comparison, the second location at Central Park Plaza puts more emphasis on feeling good and being healthy. Located beside Chaoyang Park in a residential area, families are the most important target customers in the area, so the design needed to be inviting for them. It had to reflect the wholesome, nutritional value of the food so we have created a fresh and bright restaurant emitting a healthy feel. With an open kitchen taking center-stage as the key feature, the important design elements that support it are the use of bright woods for the walls, polished concrete, natural foliage, and seating designed for different numbers of people.

MISSION store identity design, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

ORA Creation is chain of multi-brand stores selling different European designer fashion and accessory brands. The store in Solana Mall in Beijing had to be designed to use a reduced budget for maximal impact in order to increase sales. The ultimate goal was to attract passersby and entice them into the store. With this in mind, the 5 Star Plus Retail Design team created a light, conceptual store design that is easily transformable with seasonable changes and other requirements of the brand.

ORA Store Window Display, Beijing
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

For our client, Ti-Capital (Taixin), a Chinese private bank, the team developed a visual design identity concept. The company's name consists of the Chinese characters "Titanium" and "Trust". This meant the visual design identity had to represent the organization as high-end, stable, trustworthy, safe, and secure. The logo had to be suited to the Chinese market, appear masculine and strong, and communicate power and heritage. How did all these elements appear in the design? How did we reach brand awareness? The designers used light grey, dark red and white colors with a lion as the logo's key element to express trust, authenticity, and a certain formality.

TI-Capital Visual Identity Design
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

During the World Winter Sport Expo in 2018, the International Biathlon Union covered 108sqm of exhibition space with 7 exhibitors. They were promoting the sport as a whole to China, providing knowledge to those unfamiliar with the sport. Our design concept received "Excellent Design Awards" during the expo. 5 Star Plus Design utilized energy green and ice blue as the main color scheme. With this color combination and structural design we were able to attract maximum attention to the stand and bring out the space.

International Biathlon Union Exhibition
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Our Future

Based on the examples mentioned above, it is clear that 5 Star Plus Retail Design understands what it means to build up a brand identity and strategically use our services to create a maximum benefit for our customers through creating emotional connections between the customers and the brand.

As for the future, our goal is to maintain an up to date knowledge of the Chinese retail market, regulations and the relevant design trends that help us understand the market development.

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3 Major Things Big Data Can Give Retailers

August 21, 2019

As brands continue to attempt to find ways to increase their sales within stores, big data is a primary contributor to brands learning more about people and personalizing their shopping experience. Big data is datasets that are much larger than traditional databases and can process data quickly to provide reliable and specific information. As the use of big data continues to increase, retailers are using this data to gain knowledge in a variety of ways. Retailers who use big data to its full potential “could increase its operating margin by more than 60 percent” (McKinsey). Customer segmentation, personalizing the experience, and price optimization are three things big data can provide retailers and they all should be utilized by brands. Unlike traditional market research, big data allows more specific information to be collected while also utilizing technology to be able to collect this information.

1. Customer Segmentation

Big data allows retailers to identify the specific customers that will make them the most profitable and can target them with products they will buy based on their past behavior. Gathering people’s individual trends from social media, e-commerce, and in stores, companies can combine all this data before analyzing it and placing people into customer segmentations. When people are placed in these segments, stores can then give precise offers to the different segments so more purchases are made. Understanding what these segments prefer can lead to higher conversion rates among consumers because brands now know what each person is consistently purchasing and can target specific segments with promotions they are interested in. Once retailers have consumers in their segments, then they have the ability to personalize the experience.

"Will Chinese super apps succeed in the West?"
Image Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Official WeChat accounts as well as other Chinese social media allow retailers to gain consumer information, understand shopping habits, and overall interaction with the brand. After more consumer data is obtained, retailers gain a better understanding of which products their target consumers are more likely to purchase thus allowing retailers to optimize their retail inventories.

2. Personalizing the Experience

Big data uses a multitude of factors to help personalize the experience and increase shopper retention rates. The use of websites, cameras, and shopper information allow retailers to analyze the data to provide a better experience. Companies can analyze data on what users are doing on their websites and therefore create unique offers. They can follow what people are searching for or putting in their shopping carts, and use the information to promote related offers to the consumer. Cameras used within retail stores give valuable shopper trends for companies to analyze using big data. Every shopper and their needs are unique, which is why identifying each individual helps retailers understand what they are looking for and give them a personal experience.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Pop-up stores are taking on a new role in China. Easy implementation allows retailers to create a unique and exciting new experience for consumers while also driving traffic to physical locations and gaining access to their data through interaction. This Tory Burch pop-up store in Shanghai seamlessly integrates new experiences to increase brand awareness for a spring line released earlier this year.

Upon entering, guests can hear the sound of waves and birds over the ocean. They can look through binoculars to see a video of models wearing the new products on a boat.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Passing through that room, guests are led through a tropical walkway that leads them to an interactive VR photo booth where a tropical bird flies in and lands on their hand. The photo can be saved through bookmarks on WeChat.

The last interactive element was a matching game where guests could match different material swatches. After each match was made a picture of the product made from the material or a description about the material would appear on the screen. If the game was completed within the time limit, guests could follow their official WeChat account and receive a coupon for a free gift if they went to their official store in the shopping center.

Giving the consumers the opportunity to interact with the new fabric collection and follow their official WeChat account, the retailer can correlate the most popular items purchased from the new collection to the followings from the specific retail location. This correlation will allow the retailer to streamline their inventory in specific retail locations.

3. Price Optimization

Retailers no longer have to guess when the demand for a certain product has decreased or struggle to discover the market price for goods in their stores. Big data allows companies to track each transaction that occurs and use it to predict the demand for the products. This allows them to select a price they know is correct and can be changed at any minute if demand were to change. In addition to this, retailers to optimize their inventory which can lead to big savings. Big data also allows retailers to keep track of competitors and follow their pricing so they can respond accordingly, whether it is lowering or raising the price. Retailers everywhere are optimizing price using big data and it is creating more competitive pricing strategies in the market.

"McDonald’s Bets on Faster Food with Digital Ordering and Table Service"
Image Source: FAB News

McDonald’s utilizes price optimization through testing of different markets. The use of instore kiosks, mobile apps, delivery help them to determine the right prices for the right market while also curving consumer habits.


Ultimately big data gives retailers more realistic views of their consumers, target market, and purchasing habits. This data allows retailers to build stronger connections to their consumers to increase sales. Additionally, big data allows retailers to optimize their inventory in each location, allowing them to save millions by only ordering products that their consumers want. Strategic implementation of big data tools through marketing and retail operations can make retailers more successful in China.

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Sinsian Black Jelly: A New Healthy Asian Brand Leveraging China's Fast Developing Dessert Market

July 30, 2019

If you are looking for a refreshing dessert to satisfy your cravings, then look no further than the Sinsian Black Jelly Store! The store is located in the Hello Mart in the Liangmaqiao area across the street from the German school. Sinsian Black Jelly opened in early May in the heart of one of Beijing’s newest supermarket concepts. The focus of this brand is to provide a fresh and healthy dessert, known as grass jelly, to an increasingly health conscious society.

Image Source: Sinsian Black Jelly

What is Grass Jelly?

Grass Jelly, also known as “Divine Grass”, is a refreshing jelly-like dessert that can be eaten with a variety of toppings including diverse water and a multitude of fresh fruits. It is made from a plant known as mesona chinensis, which is grown largely in East Asia. The grass is carefully preserved without adding any pigments or preservatives at any point during the preparation process. The dessert is prepared by allowing the leaves to dry before boiling it and letting it cool to be cut into cubes. Grass jelly provides multiple health benefits including reducing chances of heat stroke, controlling blood pressure, and reducing muscle and joint pain. Combine the nutritional benefits with the freshness, and you have a truly amazing dessert!

What is Sinsian Black Jelly?

Sinsian Black Jelly is an exciting new brand that specializes in the preparation of grass jelly desserts for its customers and aims to provide China with a healthy alternative to other desserts while maintaining the traditional grass jelly preparation process. Sinsian is inspired by the traditional way of preparing the grass jelly by preserving the qualities of the herb so it can be enjoyed in its purest form without any shortcuts or use of canned jelly. The brand serves grass jelly the only way it should be served – with all its natural goodness. The dessert is prepared right in front of customers while allowing them to customize it exactly how they want it. Sinsian Black Jelly sets itself apart by providing a health conscious market with an excellent customer experience and healthy dessert that can be purchased quickly through a three step process and then eaten on the go. The brand has entered a growing industry of healthy food while providing a fresh product to the Chinese market. Sinsian Black Jelly plans to open 10 stores in the coming year so more of China can experience the dessert.

Image Source: Sinsian Black Jelly

The Design Concept

We at 5 Star Plus Retail Design had the privilege of designing the Sinsian Black Jelly Store. The design concept of the store reflects the value of the product by utilizing the themes of product geometry. The tiles are intended to resemble the squares of the jelly after it has been processed and white is meant to symbolize the ingredients. By expressing the product through the minimalistic decoration and style, customers can more easily recall the product. The lighting sources and glass walls create a warm feeling and make the whole environment more coordinated. The transparent design evokes confidence in the product as it places the focus on the grass jelly and allows the customers to see the preparation of the dessert. They can see the fresh ingredients being put into their dessert as they customize their dessert using toppings of their choice.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

With its unique product and coordinated environment, Sinsian Black Jelly is the perfect place to stop by to grab a quick treat whether you’re heading home from work or just out with some friends.

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5 Star Plus Design Executes Stand for Mebo in Sweden

July 24, 2019

MEBO international, a global pharmaceutical company specializing in wound and ulcer treatment, participated in the 29th conference of The European Wound Management Association 2019 in Sweden. The EWMA annual meeting is one of the world’s largest in the field of wound management. The event took place between the 5-7th of June and provided a platform for over 150 exhibitors, welcoming nearly 10,000 people over the three day conference. 5 Star Plus Retail Design were responsible for the project management and overall production of the exhibition stand.

The concept of the exhibition stand design was to create a dynamic and modern structure whilst boasting scientific connotations and a stylish aesthetic. This was implemented throughout the design concept through the use of LED lighting and intricate structure shape. These key features created a smooth flowing design producing an enticing visual effect.

Image Source: MEBO

Overall, the successful build of the project created an attractive platform for Mebo. The exhibition provided the company with the opportunity to expand and promote their market channels to a large audience. 5 Star Plus Retail Design were happy to contribute to the production of an exciting exhibition stand design.

Image Source: MEBO

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5 Star Plus Insights: Design Outlook with CGTN

July 5, 2019

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

New Money is a business program which highlights the various aspirations of the future generation of Chinese entrepreneurs and airs weekly on China Global Television Network (CGTN). It takes viewers behind the scenes into China’s most cutting edge start-ups and disruptive business strategies. On this week's episode, our Managing Director, Barbara Seidelmann, was interviewed in relation to this week's topic ‘Life Aesthetics’.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

During the interview, Seidelmann discussed a variety of topics with a focus on both home and retail design - distinguishing the difference between the two. One of the key interesting points discussed was that for brands, interior design gives them the ability to utilize their designs to express who they are and attract their target audience. Where there is a change in the market the type of interior design that brands choose will also reflect their expectation of whether they would like customers to stay for longer or shorter periods of time. Seidelmann also pointed out that brands can create trust and loyalty by creating a connection with customers through different brand and product experience areas.

In relation to home design, Seidelmann explained that the primary focus should be based on users identity and give them the ability to express themselves. Seidelmann’s interview also shed light on her thoughts on changes in the design market including different aesthetics that the younger generation has when it comes to home decorations.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

From the interview, Seidelman demonstrated insight into the importance of aesthetics in both home and retail context, whilst also providing and discussing the design market itself.

The episode of New Money featuring the interview will be aired and available for viewing online several times between Saturday 6th July and Wednesday 10th July.

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Graphic Design for BritCham Summer Garden Party 2019

June 25, 2019

Image Source: The British Chamber of Commerce in China

On Thursday, June 13th, 2019 the British Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual Summer Garden party at the British Ambassador’s residence in Beijing. The Summer Garden Party remains one of Beijing’s most exciting social events; 5 Star Plus was proud to continue our long-standing relationship with the British Chamber by creating the graphic designs for the event.

Summer Garden Party Event Flyer

Summer Garden Party WeChat Flyer Design
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The bright colors for this design were inspired by the fun and casual mood of an outdoor summer party. Because this graphic design would be used on the flyers, tableside menus, and the backdrop for photo-ops, the British Chamber wanted the design to incorporate wine and fruit as a playful way of expressing the sophistication of British parties. The fruit and wine portray the traditional British Pimm’s summer punch which was featured at the event; the type of fruit was selected to match the same kind of colors as the ones used in the original design.

Summer Garden Party Backdrop Design
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

With over three hundred guests attending this year’s party, the gardens were alive with a vibrant atmosphere and lively conversations. British beer and Pimm’s Gin and Tonic were served alongside the various foods, cakes, and authentic British desserts. After some time of chatting and socializing, the official Welcome Address introduced the new British Chamber Executive Committee for the upcoming year of 2019/20. A live band supplied music for the remainder of the night.

Image Source: The British Chamber of Commerce in China

Overall, this year’s Summer Garden party was a magnificent success. 5 Star Plus is always grateful to be a partner of the British Chamber of Commerce.

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The Power of Product Display in Retail Stores

June 12, 2019

When most people walk into a store, they look around at all the products without thinking too much about where they are located. What they do not realize is each product in the store has been placed in its location for a specific reason. Product display has always been an essential implementation for stores. Only 33.3% of shopping decisions are pre-planned, which means product display continues to be a large factor in the layout of retail stores (4imprint).

What is Product Display?

Product display in retail stores is the strategic placement of goods in specific places throughout a store in order to increase sales. Product display is based on consumer behavior and consequently, the more stores learn about consumer behavior, the more intricate product display becomes. The use of cameras and other technologies in stores have allowed retailers to gain a better understanding of consumer shopping behavior. Thus, there are three product display strategies that have been proven to drive sales.

3 Ways to Make a Product More Enticing Through Product Display

1. Grouping

H&M Store in The Place Mall
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Grouping products together is when a store places multiple complementary products next to each other to encourage the consumer to buy multiple products. The idea is for the consumer to see how well the products go together and be tempted to make multiple purchases instead of just one. The H&M in The Place Mall in Beijing does this by placing shirts and shorts next to each other when they are designed to be worn together so shoppers can easily purchase both products.

Muji Store in The Place Mall
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

This Muji retail store in Beijing also exemplifies how to effectively utilize grouping. The mannequins can be seen wearing a combination of complementary clothing, as well as a hat to go with the outfit. Furthermore, the store has surrounded the mannequins with these exact products to make it convenient for the consumer to buy them after they have looked at the mannequins and noticed how well the outfit goes together. Grouping can easily be implemented and can lead to impulse purchases.

2. Location

The location of the products is something consumers are subconsciously affected by while shopping. The shelf level of products is as important as any form of product display. Products placed around consumer eye level are more likely to be purchased because most consumers look at shelves from left to right at eye level. It is important to note if your target customer is children you should put the products they are interested in at a lower height so it is at their eye level.

Another critical part of location in product display is spreading the products across the store. The store should be laid out to encourage consumers to walk around the entire store. The highest demanded products should be spread out and placed in prime locations so customers will have to walk throughout the store to find them. Additionally, having less expensive products closer to the register increases impulse purchases and therefore sales.

UniQlo Store in The Place Mall
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

This Uniqlo retail store in Beijing demonstrates how to space out products and maintain plenty of room for shoppers to wander without anything obstructing their path. Furthermore, the layout of the store with certain items in the back and down the aisles prompts people to walk around the entire store, which increases the likelihood of them making a purchase.

3. Complementary Colors

The colors of the products and everything around them can be the difference between people walking by without turning their heads and creating immediate consumer intrigue. Attention grabbing color combinations are essential when trying to get shoppers to enter the store. Getting people to first walk into the store is obviously crucial, so making sure the correct color combinations are displayed both in front and throughout the store is important.

Pepsi Store in The Place Mall
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Pepsi Store effectively draws attention from shoppers by placing its most intriguing products in front of the store and using the soda cans’ blue and black colors to complement the shoes. The combination of the colors and the products in direct lighting draw customers into the store to take a further look. Furthermore, the rest of the store uses the colors of the Pepsi logo to maintain consistency and increase intrigue.

"IWC Schaffhausen Store in Parkview Green Beijing"
Image Source: Parkview Green

Within the store, isolating products and highlighting them using color will intrigue consumers to take a look at what is being displayed. IWC Schaffhausen does this by placing some watches in isolation on the wall with a bright blue background to help them stand out. Additionally, the watches are surrounded by dark wood to complement the lighter blue and white colors. These complementary colors draw the eye directly to the watches and give them a sleek look.


No matter the design or layout of a retail store, product display should always be utilized effectively. Something as minor as products being placed on shelf four at eye level can lead to a 25% increase in the sales of those products (Trax). Proper execution of product display by using grouping, location, and complementary colors will increase the amount of times people see the products and thus, increase the number of purchases. Detailed product display will influence the buying habits of consumers, whether or not they are aware of it.

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Trade Related Events: Event Design and Production

May 28, 2019

The Lower Austria Networking Reception was organized by ecoplus and ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA in Shanghai to promote business collaboration and trade between China and Austria. 5 Star Plus Retail Design had the honor of developing the full event design concept as well as production and on-site support for the event.

Image Source: ecoplus / ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Shanghai

The event started with a stunning act of Austrian songs performed by opera singer Ms. Ying Ma. Christina Schösser officially opened the event with a few words followed by welcome remarks from the Austrian Ambassador Friedrich Stift. Ms. Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Governor of Lower Austria, then spoke about international business in Lower Austria, which recognized growth and success between Chinese and Austrian industries. The night proceeded with a delightful buffet featuring a variety of traditional dishes from Austria and China. Later in the night was a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Guests could also enjoy a variety of Austrian wines and learn about their production process from a wine expert.

Image Source: ecoplus / ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Shanghai

The Lower Austria Networking Reception was hosted at the Hyatt on the Bund in Shanghai on April 24th. In conjunction with ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA, the event welcomed over 150 people from Lower Austria in China to celebrate the prosperity and business relationships between Lower Austria and China.

Image Source: ecoplus / ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Shanghai

Considering the scale of the event and the importance of giving to the space, it was crucial to create an open and elegant space. The entrance featured a large gate in the colors of Gold and Dark Blue to welcome guests to the event. These are the colors of both Lower Austria province and ecoplus. Three photo backdrops outside the hall celebrated culture, business & success, and the leisure, sport & tourism industries. The inside of the hall featured three LED screens that showcased these three themes, as well as dynamic lighting. The event space utilized standing cocktail tables to allow for more networking and fluid movement between guests. 5 Star Plus Retail Design had the honor of developing the full event design concept as well as the production of the awards for this year’s event.

Image Source: ecoplus / ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Shanghai

Only three days later, another important event took place in Beijing. More than 50 representatives of 26 Austrian companies joined a Trade Mission led by Richard Schenz, Vice President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber on April 25-28. After a stopover in Hangzhou the journey continued onwards to Beijing. 5 Star Plus Retail Design developed the design for the evening reception which was held in the St. Regis Hotel in Beijing. All elements of the design were completely in line with the Advantage Austria brand guideline. The evening started with a signing ceremony. There, 16 agreements between Austrian and Chinese companies provided evidence of concrete and real business opportunities created by China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The evening continued with a cocktail event where 200 guests participated. One of the highlight of the evening was the group of Kungfu-practising Shaolin monks.

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

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How KOLs are Transforming the Chinese Market

May 24, 2019

So much goes into having a strong brand identity. While the physical product being sold needs to be good quality, and the store design in which the product is sold has to be inviting, there is still more that goes into establishing a strong brand identity. Past trends include inviting the media and celebrities to opening ceremonies to create some buzz and drive traffic to a new store. However, this habit has changed in the recent years, nowadays brands such as Valentino, Moynat, and Gentle Monster have realized that influencers need to be part of their O2O marketing and PR mix. KOLs are influencers that share their feelings towards specific brands. Where does their credibility come from? They have direct experience in an industry, professional qualifications or spent a lot of time engaged on a certain subject. Connecting with their audience is just one advantage, however the biggest plus they have is a specific target demographic. Brands can recognize KOLs that target similar demographic markets and have them share their thoughts about their brand. It is important to understand exactly who KOLs are and how to optimize using one within a brand.

The Need for a KOL:

In the Chinese market, consumers are more likely to turn to social media first before they end up buying a product. They check recommendations on the Xiaohongshu or videos on Douyin. Chinese consumers value what their friends, family, and KOLs have to say about various products. More than 50% of Chinese consumers are loyal to brands that partner with celebrities or social influencers. The biggest platform for social influencers is Weibo. With its 462 million users it has an immeasurable potential.

"Is KOL marketing worth the money in China?"
Image Source: www.dragonsocial.net

Finding Your KOL:

The first step in optimizing the use of a KOL is finding one that is appropriate for your specific brand and target market. When looking for the perfect match numbers aren’t the most important, a micro-influencer with a few thousand followers can have a greater influence than someone with 500,000 followers. A KOL that has a strong reputation will be more beneficial to the company and add more value to the brand. For example, L’Oréal’s KOL needed to be someone that would be relatable to affluent women that use beauty products. Thus, L’Oréal chose the popstar Li Yuchun as a KOL to promote a new lotion being sold. She brought awareness about the product to her fan base and helped promote the product in a successful way. When Meipai hosted a Cannes Film Festival live-stream where Li Yuchun promoted a L’ Oréal lip balm to the 3.1 million viewer audience, the lip balm was sold out a few hours later.

Cai Xukun, a prominent Chinese singer, also appeared as the spokesman of L’Oréal. 1 minute after the launch of their new product, L’Oréal’s Youth Code, 28 thousand bottles were sold and 2 weeks later it was out of stock, achieving a 25.8 million RMB sales record.

"Savvy Social Networking Pays Off for L’Oreal China"
Image Source: JingDaily

Another outstanding example of KOL success is the first collaboration of Cai Xukun (KUN) with Yoseido. The brand was a little-known cosmetic brand and ended up making a fortune from picking KUN as brand ambassador. After announcing the collaboration, their sales of facial masks reached 2 million RMB just in one afternoon and have now reached over 10 million RMB in total.

KOLs in Stores:

Once a brand has established who they want their KOL to be, they need to consider how to partner with their KOL to make engaging content. Sometimes they will record videos discussing how to use a product, or of them wearing the product. Another way to create engaging content for KOLs is to invite them to show up at premiere events showcasing new arrivals. The notable KOL Yang Mi who often will show up to luxury store openings. Yang Mi is a KOL for luxury stores like Burberry, Gucci, and Givenchy. Having a KOL at a store opening or fashion show seen wearing the brand will bring more awareness to the products and brand itself.

"Interview with Yang Mi, Michael Kors’ New Brand Ambassador"
Image Source: JingDaily

KOLs are often encouraged to live stream while they are at events to share their experience with their followers. App users spent more than “225 billion hours on apps” in 2017 alone, which shows how much they care about what is posted online (Mavsocial).

One of the best examples is the snack food brand Laiyifen. In 2016 they organized a 48-hour live-streaming relay race where they invited 15 internet celebrities who could reach 600,000 viewers. Before and during the event the influencers shared the event location with their followers. In addition they offered them exclusive discounts if they visited the stores during this 2-day period of live-stream. The stores’ traffic and earnings increased by five times in those 2 days alone. They went even bigger in 2017 when they invited 40 live-streamers and introduce over 1,000 snacks. #1000snacksnight generated 130 million views and 730,000 discussions on Weibo.

Another successful brand campaign using KOLs was the YSL traveling beauty hotel in Shanghai. The aim of the hotel was to create interactive selfie-friendly rooms where KOL’s could “check in”, take unique photos, enjoy exclusive makeup tutorials and performances. On Weibo alone #YSLBEAUTYHOTEL has more than 150 million views and 300,000 comments.

"What They Wore: YSL Beauty Hotel Party"
Image Source: Style Blog

Overall, the use of KOLs is increasing for brands now more than ever before, especially within the Chinese market. Luxury brands need to focus their efforts on finding a KOL that supports their company and brand identity. Since Chinese consumers spend the most time on social media than any other country, and they value what information is shared on social media, it is essential to partner with KOLs to increase awareness and provide engaging content for both new and old brands.

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How a Strong Retail Design Leads to Increased Sales

May 22, 2019

While concept stores can change the layout and color scheme of their store design, they must first realize why it is so important to focus on these changes. Having a strong store design ultimately leads to a better customer experience and thus increased sales. First impressions really do matter, especially in retail design. Instead of focusing too much time and effort into the product that companies are trying to sell, they need to focus on where the product is being sold. In order to optimize the customer experience, companies need to invest in their store design.

1. Start with the Entrance

Since first impressions are often what stick with customers the most, it is essential for concept stores to have a strong store design starting at the very entrance of the store. The entrance is what sets the tone for the rest of the customer experience. Store designs should focus on creating engaging window displays the catch their customers’ eyes. Displaying the merchandise in a creative and exciting way will start off the customer experience the right way. The next factor to focus on is the door. Everything from how large or small, the material used, and the color is important in conveying a certain message. Concept stores should keep in mind their target customer and use materials and colors that are fluid with their store identity. Being able to successfully combine all these components will attract more customers into the store design and increase the popularity of the store. Below is an example of the Versace store design entrance. They used a glass door to complement their elegant and chic store design. They also used engaging window displays in order to attract customers into the store.

"Versace on verge of being sold for $2bn"
Image Source: Retail Gazette

2. Keep the theme Fluid

Once the customer has been intrigued to visit the store design, it is important to keep the customer in the store design for as long as possible. Investing in a strong store design will allow customers to have a more positive experience within the store. Concept stores need to identify the customer they are targeting. For example, if a concept store like Michael Kors is attempting to target affluent, older women, they need to use colors, designs, and appropriate lighting techniques that are appealing to that target population. In fact, just focusing on improving lighting within store designs “increases sales by 1.93% per customer” (Perillo Construction). Below is a Michael Kors store design that incorporates all of these concepts successfully. Keeping this theme consistent with their logo and promotional techniques will make the brand more recognizable and stronger. 91% of customers have visited a store because of an online experience, so it is important to get customers interested with social media promotions but then keep them interested once they enter the store design (Marketing land).

Image Source: Pinterest

3. The Results:

Success in these different areas will result in increased sales by 50% (Entrepreneur). Having a strong concept store is so important in the success of a company. Concept stores need to constantly be thinking about how they can improve their store design to create the optimal experience for their customers. By identifying exactly who the company wants to target and creating a strong first impression with window displays, entrance mats, and continuing the theme with strong design, coloring, and lighting, concept stores can increase sales and make a positive customer shopping experience. Having a good product only goes so far. A strong store design to accompany a great product is the successful way to increase sales.

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5 Star Plus Retail Design Insights: New Retail, New Design

April 24, 2019

On April 18, our Managing Director, Barbara Seidelmann, gave a talk that analyzed how new retail strategies in the Chinese market affect retail design. This was a joint event organized by the Swiss Chamber Beijing with 5 Star Plus Retail Design, and supported by the British Chamber, and Benelux Chamber. The luncheon took place at George’s Restaurant – Hotel Éclat Beijing. Her talk shed light on the changing needs and wants of Chinese consumers, addressed what a new retail strategy is, and examined various techniques in design that enhance this strategy. The main focus of the talk was that retail design in China needs to adapt to fit within the new retail strategy. One of the interesting points focused on technology incorporation into design and its’ role with supporting new retail strategy.

For the guests to get an in-depth picture of how new retail design styles work, Seidelmann, went through a number of case studies showcasing retailers who have successfully implemented new retail design into their physical locations. Case studies included 5 Star Plus Retail Design’s work for some of our clients including Pureones, and Hoegl, as well as, other large retailers in China like Adidas, and Alibaba’s Fashion AI store. The talk looked at examples that incorporated new retail design on a small-scale, being a design that includes one or two new retail elements, to a large-scale, being a design that is a complete new retail design concept.

Overall, it’s important for retailers to understand how new retail strategy works and see how new retail design can help to further grow sales based around this strategy. It’s crucial for retail store design to reflect the retail strategy of the brand itself. New retail design is all about meeting the needs of the brand’s target market based on their needs, incorporating new experiences for their consumers, and tying it to their online strategy through new in-store technologies.

5 Star Plus Retail Design was delighted to share this topic with all of the guests in attendance and give special thanks to the Swiss Chamber, British Chamber and Benelux Chamber for making this event possible. We hope to continue our efforts in guiding retailers in China to incorporate new retail design techniques into their retail stores as they continue to grow and develop new retail strategies best suited to their brand. We look forward to more opportunities to share topics related to this in the year to come.

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The Evolution of Mannequins in Visual Merchandising

April 15, 2019

Image Source: Panache

As most of you will know, a mannequin is typically an artificial doll used by retailers to display their merchandise. For the most part, they are plain bodies that require dressing and accessorising and do not tend to possess any distinct features aside from this.

Mannequins have been around since the opening of the first stores and have long been recognized as important tools of retail business. Different items are usually paired together so customers can visualize which pieces work well together and take inspiration from the store’s latest trends. Furthermore, mannequins also function as a primary feature in window displays and are often the first thing a customer sees when they approach a store. Therefore, mannequin displays serve as a showcase of the best merchandise a store has to offer in a bid to attract potential buyers.

Image Source: Retail Window Displays

However, whilst mannequins have always been a key feature of store design, it is perhaps important to explore how they can also be used to represent much more. Over the years, mannequins have evolved beyond existing as static objects to become something that can add real value to a brand’s message.

More and more retailers have challenged typical mannequin ‘standards’ to make their retail design stand out and represent something different. Therefore, this article will focus specifically on the evolution of mannequin use in the modern retail world and innovative ways many retailers have brought their mannequin displays to life.

Building Characters

Diverting away from using idle figures, many retailers have opted to create fun and animated characters to showcase their merchandise.


This window display was featured in Columbus Circle, New York back in 2013 used many attention-grabbing figures to promote H&M’s denim collection.

"H&M Insider: What to Expect During an H&M Interview"
Image Source: MOM.ME

The H&M Columbus Circle Visual Team created quirky characters to liven up the entire display and each individual character was brought to life through amusing facial expressions, granting them their own unique personas. Furthermore, the oversized heads served as an enhancement to the entertainment value of this window design.

Most importantly, the window display effectively draws attention to the merchandise H&M is promoting. The denim theme is evident as the display is predominantly blue, and the white only serves to complement it. Moreover, all of the mannequins are physically dressed in denim items, even the mannequin heads look as though they are made from denim and this additional feature really brings the theme to fruition.


The Tanni store in Taikoo Li Sanlitun mall in Beijing places cute, larger than life dolls at the forefront of their take on mannequin displays.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The sizes of these characters are magnified in a way that is sure to generate an element of surprise and fascination for nearby shoppers because at first glance, they do not appear as though they are actual mannequins. As well as this, the dolls also appear to evoke a sense of nostalgia and childhood innocence, as they appear to be very child-like in both their dress and demeanour. This seems to be in keeping with the general theme of the whole store, which features lots of fun, floral prints and patterned pieces.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The zeitgeist of their retail store design is very light and playful and is reflected in the colour palette as well as the décor around the shop. Therefore, the mannequin display provides a playful teaser of what the retail store has to offer.

Mannequins in Motion

Activewear is currently a lucrative industry which shows no signs of slowing down. Consequently, how Activewear is presented to consumers can really impact its appeal. In particular, ‘active’ mannequins can really help to bring a brand to life in both a physical and symbolic way.

"Hans Boodt Introduces 'Yoga Sports' Collection"
Image Source: VMSD

Shown above is Hans Boodt’s most recent Yoga Sports Collection which features mannequins doing impressive yoga poses. This not only proves how mannequins can be just as flexible as humans but more importantly, overturns the pre-conceived notion that mannequins can only be still figures with certain limitations to their movement.


Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Lululemon store in the Parkview Green Shopping Mall in Beijing is bursting with life and showcases how ‘active’ mannequins can be incorporated within retail store design. The store features a mannequin display on both the outside and inside of the store, to ensure that they are easily seen and noticed by customers in the shopping mall.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The mannequins showcase a diverse set of athletic poses, as some are warming up, stretching and running, illustrating the sheer range of movement these mannequins possess.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

This is especially true of the mannequin who is mid back flip, showing how mannequins are able to bend in positions like never before. The balance and precision which has gone into the placement of these mannequins is a testament to how far sports brands are willing to go in order to experiment with mannequins and create new boundaries.

The Bigger Message

Perhaps the most notable aspect in the evolution of mannequin use lies in their capacity to represent something more. In particular, realistic mannequin figures can not only more accurately represent and relate to customers but can also promote powerful messages of individuality, diversity and inclusivity.

"Hans Boodt Mannequins Creating Characters campaign"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

Hans Boodt

As with the Yoga collection, Hans Boodt also proves to be ahead of the game in the Creating Characters campaign. The collection had the specific aim of bringing awareness of individuality through 3D sculptured, realistic characters. These figures are so life-like they could be mistaken for real people, as each individual mannequin appears to have their own unique identity. Therefore, the collection displays a true dedication to represent different sectors of society, transcending barriers of race and age.

"Hans Boodt Mannequins Creating Characters campaign"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

"Hans Boodt Mannequins Creating Characters campaign"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog


Missguided made headlines back in February with their brave decision to incorporate diverse mannequins in their Bluewater, Westfield and Stratfield UK stores as part of their #MakeYourMark campaign.

Image Source: Retail Focus

Part of what made this such a milestone in visual merchandising is the fact that not only do the stores feature mannequins of different ethnicities, religions and skin tones, they also acknowledge and celebrate women’s differences by including mannequins with what some women would perceive to be ‘flaws’ in their bodies. This selection of mannequins includes models with freckles, stretch marks and even skin conditions such as vitiligo have been given representation.

"Missguided Mannequins Now Have Stretch Marks But Are Still One Body Shape"
Image Source: Huffington Post

Image Source: Retail Focus

In doing this, Missguided have taken a momentous step towards becoming more representative of all women, whilst also encouraging them to be their natural and authentic selves without pressure to conform to societal standards of beauty. These mannequins speak out to a larger demographic of women by not only allowing representation for different groups but also bringing awareness to what real women look like. This promotes an important message about inclusivity and how shopping should be a relatable experience for all women.

Whilst there is still progress to be made within visual merchandising, especially regarding representation of women of different body sizes, Missguided have still paved the way for real difference to be made. They have displayed their ability to adapt their approach to evolve with the times through incorporating what can be seen as ‘progressive’ mannequin displays as part of their store design.


In conclusion, an awareness of the value mannequins can hold can have a real impact on a brand’s appeal. Mannequins have evolved into much more than just objects, therefore, an effective mannequin display can not only add to the overall ambience of a store to create customer intrigue but can also become something customers can actually relate to. Moreover, as fashion and society are ever evolving, this can also be translated into your mannequin displays so to actually speak out to customers and make a lasting impression.

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Mind your step - Use the right type of flooring to stand out with your retail design

March 27, 2019

You walk into a store. You consciously or subconsciously recognise the store’s retail design. However, the first interaction with any store is not only visual but also physical. And this first physical contact with a retail space is its flooring. Therefore, a retail space demands a unique floor that is durable as well as easy to maintain. While flooring tends to get too little attention, it can be a crucial detail that makes or breaks a retail store design.

Separating areas without barriers

"Galeries Lafayette department store by Plajer & Franz studio, Istanbul – Turkey"

Flooring can be a creative way to separate the product display area from the traffic flow area without creating any barriers. Referring to the example of La Fayette department store in Istanbul it seems like one is magnetically drawn from the aisle to the product display area.

"V Grass Nanjing Deji Plaza by PMDL Architecture + Design, Nanjing – China"

V Grass Nanjing Deji Plaza in Nanjing uses two different flooring materials to separate areas. Not only does this create contrast in color but also creates the feeling of an exclusive atmosphere. Additionally, the softness of the carpet tends to have a very relaxing effect on people.

Creating contrast with pattern and material

"Excelsior restaurant by Yellow Office architecture, Craiova – Romania"

The example of this restaurant in Romania shows how flooring can turn a nice design into an outstanding design. There exist various ways to create contrast not only with color and material but also with shape and pattern.

"Diesel store renewal, Tokyo – Japan"

Diesel recently renewed its flagship store in Tokyo. The new design integrates contemporary elements as well as antique furniture. Of particular note is the combination of concrete flooring with wooden ceilings. This contrast creates an atmosphere that is both rustic and modern.

Functionality of flooring

With the vast variety of colors, patterns and materials, it is easy to get distracted and forget about the practical aspects that the right flooring should fullfill. For example, the previous example of concrete flooring has several issues that need to be taken into consideration. Concrete flooring does not only tend to have a cold appearance, in fact it is cold and might affect heating bills in the winter. A soft carpet may not increase heating cost; however, carpets tend to be quickly worn down and get dirty easily. The maintainance of carpets can be costly and time-consuming. Wooden flooring brings similar maintainance issues with it. Therefore, it is no big suprise that we see all of the mentioned materials less frequently in retail spaces. A solid and more practical flooring solution for example is luxury vinyl or ceramic tiles like we can see in the first three images of the article.

Summing up, flooring in retail design matters. Its design as well as its functionality is a crucial factor that will influence a customer’s feeling in a store design.

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The Importance of Establishing Your Brand Identity

March 20, 2019

After the year of retail-tainment became so paramount, there is now more than ever an emphasis on brands mastering the “experience of retail”. Before it was an effective way to attract customers into store designs. Now, however, it is absolutely critical for concept stores to invest money into making their brand more than just a store. Store designs need to invest in experiences. According to a study by Adobe, “80% of business decision makers said improving their company’s customer experience was among their top priorities” (Adobe). Here is why it should be your top priority too:

More entertainment results in better customer relationships, leaves a longer lasting impression, and makes your store design more competitive in the retail industry.

Brands now more than ever need to invest their money and efforts and to creating a strong brand identity. Developing your brand identity is vital to remain competitive. Using the following steps can help store designs reach the greatest number of people and reach their personal potential.

1. Create a Vision and Understand your Customer

The first step in reaching your store design’s highest potential and learning how to become more engaging with customers is to first understand who you are trying to market towards. Store designs marketing towards a younger demographic should focus on a ‘fun’ atmosphere, versus a more ‘dynamic’ atmosphere for adults. Either way, whoever is being targeted, there still needs to be a focus on engaging with people and making a presence. Company’s need to learn how to make their company better than the rest through marketing, adapting their product, and entertaining customers. Personalizing the store’s vision to their target customers is the first step in understanding and mastering their design.

"Understanding your target customers for successful online lead generation"
Image Source: torpedo

2. Invest in Technology

The second step in reinvesting in your brand is incorporating technology. Currently, the Asian market is leading in mastering the use of technology. Technology is important to attract customers into store designs as well as to keep data on what customers want, and when they want it. Within the Asian market, about a third of companies invest at least ⅕ of their budget on virtual reality or some similar type of interesting experience to allow their brand to stand out. By incorporating technology and virtual reality into concept stores, customers become more aware of products and more loyal to companies overall.

"Consumers Are Changing E-Commerce Preferences"
Image Source: MH&L

3. Focus on Business to Customer Marketing

While it is important to know the vision of your company and how to master technology, the most important factor in being competitive includes focusing your time and attention on entertaining the people. After analyzing the most competitive companies it has been realized that “59 percent of global CMOs recognize brand experience as a way to formulate ongoing relationships with their core audiences, and 90 percent of marketers worldwide think that brand experience delivers strong face-to-face interaction and more compelling engagement.” (Luttner). While creating an engaging store design and incorporating retail-tainment is important, it also is essential for companies to establish their brand by meeting with different customers, networking, and building their brand. By attending trade shows, events, and exhibits, brands can grow their brand simultaneously while growing relationships with customers.

"Top Industry Tips on Mastering Networking in Insurance"
Image Source: TalentEgg

Companies have learned how to master retail-tainment, but now they need to go the next step in mastering their relationships with customers. By reinvesting money into their vision/ design, engaging in virtual reality, and establishing their brand by attending various events, companies can become more competitive and successful in today’s retail market. Customers today more than ever are interested in experiences, and store designs need to understand how to make a statement and leave customers with a lasting impression of their concept store.

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Thinking Outside the Box: Embracing Geometric Shapes in a Unique Store Design

March 15, 2019

When creating the flawless store design layout, it is important to use every element possible to create the perfect brand image. Concept stores can no longer just rely on combining unique colors to set their store design a part, now it is important to focus on the importance of geometric shapes within the store design. Different shapes invoke unique feelings within people. Also the use of geometric shapes in store designs can help the store design by making it more easily navigated, framing important aspects of the store, and creating a unique visual effect.

Navigation through Triangles:

It is important to create a store design that is easy for customers to easily navigate through. A strong concept store will highlight important products and create a logical path that customers can walk through. The best way to implement navigation throughout a store design is with the use of shapes. The best shapes to use when guiding customers through a luxury store design are triangles. Triangles help point customers throughout a store and make the most of a store design. Also triangles have psychological effects within people. Triangles represent stability, energy, and strength. These different emotions can create a powerful while simultaneously guiding customers throughout a store. Below is the luxury store design Tokyo Issey Miyake that incorporated triangles within their concept store.

"Tokujn Yoshioka installs Giant Red Triangles"
Image Source: www.dezeen.com

Framing through Squares & Rectangles:

It is also important within a store design to highlight and create focal points throughout the store. Concept stores can highlight their store logo or different products on display. The best way to frame different objects within the store is through the geometric shapes of rectangles and squares. Although squares and rectangles are the most commonly used shapes within store designs, they have positive psychological effects on customers. Squares and rectangles invoke the feelings of reliability, stability, and suggest structure. These are all important emotions to create within a luxury store design. Below is the Nespresso concept store design that implemented the use of colorful squares and rectangles to create structure all while creating the feel of order within their store identity.

"George Clooney not included – Product Review: Krups Nespresso Citiz and Milk"
Image Source: lovetodine.wordpress.com

Visual Effects through Circles:

Finally, to make a store design truly inspiring and unique it is important to incorporate different geometric shapes to add a new dimension. The best shape to use to create a unique visual effect is a circle. Furthermore, circles represent harmony, completion, and can add a feminine visual identity to a store. Although not as commonly used, pentagons and hexagons also create a similar feeling as circles. They can be more unique and create a contemporary feel within a store design. The concept store, Freudenhaus Eyewear perfectly implements the use of circles within their store design. They used circular shelves to showcase their eyeglasses in a fashionable way. The store design is chic with the all-white but dynamic with the use of the circular shelving.

"Eyewear Store Design in Munich"
Image Source: mindfuldesignconsulting.com


Pictures and shapes can make even more of an impact on a customer than originally perceived. The use of various geometric shapes not only are practical within store designs, but add a unique dimension that set stores a part. Various shapes help customers navigate a store, frame important products, and create a unique visual effect. The use of geometric shapes in a store design can create a unique visual identity because ultimately: shapes are a universal language that can speak to anyone.

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5 Star Plus Retail Design Insights: How to Better Market Your Company in China

February 28, 2019

On February 27th, our managing director, Barbara Seidelmann, gave a talk on how to better market your company in China. This was a joint event with the Spanish Chamber of Beijing. Her talk covered a variety of marketing issues pertaining to B2B and B2C companies in China. Some of the topics she touched on included the differences in the Chinese market compared to others globally, positioning in the Chinese Market, effective communication methods, branding, omnichannel strategy and, customer experience. The main focus of the talk developed these issues more in-depth by looking at the speed of the market, the design importance in the market, evaluating consumer psychology, evolving marketing techniques for both offline and online platforms, and establishing strategies that enhance the overall experience of consumers in China.

Beyond online marketing, Seidelmann, encouraged businesses to look towards connecting to consumers through lifestyle marketing to increase Chinese consumer interaction and enhance their experience. She then went on to identify ways to do this in the changing retail environment through creative avenues of pop-up stores and exhibition stands in China. The use of physical interaction is a smart way to engage with customers, provide them with a touchpoint apart from other physical locations, and encourage customers to share their experience through media online thus creating an ongoing conversation that consumers can have and take part in even though they were not present for the experience themselves.

Overall, it’s important for retailers to realize that effective retail marketing must go beyond a single stream of offline or online marketing and combine these two streams in a way that flows directly to consumers. The more your brand can resonate on all channels, the larger the impact you will be able to have on consumers.

5 Star Plus Retail Design was delighted to share this topic with the Spanish Chamber of Beijing. We hope to continue our efforts in guiding businesses in China to form more effective marketing strategies that most directly connect with their consumers and other businesses. We look forward to more opportunities to share topics related to this in the year to come.

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Austrian Winter Sport Days 2019 in Chongli - Designed and Executed by 5 Star Plus Design

February 26, 2019


On February 22-24, the 10th edition of the Austrian Winter Sports Days 2019 was held at the Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Chongli, Hebei Province. The event was jointly organized by ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing and the Austrian National Tourist Office, supported and designed by 5 Star Plus Retail Design.


The two day event included the Winter Sports Conference, the ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Ski Race, and an Austrian-style Hüttenabend gala dinner in the mountain top restaurant of the Thaiwoo Resort, which was sponsored by Salzburg State Board of Tourism and Ski Amade. The first day of the conference hosted 250 industry professionals and government officials from the winter sports industry in China and Austria. During this day the conference focused on sharing information and expertise on skills and innovations happening in Winter Sports as well as a tourism workshop focused on the Chinese market. The second day kicked off with the annual ski race. This year there were 50 participates that raced through the course which made for a great ending to another annual event in China.


This was the 3nd year for 5 Star Plus Retail Design provided the design and production support event for ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing. 5 Star Plus Retail Design designed all interior design elements, marketing, and print materials for the conference, welcome reception and ski race, as well as technical support. The print material design was kept in line with ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA branding, using crimson red and bright white as seen on the Austrian flag, while also providing adequate room for branding of the event sponsors. The inside of the banquet hall was designed vibrant and festive in the spirit of Winter Sports, with backdrop images of nature scenes from Austria.


Overall, the event kicked off with high spirits of Winter Sports industry and were happy to play our part through design and production to create yet another successful and exciting event.


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Incorporating 2019 Retail Design Trends

February 25, 2019

Stepping into 2019, we can reflect on popular trends from last year and now look ahead to discover which ones will push the design industry forward. The following trends will be great to incorporate into store designs this year to keep them exciting and interesting to shop in.

1. Bold Colors for a Bold New Year

"Jewelry store KAKURU"
Image Source: Urban Soul Project

Since Pantone announced “Living Coral” as color of the year, we will expect to see a multitude of bold colors dominating the retail design scene. KAKARU exemplifies the use of bold color’s in their store design located in Athens, Greece. The jewelry store KAKURU draws inspiration by combining nature and materiality, adopting a vivid green color similar to PPG’s color of the year – Night Watch. In combination with bronze and olive wood, these colors complement each other whilst bringing out the vibrant green.

"Garderoba Concept Store in Zagreb by BIRO"
Image Source: urdesign

Garderoba concept store in Croatia adopts a monochromatic approach to their store, separated by shades of pink, green and yellow colored spaces. These individual segments highlight their mantra of slow-shopping, each mimicking wardrobe capsules, comprising of different styles which the customer is encouraged to try on. The colors not only serve as both separation and aesthetic use, but also as multi-functional spaces. The use of these bold colors in these various concept stores help make the space more illuminating and captivating to be in.

2. Wooden Elements

"Patom Organic Living, Bangkok, Thailand"
Image Source: The Cool Hunter

The use of wood started to become a popular trend in 2018 store designs and is continuing to be even more popular in 2019. An example of a concept store that incorporates the use of wood is Patom Organic Living in Bangkok specializing in selling organic body products, aims to promote sustainable and green living through their products. Their interior design is inspired by nature and greenery and incorporates an earthy white and brown color scheme. Patom’s owners and designers selected reclaimed wood from the owner’s old houseboat, fallen tree trunks from the family farm and refurbished furniture from the owners’ collection, staying true to their brand’s beliefs. The concept store is also surrounded by lush greenery and is absolutely breathtaking at sunset.

3. Old Meets New

A popular trend in 2019 is using classic store designs to bring character to the store’s aesthetic. There is an emerging appreciation and demand for spaces that embody distinct personality and take on a persona. Consumers increasingly want to be in spaces that have character, individuality and tell a story. A popular way retailers are conveying their brand story in 2019 is by renting out shopfronts that have a distinct history or cultural significance, making their brand part of the city.

Image Source: Taxonomy of Design

Known for their contemporary and minimal aesthetic, Australian brand Aesop opens yet another store design in Leipzig, Germany, a cultural city famed for its music and arts. The store manages to blend in with Leipzig’s historical buildings, thanks to the rough concrete façade, powder-coated metal and translucent glass tiles, which Architonic describes as, “reflective of the industrial uniformity that characterised Leipzig when Germany’s East and West were demarcated.” Aesop successfully strikes a balance between its contemporary product line and historic beauty of the city, exuding an alluring rustic charm.

"Apple Store"
Image Source: www.saicsetoff.com

Another example is the Apple store design in the Champs-Elysees, Paris. Few brands would be able to smoothly integrate themselves into a historic Parisian building, especially being a global brand at the forefront of technology. Instead, Apple pays a tribute to the city’s historic architecture whilst introducing modern spaces. Burgundy stone and French oak parquet line the interior of the space, resulting in a timeless but modern feel just like the city. A sculptural roof light (pictured above) provides renewable energy and sunlight to the space, powering the space with 100 percent renewable energy.

4. Homely and Comforting Spaces

Living in an ever-accelerating and rapidly paced society, feelings of anxiousness and frustration is an unavoidable component in people’s lives. Retail therapy is an act of comfort, but more importantly is the space in which consumers choose to spend their hard earned cash. Retailers able to provide this momentary relief and safe space away from the hustle and bustle of the city are sure-fire winners. It’s all about finding order and beauty amidst the chaos, and MUJI is a stunning example.

"MUJI's reopened global flagship store in tokyo features a fruit and vegetable market"
Image Source: Design Boom

MUJI flagship store in Tokyo, originally a clothes and interior living retailer, now has their own marketplace which sells fruits and vegetables. In addition to their home theme, there are also MUJI HUTS, these are individual cabins in the store that mimic living spaces, a perfect showroom for their furniture and an area for customers who might be overwhelmed by the “outside”.

It is important for various store designs to be aware of the latest trends and incorporate it into their own stores. 2019 is full of new and refreshing ideas. Whether it is the use of bold colors, natural elements like wood, using vintage stores, or making the store design feel like home, it is all about finding what works best for each personal store design.

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ISPO Beijing 2019 – Stand Designs We Loved

January 24, 2019

With over 400 exhibitors and 700 brands spanned across 50,000 square meters of exhibition space, the ISPO celebrated its 15th anniversary in Beijing, providing a platform for sports enthusiasts, innovators, brands and manufacturers to celebrate winter sports and share their products. The venue was divided into four segments – Snowsport, Outdoor, Health and Fitness, Manufacturing and Suppliers.

5 Star Plus Retail Design paid the ISPO exhibition a visit, and here are some stand designs that we thoroughly enjoyed and grabbed our attention.

Pelliot (伯希和)

PELLIOT, a professional outdoor sports brand, stood out to us through their meticulous use of lighting and shapes to feature their products. Their exhibition stand façade utilizes clean-cut and simple geometric shapes to reflect elegance and minimalism. Varying heights but uniformly cut angles help to maintain the unity of elements, providing a smooth flowing visual effect, therefore forming a more three-dimensional space in their design stand.

The internal lighting is both exquisite and rich, using a point light source to place their products under the spotlight, diffused light in different spaces of the exhibition stand also create a diverse visual lighting effect. Various light sources and materials work cohesively to create reflective spaces, presenting a geometric light and shadow effect, echoing the lines of different areas within the design stand.

In conjunction with their brand identity, which puts “Young, Exploration, Outdoor, Style and Function” at the forefront, PELLIOT demonstrates this through their contemporary stand display and quality products.


Pieced together using primarily diamond and irregular shapes, CROSS-ROIIER, specializing in winter sports equipment, embodies a high-end, high-tech and chic aesthetic. Their ISPO exhibition stand color scheme of sophisticated jet black and energetic lime green further emphasizes the theme of technology and innovation, creating an overall visual effect and feel of a unique yet bold brand identity.


MOBI GARDEN pride themselves on their research and innovation of outdoor gear, hoping to promote the five major outdoor sports - exploration, hiking, travel, cross-country running and camping through their different product lines. Their stand is assertive and dominant, maintaining a cutting-edge feel using terrazzo-like grey walls, allowing their backlit walls and brand logo to take center-stage. These structured shapes and points resemble mountain peaks and the great outdoors, visually transforming their ISPO exhibition stand into an outdoor experience.

Lastly, we have three different brands with their own illustrations of back wall displays. On the far left, KAILAS introduces their brand and vision using the smooth flow of sequential boards to convey their company journey. In the middle, the stand display is similar commercial store window displays, using downlights, spotlights and luminous logo lighting. This is a clear and concise method of conveying company and product information to an audience who might be unfamiliar with the brand. KEMPGEARS’ ISPO exhibition stand, on the far right, binds monochrome with irregular shapes to keep their wall classic and minimal but still interesting with an edgy twist.

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2019 Colors of the Year

January 8, 2019

Last month, Pantone announce their pick for 2019’s color of the year. Living Coral, a bright cheerful pink with orangey hue was the top choice. Pantone describes the color as“Vibrant, yet mellow PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.”

”Living Coral” - Pantone

Image Source: Pantone

Due to our strong influence from social media and vast increase in digital technology, trends come and go and our daily environment is constantly changing. Living Coral is meant to remind us to step away from this environment by bringing in a familiar color from nature to encourage more relaxed and upbeat experiences. In the world of retail design, we expect to see pops of color in window displays, packaging, and furnishings within retail stores. Living coral will also pair nicely with other colors found in nature such as, vibrant greens and bright blues.

Image Source: Italian Bark

Image Source: Pinterest

Image Source: Elle Decor

Complementary to Pantone’s color of the year, PPG recently identified their color of the year to be Night Watch. This black infused green is meant to soften brighter colors with its neutral tone. At the same time, Night Watch, can also be used to make a bold statement as a featured color in design. This color is also meant to relax consumers and bring them into a more peaceful oasis away from the chaos of over stimulation of digital products and social media. Sherwin-Williams announced Cavern Clay, an Earthy terracotta tone, as their color of the year, additionally, Benjamin Moore chose Metropolitan, a soft grey color, while Behr Paint decided on Blueprint, a vibrant teal. All of these colors can be easily paired with living coral to create uniquely bold statements in interior design.

”Night Watch” - PPG

Image Source: Elle Decor

”Cavern Clay” – Sherwin-Williams

Image Source: Architectural Digest

”Metropolitan” – Benjamin Moore

Image Source: Architectural Digest

”Blueprint” – Behr Paint

Image Source: Fox News

As we enter into 2019, shoppers can expect to see these colors appear in stores across the world, from products that line the shelves, to window display design, to retail store design itself. The use of the bright living coral, paired with more neutral tones found in nature will surely bring the beauty of nature indoors creating an upbeat yet relaxing atmosphere allowing all of us to become more connected with the world around us.

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What’s in-store for Christmas 2018?

December 21, 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, again. Along with Christmas markets and hot chocolate, in-store display and window displays are also bursting with festive cheer and creativity. The designs seem to get more and more extravagant each year. Let's have a look at our top picks for 2018 from around the world.

Saks Fifth Avenue, New York "Theatre of Dreams"

Image Source: Elle Décor

Image Source: New York Post

Saks Fifth Avenue constantly makes our list, and who could blame them? Taking 250 people more than 10,000 hours to create their holiday window display design, Saks Fifth Avenue kicks it old school with "Theatre of Dreams", an ode to the grandeur of the Broadway stage. At their opening ceremony on November 17, they presented a one-of-a-kind Broadway performance featuring 124 dancers. Window display design feature draped red velvet and hanging chandeliers, to create a splendorous feeling that emphasizes the glitz and glamour of old Broadway. Saks Fifth Avenue truly adds to the authentic New York Christmas experience, injecting Fifth Avenue with energy, life and vibrancy.

Fortnum and Mason, London: Christmas Reimagined

Image Source: Country and Townhouse

A Christmas tree made up entirely of champagne glasses await you at Fortnum and Mason. This year, they have reimagined the traditional Christmas tree with a culinary twist for their window display design. A tower of champagne glasses surrounded by cascading fizz is bold but remains classy and inventive simultaneously. Stretched over eight windows, their displays surround the culinary theme with more inventive foods, such as a platter of mince pies herded by presents on a sleigh.

Galeries Lafayette, Paris: Parisian Wonder

Image Source: Hotels Paris Rive Gauche

Image Source: Timeout

As one ventures into Galeries Lafayette, you are instantly transported into a magical, mystical and mysterious world through their window display design. The Parisian store utilizes interactive window displays and moving figures to attract the attention of passersby. The combination of eye-catching colors and hypnotic patterns enchants you into entering the fictional world that Galeries Lafayette has created. Elements of high fashion are incorporated to enrich the visuals of their window displays, also reminding you of the plethora of designer goods they have to offer.

Barneys, New York: “Make Change”, “Change Matters”

Image Source: Curbed New York

“’Tis the season of giving”, at Barneys and they are giving back. Matthew Mazzucca, Creative Director, explains their ideas and inspiration for this season’s in-store display design, "By starting with the concept of a coin, which can seem small in the luxury world, we've created engaging experiences that show that small changes can make a big difference, and invite our customers to participate in the power of change." In partnership with Save the Children, Barneys' color scheme appeals to the younger consumer as millennial pink and neon signs take center-stage for the in-store display design. Many Instagram-worthy spots are also located throughout the store including their window displays, which also creates more opportunities for social media exposure. To go along with their campaign they are promoting the hashtags, #centsational, and #makechange.

Parkview Green, Beijing: Holographic Christmas

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Back in Beijing, Parkview Green also puts their very own spin on Christmas this year through their in-store display design. Holographic trees lined with metal frames adorned with warm lights on display add an instant pop of color into the space. The use of holographic material reflects light and catches different colors, creating a multi-dimensional feel.

Christmas marks the ending of December and 2018. Since then we’ve taken a trip around the world in this article, so what’s in store for you this holiday?

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Visual Identity Design for SwissCham Night 2018

December 19, 2018

On Friday December 7th 2018, the Swiss Chamber of Commerce held their annual Christmas party at the Hilton Hotel, Beijing. 5 Star Plus Retail Design provided the overall visual identity design for the party. To add to the festive cheer, a few booths were also set up to resemble a Christmas market, two of which were designed by 5 Star Plus. Framed with Christmas wreaths and ornaments, these spaces hosted the nights’ lucky draw and promotion of various companies and products.

Image Source: The Swiss Chinese Chamber of Commerce

The screen situated center-stage displayed our design of subtle falling snow, which instantly whisked everyone into a winter wonderland, whilst the iconic Swiss Alps and historic Beijing architecture in the background served as a gentle reminder of the merger between these two countries. Other than visual identity design, 5 Star Plus was also responsible for designing the menus for the night and invitations distributed prior to the event, incorporating similar elements into the design.

Image Source: The Swiss Chinese Chamber of Commerce

As another year of successful festivities come to an end, 5 Star Plus is honored to be design partners once again with the Swiss Chamber of Commerce in Beijing. We hereby also wish everyone at the Chamber and valuable guests a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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British Chamber of Commerce in China Christmas Party 2018:Event Design and Production

December 17, 2018

The British Chamber of Commerce for China hosted their annual Christmas Party which took place on Friday, December 7th. For the third year in a row, 5 Star Plus Retail Design was the visual sponsor and design partner for the event, providing the interior and graphic design, event design concept, and event production for the party. In addition, we hosted a corporate table to celebrate the holiday festivities with a few company friends to 5 Star Plus Retail Design.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Design

This year’s theme was “Christmas Forest.” The goal of the theme was to transport guests into the outside winter wonderland through the visual and event design. The main entry way of the hall was decorated in a whimsical woodsy theme that featured an eye-catching backdrop, dynamic lighting and other whimsical decorations to create great photo opportunities for a memorable night.

Image Source: The British Chamber of Commerce in China

The inside of the venue created a warmer feeling through the use of string lights and stockings, as well as, a background that displayed a peek into the warm house with Christmas decorations all around. The edges of the venue had a gingerbread house decorated with fairy lights and featured a gingerbread man photo board to add some playfulness to the space, which also provided an interesting interaction and joyful experience for guests. The event design truly gave guests the feeling of being in a Christmas forest.

Image Source: The British Chamber of Commerce in China

This year’s party was definitely a grand success and we were happy to see everyone enjoy the festivities and celebrate with holiday cheer. We at 5 Star Plus Retail Design wish our friends at the British Chamber China a very merry Christmas and wish them the best of luck in the New Year.

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The Shifting Role of Pop-Up Store Design in China

December 4, 2018

Let’s start with a quick definition. A pop-up store is a temporary retail event that seemingly manifests overnight and, almost in the blink of an eye it disappears, leaving customers excited, bewildered, and enticed by the brand. Within the past decade, the pop-up store has become a global sales phenomenon and a hallmark of China’s rapidly growing array of shopping malls.

So why should a company take advantage of the appealing exclusivity that comes with such a flash-in-the-pan merchandising technique? Why will customers be willing to flock to a fleeting retail design experience? Why have pop-up stores seen so much success in the Chinese market? The answers to these questions might not be as simple as one might think.

Without a doubt, the world of brick-and-mortar retail is changing rapidly, which is why retailers have to make a greater effort and be willing to experiment with new, unique ways to attract customers to their stores through retail design. A well-executed pop-up store design has proven itself to be a surefire way to generate a new sense of excitement about the product and breathe new life into the physical storefront while also aligning with strategic goals of achieving a new retail strategy. Although the pop-up store can by no means be considered a new idea and could even be traced back to traveling merchants in the ancient world, the concept has taken on a new meaning in the 21st century, especially in China.

First and foremost, the pop-up store is an extremely effective way to increase brand awareness while rewarding the customer with the feeling that they have participated in something exclusive. Unlike online shopping, which sacrifices intrigue for the sake of convenience, and unlike the conventional store which might quickly lose its appeal, the pop-up store gives the customer a unique sensation creating excitement as they re-immerse themselves in the brand story of the company itself. The pop-up store offers the customer the privilege to be part of the “here and now.” With the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of culture in the age of the internet, it is no wonder customers are so often drawn to the pop-up store, something made to exist only in the short-term.

The role of the pop-up store is changing in China. Traditionally, brands would locate their pop-up stores in a shopping center where a physical location of their store was unavailable. Apart from creating a unique experience, the goal was to gauge the markets’ willingness to interact and engage in the brand and its products. It also gave retailers an idea of what products would be most successful for this particular area. The goal was to direct consumers to their stores in the future. The new role of pop-up stores are really, to re-engage customers with the brand through an exciting and unique experience while also boosting sales in their existing physical locations.

In China, it is becoming more common to see a pop-up store located in the same shopping center of the actual retail store location. The purpose of the pop-up store in the same location of the retail store, is to create a new experience for the customer enticing them to go to the store and purchase products. It also helps to promote seasonal, and new products that are entering the physical store location. More and more often, customers are only able to test products at pop-up stores. A purchase of the new product can only be made by going to the physical location.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Champion Store located in Beijing’s Sanlitun shopping center used this marketing tactic for the opening of their new location. To go with the opening of the store, they created a promotional sale which led to long ques to enter the store. To help direct people to the new location, they created a pop-up stand in the center of the shopping center that featured games and vending machines to receive special products not in the store. In addition to this, they had stickers on the ground leading people to the store. The pop-up store design for Champion tied to their brand story of American sports apparel. Simplistic looking, this stand is very similar to a merchandise booth you would see sat outside a sports stadium, a place where sports fans alike can go to purchase memorabilia of their favorite sports teams. In the stand customers can see the American flag, along with other Champion branded goods. To increase engagement on their WeChat, customers could scan a QR code to follow their page and be rewarded with a Champion branded goody in one of the various vending machines on the side.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Eye-catching pop-up store design and an artistically interesting presentation of the brand is naturally the first thing customers will notice when it comes to the pop-up store. Without an effective presentation through a pop-up store design, it’s likely customers will pay little attention to the pop-up and quickly lose interest. This has always been an important part of pop-up store design in China, and retailers are finding new ways to do this through technology. In Shanghai, Michael Kors created multiple pop-up stores in the same shopping center locations as their physical stores. This pop-up store design in the Kerry Center featured dynamic lighting and LED screens to attract attention and highlight some of their latest products.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Chinese market have always been responsive to the idea of a VIP or exclusive experience. It makes consumers feel special and allows them to feel as if they are getting an experience that is unique to them. Pop-up stores are starting to provide this exclusive experience as well. Pop-up store design is shifting towards, enclosed structures. These pop-up store structures are designed to relate to the brand story of the company, and feature unique lighting and LED screens, are enclosed, and play catchy music to attract attention. From the outside, the only thing a passerby can see is the branded structure itself. In order to see the inside, you may have to wait in a que, as only a certain number of consumers can go in at one time.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

This pop-up store design created by Lancôme, was to promote the upcoming 11.11 sale for their brand. The structure was in the shape of various different presents to create the brand story, that their brand could be used as a gift for friends, family, and even yourself for the upcoming holidays. In order to see the products they were trying to promote, consumers had to go inside to see.

This pop-up store design created by Dyson, was to promote their new line of hair styling tools. The outside featured an LED screen that played videos featuring women with beautiful hairstyles made by using Dyson styling tools. Women could go inside the stand and have their hair styled by an employee, learn how to do it themselves, and even practice using the tools themselves. The inside of the pop-up store, also featured a photo corner in which a projector image of abstract design shined on the walls, allowing women to take a picture with their newly styled hair on a cool backdrop that could be shared on social media.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The pop-up store was only a place for consumers to experience and test new products. No products were actually on sale in the store. If consumers wanted to make an actual purchase, they needed to go around the corner to the new Dyson flagship store to do so. This store design featured many elements that tied into new retail, with design elements that created transparency, expressed the quality of the Dyson brand story and its products, and additional experiences through product testing. All of which was tied together through the design of their pop-up store.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

In China, the popularity of the pop-up store is in full swing. Across the nation, new pop-up stores are popping up constantly, especially in shopping malls and outlet centers. In a time when traditional retail isn’t attracting customers like it used to, the Chinese pop-up store design serves as a compliment to the retail store location and generates buzz by providing a new, exciting aspect to the shopping experience. But, because brands, both foreign and domestic, are obviously catching on to this merchandising trend, there is now a struggle to outperform other pop-ups in terms of design and event activities.

Although they are becoming more and more commonplace in China, the pop-up store definitely isn’t going anywhere any time soon. With the planned construction of hundreds, if not thousands, of new shopping malls in China within the next few years, there is an incredible opportunity to explore every retailing possibility. The promotional advantage that can be gained from a memorable pop-up store design is immeasurable so brands must be willing to experiment and innovate with new retail design techniques and new marketing strategies to keep customers attention.

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New Retail New Design: 5 Star Plus’ Insights at SME Seminar Shanghai

November 29, 2018

The SME Seminar was hosted on November 23, 2018 and was organized by the Swiss Chamber in collaboration with Swiss Centers Shanghai, Australian Chamber, Finnish Business Council, and Canadian Chamber. The event focused on a variety of topics related to retail including: WeChat, trading, human resources and new retail design strategy. Guests in attendance ranged from a variety of foreign SME companies looking to gain insight and learn more about these topics.

There were a total of four speakers at the event each of which specialized in their chosen topic. Each speaker also provided case studies of former clients and other businesses utilizing the strategies they were speaking on. Lucky Ding gave her talk on free trade zones, educating the audience on implementation methods for distribution to and from China. Ahmet Tombul examined the changing WeChat ecosystem and provided insight on different strategies for starting a store utilizing WeChat mini-programs during his presentation. Lastly, Alexander Vnuk discussed the challenges and advantages of hiring local vs importing foreign talent. He also provided a new perspective on the general differences in China and what this means for effective management.

Samantha Chalmers, our Shanghai Client manager, shared some interesting insights on new retail strategy in the Chinese market and explained how this is shifting the way retailers are designing stores. Her talk focused on the role of brick and mortar stores in new retail strategy and identified how offline integration creates a stronger overall strategy for new retail. During her talk, she divulged into case studies of various stores who have successfully implemented new retail elements into the retail design of their stores. The main focus was to help the audience to realize that it is becoming a necessity for retailers to implement some form of technology that helps tie to their online channels, as well as provide a concrete timeline of this evolution in strategy through retail design and give a projection of future implementation. Overall, the seminar provided an excellent opportunity for business professionals to come together and learn about new strategies pertaining to retail.

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2018 British Business Awards: Event Production for British Chamber

November 27, 2018

The 2018 British Business Awards is a biennial event, organized by the British Chamber of Commerce Beijing to honour outstanding British businesses performing well within China. The event also recognizes women who have created a positive impact in both China and England whilst doing business. In addition to this, companies who have contributed positively towards global sustainability, education and innovation were also acknowledged.

Image Source: The British Chamber of Commerce in China

2018 marked the 10th year of celebrating this event. On November 15, 2018, the awards were hosted at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sanlitun. 300 guests representing a variety of British and Chinese companies from different industries gathered to celebrate the event. A total of 9 awards were presented to the finalists.

Image Source: The British Chamber of Commerce in China

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Design

The event design of the space needed to provide guests a place to gather and take pictures. The red and blue colors which represent parts of both the British and Chinese flags, mixed together to create a purple tone in the logo for the event, which perfectly represents the intermix of these two cultures in the business environment of both China and England.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Design

Image Source: The British Chamber of Commerce in China

5 Star Plus Retail Design created a backdrop that tied together the famous skylines of London, Beijing, and Shanghai to symbolize the connectivity these two countries have in the world of business. In addition to this, the lighting and branded features of the venue were important considerations to create a dynamic effect for the event.

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The Perfect Fit: How Fitting Rooms Can Affect Sales in Retail

November 22, 2018

Why is it that you go to a fitting room when you are in a retail space? The answer is most likely that you found a piece of clothing you like and intend on making a purchase! Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that this small but mighty area of a retail store is actually the room where purchase decisions are made. Hence, it is the final barrier retailers need to overcome in order to increase sales.

Whilst two years ago, 5 Star Plus Retail Design already published an article regarding “The Importance of Fitting Room Design“ in a retail store, it appears that many retailers still tend to overlook the importance of fitting room design. Therefore, we have approached this topic once again with fresh ideas for retailers to take inspiration from.

How Fitting Rooms Affect Sales in Retail

Let‘s start with some numbers and hard facts. First and foremost, the fitting room area is one of the most significant advantages brick and mortar retailers have over online retailers. Whereas online, one in five shoppers return their purchased items, in brick and mortar retail less than one in ten customers return their items. Returns usually result in huge costs, therefore, any retailer should seek to prevent potential returns and an effective fitting room design can do just this.

Shoppers who use fitting rooms are actually seven times more likely to make a purchase. In addition to this, if the customer has had a good experience with a sales assistant in the fitting rooms, this can also lead to three times as many purchased items. Therefore, all in all, 70% of purchase decisions are made in the fitting room.

How Fitting Room Design Can Influence the Buying Decision

In our previous article, we emphasized the importance of size, color and lighting in fitting room design. With all of this in mind, we dug a little deeper this time, taking a closer look at how fitting rooms also represent the most intimate areas of a store. The fitting room is the area where shoppers take off their clothes, hoping to try on a new piece of clothing which makes them look, as well as feel good. However, it is not just the clothing that achieves this and this is where fitting room design comes into the picture.

To illustrate this using one simple example: think about that uncomfortable feeling you get when you feel too over or under-dressed for a certain occasion. Similarly, if a fitting room design fails to provide the shopper with a character and flare that matches the clothes, the same uncomfortable feeling can occur. It can lead the customer to feel as if something does not look right. This can result in the customer deciding to not make a purchase, hence causing a loss in sales instead of increasing them.

"INXX Store, Parkview Green Beijing"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

How to Create the Perfect Fit with Retail Design

Let us look at some great examples across the Retail Industry in China.
“INXX represents a forward-thinking, boundary-shattering exploration of how the genres of streetwear, sportswear and high-end fashion can be reconstructed, reinterpreted and recombined.“ Through this cool and futuristic fitting room design, the Chinese street-fashion brand not only encourages shoppers to try on their clothes but had also created an atmosphere which is towards their target market.

With design concepts such as these, it is no surprise that the brand has enjoyed continued success over the years. INXX was founded in Guangzhou in 2013 and less than 5 years later, they have opened 54 stores in 17 cities in China, proving themselves to be a brand we can all learn from.

"INXX Store, Parkview Green Beijing"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

"Lululemon Store: Parkview Green Beijing"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Lululemon is a Canadian brand that sells fashionable and high-quality yoga clothing. One of the brand’s core values is mindfulness. The brand describes its mission as the following: “Our manifesto is one way we share our culture with the community. It’s an evolving collection of bold thoughts that allow for some real conversations to take place.” Lululemon cleverly utilizes the fitting room area as a platform to express some of these bold thoughts through its design. Positive affirmations, which are frequently used in yoga, are integrated in the fitting room design, illustrating how fitting room areas can also represent fundamental brand values. Therefore, when adopting slogans and other words within the design of your fitting rooms, retailers should be sure to choose the “perfect fit.”

As previously mentioned, fitting rooms are a significant advantage for brick and mortar stores. However, some brands who mainly sell online have also begun recognizing this, finding effective ways to utilize this feature. JOOOS has combined these two elements together, by providing the Top 100 Fashion Brands in Tmall’s sales list with the retail space to showcase their products. This example highlights the importance of fitting rooms.

"JOOOS Fitting Room in Hangzhou"
Image Source: e-architect.co.uk

The design of the fitting room area is interesting because it is located in the center of the retail space. Additionally, the exclusivity of the products is highlighted by the small staircase, as you have to physically walk up to get to the fitting room. Thus, one certainly does feel special when trying on a coat in this fitting room area.

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The Future is Green: 3 Sustainability Trends Retailers Should Know About

October 30, 2018

Sustainability in retail and as a general principle has gathered momentum in recent years, as a shift towards a more environmentally friendly, ethically conscious way of living has become more deeply embedded in public consciousness. According to this year's World Economic Forum Global Risks Report, three of the top global risks in terms of likelihood and impact are environmental. Therefore, it seems that the growing influence of sustainability in retail is part of a wider movement, extending beyond national borders, as more people are embracing the benefits of living green.

There has been a demand for greater transparency and ethical practices across all supply chains and it is perhaps important to look at how sustainability can affect consumer purchasing decisions, as well as how retailers can cater towards this growing demand in their products, branding and retail design.

Sustainable Purchasing

E-commerce retail giant JD.com has recently revealed that China’s consumers are increasingly shifting their purchases to sustainable goods and are willing to pay more for ethical brands. This not only echoes the calls for cleaner, safer products but also, the traceability of goods. As more and more businesses and consumers want to know exactly where their products are sourced from, certain brands are incorporating measures to help track the environmental impact of purchasing decisions.

In October 2017, Jing Daily reported the launch of the WeChat mini-program “My EP&L” (Environmental Profit & Loss) by international luxury group Kering, which measures the environmental cost of purchases. The app encourages more ethical choices based on a calculated cost, as customers are able to track not only the source of the material but also the environmental cost of produce - the lower the cost, the more eco-friendly.

Therefore, the sheer impact of ethical and sustainable ideals can be felt in more and more arenas as a key purchasing factor for consumers.

"Kering’s EP&L mini program on WeChat"
Image Source: Jing Daily

Sustainable Materials

Furthermore, back in July, the Financial Times first reported that Adidas vowed to use only recycled plastics by 2024, as the company seeks to eliminate all use of "virgin" plastic. This is to be included not only in their sportswear but also within Adidas offices, retail outlets, warehouses and distribution centres.

Primary plastics including synthetic polyester fibres are used in virtually all Adidas products - from t-shirts to sports tops, as it is light and dries very quick. However, to begin reducing plastic use Adidas have already announced that its next Spring/Summer 2019 collection will contain 41 percent recycled polyester.

This is also not the first time the company has joined the fight against plastic. Their collaboration with Parley for the Oceans sold 1 million pairs of trainers made from 95% ocean waste in 2017, whilst clean-up operations were also carried out on the world’s beaches according to Edie.Net.

"The Ultraboost Uncaged Parley"
Image Source: Financial Times

Image Source: Parley.TV

The news comes as the latest as a series of global companies such as Nike, G-Star and McDonald’s have all pledged to the use of polyester made of recycled fibres.

Therefore, a shift towards sustainable materials to lessen the environmental cost of plastic use seems to be a primary agenda for many global companies and retailers. This will be seen more and more throughout retail stores alike.

Sustainable Branding

Designers and brands are also increasingly adopting Vivienne Westwood’s “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last” mantra. This supports a shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle of valuing fewer, higher quality products with a higher pricing but lower total resource use thus creating a new kind of brand identity for retailers.

Ethical fashion retailer Antidote places its sole focus on sustainability by making it a part of its brand identity, promoting the ideal that shopping ethically is not an obligation but rather, a way of life.

"VM Trends: Antidote, Miami"
Image Source: VMSD

This theme in brand identity can be seen within both the retail design as well as the products on display in the store, which have all been ethically sourced. The Miami flagship store designed by Atelier de Yavorsky is marked by minimalism, featuring a soft yet sophisticated pastel colour palette. De Yavorsky wanted to build a narrative around this commitment to sustainability through retail design by using natural materials such as copper, oak and concrete as a backdrop to the store’s high-end yet sustainable fashions.

"VM Trends: Antidote, Miami"
Image Source: VMSD

The simple retail design allows more attention on what is truly important, the products and their story. The Antidote website states that behind every piece you will find “a narrative, a craftsperson’s dedication, a designer's commitment - to create consciously.”

According to Fashionista, during her travels to China and India to source materials, Antidote founder Sophie Zembra witnessed firsthand the craftsmanship, hard work and stories behind the people creating the fabrics. She realized that the inspiring story about the brand identity helps create a deeper connection between the shopper and the product and wanted to promote a vision “where conscious meets desirable.”

Therefore, using this as the focal point, what Antidote has been able to do is create a brand identity and retail design space where sustainability and fashion can go hand in hand.


With sustainability shaping retail trends in 2018, it has become increasingly clear that retailers should seek to cater towards this demand by incorporating ethical/ sustainable initiatives into their products, brand identity and retail design. Whilst we have highlighted ways in which many brands are already participating in this environmental movement, it is important to consider how this can be further implemented as we enter into a newer, ‘greener’ age.

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Creating Customer Engagement through Window Design

October 26, 2018


Window displays are a crucial part of a retail store. They are the first opportunity to show the customer your brand story. They also serve as an attention getter, grabbing the customer in and drawing them into the store to see more, experience the brand story for themselves, and purchase products.

A good window display will feature key elements that answer the following three questions from the perspective of the passerby:

- What do you want me to look at?

- Where do you want me to look first?

- How can you draw me closer?

In the ever growing digital age, the main competitor of window displays are smartphones. It can be challenging for a window display to grasp the attention of a potential customer who is walking by paying close attention to their digital device. It is for this reason that window display design has shifted towards the integration of LED screens and audio sound. An eye catching movement from the corner of the eye, paired with a catchy tune are the exact formula to draw the attention away from a customer’s smartphone for just enough time to show them a brief moment of your brand’s story. Close to 25% of a retail store’s customers stem from an enticing window design display. Apart from showing loyal and potential customers your brand story, LED screens also provide the opportunity to communicate how a product works.

LED Screens

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Design

The window display above for the Adidas flagship store in Beijing features videos of runners putting on shoes and using them to train for an upcoming race. Beside the LED screen is the countdown clock for the race. The marketing within the store was also meant to excite customers about an upcoming race in Beijing. The neighboring window display design featured dynamic LED mini screens in which arrows moved from left to right in a fluid motion drawing attention to the featured trainers.

Dynamic ceiling-to-floor LED screens are another way to draw attention to the retail store and its products. This Gucci store in Milan uses a ceiling-to-floor LED column that features a video of models wearing their clothes. The columns are used in the window display design as well as the main entrance to create a dynamic and immersive experience for customers.

Image Source: thecurrentdaily.com

Dynamic Lighting

Keeping window display design to a minimal by limiting the number of products within the display, paired with dynamic lighting to pinpoint these products can also serve as an eye-catching way to draw the consumer’s attention to a window display. This Saint Laurent store located in Shanghai uses dynamic ceiling-to-floor lighting behind their products to highlight and draw attention to their latest coat selection in their window display design.

Image Source: chinafashionbloggers.com

Combining Features

Many stores utilize a combination of the above examples, combining dynamic lighting, LED screens and other features into the window display design. This eye-catching window display design for GAP features mannequins in a dynamic box framed lighting to draw attention to the products being displayed within the box. Another unique feature about this window display design is the incorporation of ‘whispering speakers’ that project an attention grabbing sound to the street, turning the heads of the passersby to see where the sound came from.

Image Source: avinteractive.com

This Victoria Secret store in Hangzhou features an LED screen that plays their yearly fashion show. Dynamic lighting in the company’s branding draws the passerby’s eye towards the LED screen, creating excitement for them to enter the store to explore the products in person.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Design

Creating Interaction

Creating customer interaction is another way to engage potential customers before entering the store. Kiosks are placed nearby the window display that can capture a picture of the customer and allow them to mix and match different products on a virtual mannequin of themselves. This window display design for the Ralph Lauren flagship store in New York, featured an LED screen in which customers could mix and match different tie patterns on a shirt color of their choosing. Once they found the tie they wanted, they were sent a link on their mobile device which allowed them to purchase the product immediately.

Image Source: time.com

Overall window display design is evolving into an interactive, and technological displays to grasp the attention of the passerby and draw them into the retail stores. The use of LED screens helps to show a customer a glimpse of the brand story, as well as, products in motion. Moving images and video have shown to increase the retention of the individual and peak their interest. Dynamic lighting is another way to draw the eye to the featured objects in a window display, and also add to the brand story of the retail store. Creating an interactive aspect in the window display allow the individual to interact and learn about products before entering into the store making them more likely to actually purchase a product. Overall, the advancement of window display design has led to more creative ways of achieving customer interaction.

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5 Star Plus at Best of British (BOB) Exhibition in Shanghai

October 22, 2018

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Design

Retail design agency 5 Star Plus acted as the proud event partner with the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) and Department for International Trade (DIT) Southeast at the Best of British Brands (BOB) Exhibition in Shanghai. Hosting a variety of British companies across multiple sectors looking to grow and create a stronger presence in the Chinese retail market, the event was organized by Media 10 Limited and took place October 18-21.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Design

5 Star Plus created a clean and simple exhibition stand design that held true to DIT branding. At the center part of the stand, a reception and community area created an opportunity for guests to learn more about DIT, CBBC, and 5 Star Plus Retail Design. A stunning image of a shopping mall in Leeds England that tied into the branding for CBBC was placed at the back part of the stand to set the tone of what these brands could represent in China. Having an open concept design allowed visitors to flow easily from one booth to the next as they explored what these brands had to offer. The exhibition stand hosted 10 different companies, all looking for potential partners and exposure in China. These companies ranged from clothing and apparel, cosmetics, household goods, and food and beverage. To catch the eye of the passerby, each company in the stand had a booth that featured a full length poster wall.

Companies within the stand included: Boggle Mints, SteakStones, Studio 10, Christys’, Heyland &Whittle, The Workers Club, HMS Spirits, OMS, Earthy Timber, and Wild Nutrition. The exhibition also featured other notable retail brands including Ted Baker, Bentley, and Dyson. Throughout the exhibition various live events including cooking demonstrations, fashion shows, music, and films took place in different parts of the exhibition center. Overall, the event opened many doors for the British businesses who participated. Being crucial for building brand awareness and the right image, the design of the exhibition stand was well received by both retail brands and visitors.

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5 Star Plus Projects Receive Excellent Design Awards at WWSE 2018

September 28, 2018

Image Source: World Winter Sports Expo

This year’s World Winter Sports Beijing Expo (WWSE2018) began last week with Austria participating as the “Guest of Honour Country” for the first time. The event ran from September 19-22 at Beijing’s CNCC and we are delighted to announce that two 5 Star Plus Retail Design projects received design awards at the event.

The two projects, International Biathlon Union (IBU) and the Austrian pavilion received special recognition for excellent design and we feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to the event, especially in the run up to the Olympic Winter Games 2022.

The Olympic Winter Games 2022 has fuelled an enthusiasm for ice and snow sports in China. Hence, with Austrian athletes and companies leading the winter sports industry, Austria had a particularly important role to play at this year’s expo and was the largest pavilion at the event.

ADVANTAGE Austria provided a platform for 26 Austrian winter sports exhibitors and 5 Star Plus were proud to have been a part of Austria’s glowing contribution to the expo, as our team designed a space covering 564 sqm of the exhibition stand.

Our other project IBU covered 108 sqm, with 7 exhibitors hoping to introduce the Biathlon sport to China. Amongst these were not only companies exhibiting Biathlon sports gear, but the International Biathlon Union also sought to promote the sport as a whole, bringing knowledge and understanding to those who may not be familiar with the sport.

Therefore, the WWSE2018 was a great chance for different countries and exhibitors to come together to reinforce their presence in China’s winter sports industry, as well as celebrate winter sports as a whole.

We at 5 Star Plus Retail Design have thoroughly enjoyed contributing to this celebration of winter sports and hope to achieve continued success in our future design projects.

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The Power of Illusion in Retail Design

September 26, 2018

Have you ever wondered why certain shapes and patterns are more eye-catching and draw you in instantly? According to Michael Bach, a visual scientist and professor of neurobiophysics, an illusion is "a mismatch between the immediate visual impression and the actual properties of an object.” The brain is always constructing things, therefore, when sometimes our subjective perception doesn't match the physical reality of what is presented, we as human beings are naturally intrigued by the phenomenon. Consequently, the way in which our brain interprets an image can also have a real impact on whether we find it to be appealing as a consumer. Therefore, it is important to consider how this can also be incorporated within retail design in order to enhance your visual appeal to potential customers.

This article will take a closer look into how illusions can be used within retail design and innovative ways retailers have utilised this feature.

Hello Miss Rong

The Hello Miss Rong restaurant in Guangzhou, designed by Infinity Nide uses illusions effectively through the use of colourful, electroplated stainless steel to create a microscopic/X-ray effect within the retail design.

"Hello Miss Rong restaurant by Infinity Nide"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

The shapes and colours on the steel walls is in contrast with the rest of the restaurant which features predominantly white, minimalist, simple block shapes. The juxtaposition between the two design strategies has been utilised effectively so to allow more attention on the illusions and patterns in the retail design. Therefore, what Infinity Nide has managed to create is a display that is not only eye-catching to potential customers but also futuristic, as the distorted shapes alongside the metallic finish gives off an impression that is almost other worldly.

Thin Thin Thin installation in UNIQLO

The Thin Thin Thin window installation at UNIQLO in Tokyo showcases the use of illusions within visual merchandising at its finest. What makes the installation so aesthetically interesting is the fact that designer Emmanuel Moureaux has been able to construct an illusion of grandeur by giving the impression of a completely symmetrical display. This has been achieved through the simple use of mirror panels which have been cleverly placed at the top of the bottom box.

"Thin Thin Thin installation at UNIQLO by Emmanuelle Moureaux"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

The mannequins in the top section appear as though they are hanging directly from the ceiling, adding another dimension to the window display which is in perfect symmetry with those on the bottom. The concept and every single detail within the installation seems to have been well thought out in order to achieve this grand illusion, as even the gradient of colour running throughout the display has been carefully constructed through the use of thin woollen threads. The different lengths and colours, as well as the texture of the threading all blend together seamlessly to create this extra layer which brightens up the whole display and gives the perfect finish to the piece.

ONE Teahouse

"ONE teahouse by Minax Architects, Shanghai – China"
Image Source: Arch Daily

Shanghai’s ONE Teahouse designed by Minax Architects epitomises the successful use of optical illusion within retail design. Through the positioning of 999 wooden sticks, a spiral effect has been created which encompasses the whole room to create an egg shape. This provides a certain shock factor for customers entering the tearoom, especially as circular shapes are not typical of most retail design spaces. As well as this, the optical illusion within the layout can also play with your imagination. The walls may be seen to be physically moving and spiralling when you are stood amongst it, however, in reality, it is the layering of the wooden sticks creating this illusion.

"ONE teahouse by Minax Architects, Shanghai – China"
Image Source: Arch Daily

The power of illusion is also reflected in the outer design of the teahouse which features a rectangular door frame which appears to blend in with the inner store design. This provides an additional layer to the optical illusion, as solely based upon the outer design the teahouse appears to be a rectangular shape. However once you step inside, the circular design and spiral effect becomes evident. Therefore, ONE Teahouse’s unique design can not only generate customer intrigue but also provides a unique customer experience due to the unexpected nature of the retail design.

Molton Brown Vetiver & Grapefruit Marketing Campaign

Alternatively, Molton Brown uses illusions in a different way, by incorporating optical illusions as part of their brand design to mark the launch of their Vetiver & Grapefruit fragrance collection. Placed in shopping centres across the UK, the display features anamorphic art to create clever 3D optical illusions of their new products. The marketing campaign under the title ‘Build the Tension’ was intended to reflect the contrasting flavours in the new range and this theme has also been conveyed through the positioning of the 3D illusions, with the products appearing to fall on top of each other.

Image Source: ipm BITESIZE

Customers are also encouraged to get involved with the campaign, as there are footprints on the 3D flooring to invite people to share their photos on social media to win prices. This interactive element can enhance customer experiences as they are able to engage with the brand directly by posing playfully next to the products. Furthermore, what is perhaps most notable about this campaign is the fact that through the use of 3D optical illusions Molton Brown have managed to bring their brand message to life physically.


In conclusion, taking a closer look at the concept of illusions, how they work and why they are aesthetically appealing can offer a unique take on retail design which can both generate customer fascination as well as provide them with a memorable experience. Stated above are just a few examples of the various ways in which illusions can be used effectively for other retailers to take inspiration from in their own retail design.

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“New Retail, New Design”—5 Star Plus’ Insights at CBBC London

September 24, 2018

The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) hosted an event on August 30, 2018 in London focusing on developments within China’s retail landscape. Some significant British retail brands in attendance included Dr. Martens, The Body Shop, Je Joue and Dartington Crystal. 5 Star Plus’ Managing Director and retail industry expert Barbara Seidelmann delivered valuable insights on this topic, as well as how to incorporate these developments into the retail design of brick & mortar stores.

She started by discussing the changing needs of Chinese consumers and the influence this will have on major industries including, but not limited to, toys, sporting apparel, and cosmetics. She then examines the online-to-offline model strategy and the role this will play in future retail design. A major point she focused on was the increasing need for technological integration within store design and its increasing capabilities in terms of shopping functionality for consumers. Overall, it is important to realize that the direction of retail in the Chinese market will not end online or offline. Rather, both will form a cohesive omni-channel experience, utilizing online channels to attract customers into brick & mortar stores and vice versa. Keeping in mind these trends in order to implement new retail design strategies is crucial to the continued success and sustainability of retail brands in the Chinese market.

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How to Incorporate Storytelling into Your Retail Design

August 28, 2018

Have you ever wondered why brand storytelling is such a crucial element in retail marketing and store design nowadays? Do you find it difficult trying to relay your brand identity through the design of your retail space? If you have asked yourself these questions, this article will provide you with some much needed answers. Together we will delve into the essence of brand storytelling. Then we will explore how storytelling can influence one’s retail design, and more practically, how it can be integrated into the retail design of your storefront.

"3 Ways Whole Foods Is Using Design to Appeal To Millennials"
Image Source: INC

First, we need to define the concept of storytelling in the context of consumer markets. Storytelling engages an audience through either fictional or non-fictional content. The content can relay a particular lesson or it can simply be told for entertainment purposes. Either way, it is a useful tool for providing meaning in the vast aspects of our intricate lives. In this sense, many brands today utilize storytelling as a central marketing technique. Brands engage their customers with storytelling because it creates transparency of the values upon which the company was founded on and is driven by. Storytelling not only makes it easy to express a retailer’s vision, but it gives a clearer picture of what the brand stands for. In turn, this clarity makes it easier for the brand to connect with like-minded customers. Historically, Chinese consumers preferred products that fulfilled perceptions of esteem or advanced their progression in social hierarchies. However, in today’s Chinese market, there is a growing trend towards products that enhance their lives with an emphasis on personal growth. Consumers want brands that embody similar principles, goals, and personality traits to offer them authentic, customized shopping experiences that are memorable. Storytelling personifies your brand in a transparent manner to ultimately establish loyal relationships with your customers and community.

Now that we have determined the what and the why of brand storytelling, we need to answer the question of how: How do you author a genuine and compelling story?

Step 1: Self-assessment. Understand why and how your brand came to be. Why did you decide to start up or work for the company behind your brand? What motivates you and your colleagues to get up every day and work towards organizational success? Use the answers to these questions as the backbone of your brand origins.

Step 2: Value-judgement. Your story will be most valuable to the people who relate to you the most. Utilize your brand values to portray a distinct lifestyle that you, your employees and your customers adhere and aspire to. This helps identify who your target audience is. Do not strive to be everything to everyone.

Step 3: Communication. Use your origins story to relay the worth of your brand to your consumers. Whether it be reminding loyal ones or convincing potential ones to hop on your bandwagon, show these customers how their lives will be enhanced. Your message should be steadfastly purposeful, elegantly simple, predominantly visual, yet emotionally moving.

Step 4: Consistency. Now, communicate your story across all of your channels. The operative word for this step is consistency—keeping everything from your brand’s tone of voice to formatting style the same no matter where your customer interactions take place.

This simple, four-step approach to brand story development can go a long way. It is important to remember that your story needs to be told in a way that is organic, transparent, and humanizing.

"9 Ridiculous Life Lessons Lululemon Is Trying To Teach Us, Including ‘Don’t Wear Sunscreen’ "
Image Source: Bustle

"Retail Report: A Look at Away’s Pop Up Shop in NYC"
Image Source: Startup Fashion

Incorporating your brand story into the retail design of your store can be challenging because, like maintaining consistency across all channels, your brand story needs to be an all-encompassing theme. But if done right, a flagship or concept store can be the most effective channel for communicating the lifestyle you represent. The first kind of people any retail store can make an impression on is the passerby. So you need to put a lot of thought into logo signage and window display. Make sure the logo has a bold color choice and unique font that match the brand identity. Keep a consistent voice and tone for any written content and be sparing with it, as brand storytelling is more effective through visualization. Take advantage of technological advancements in your window display. Wide LED screens allow for video play or image slideshows that unleash your brand’s heart—bonus points for interactive capabilities. For example, as an activewear retailer, showcase motivational stories of real people who power through adversity to champion physical feats. That said, activewear brands like Under Armour and Lululemon differentiate themselves from each other by embodying disparate core values, and writing their individual stories accordingly.

"Nike Kinect Interactive Window Display by Staat"
Image Source: Best Window Displays

"17 [+5] Marketing Techniques to Launch Your Clothing Label"
Image Source: Merchandise Essentials

Once customers are inside your store, they are no longer passersby. In other words, they are now in your world. Therefore, everything about the retail design whether it be mapping out the traffic flow or stimulating the senses need to tie back into your brand story.

Sight. Consider the visuals and displays of your store design. Pick a color palette (one that is consistent with your logo) and stick to it. Remember that colors evoke certain emotions, so choose a color palette that best represents the feelings your brand story induces. If you are a children’s toy retailer for example, use yellows to promote playfulness and happiness and purples for encouraging imagination and creativity. Take note of how lighting plays into your visuals and displays. If your brand story is exciting and lively, use bright lighting. If it is passionate, use dynamic lighting. For luxury houseware brands with long family heritage consider the use of warm, intimate lighting to convey a sense of homeyness.

"Williams-Sonoma Time Warner Center"
Image Source: Sean O-Connor Lighting

Sound. Another method of communicating a brand story through retail design is with audio stimulation. Be it complementary to your video content or the store’s background music, any auditory element must correspond to whatever resonates with your target audience. Music, just like color, influences people’s moods. Moreover, it is an expression of one’s underlying character. Capture the essence of your audience’s personality and show them that you (the brand) are kindred because of your similar taste in music.

Scent. Scent also plays a significant role in your brand story. Again, similar to the aforementioned store attributes, smells can correlate to particular emotions and memories. But they also play subconscious psychological roles that can deepen the perception of your brand. A shared workspace, for example, could use hints of citrus and lemon to boost concentration, ultimately increasing productivity. A more general example is an outdoors store using piney, smoky, or oceanic fragrances to invoke feelings of nostalgia and serenity within nature-loving customers.

"The Science of Smell: How Retailers Can Use Scent Marketing to Influence Shoppers"
Image Source: Shopify Blogs

There are many more aspects of retail design where you can incorporate elements of your brand story. These examples along with step-by-step instructions to creating your own brand story should provide you with reasonable insight and guidance. Remember that brand storytelling is a highly effective engagement tool built on a strong sense of self-awareness and purpose. This will allow your audience to epitomize your brand’s values. Therein, the key to integrating it within retail design is to immerse your customers in every experiential aspect possible. At the heart of it, brand storytelling should begin with you, but each new chapter is carried on by your customer.

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3 Brands Whose Chinese Concept Stores Will Blow Your Mind

August 20, 2018

The phrase ‘concept store’ appears throughout the world of retail design and has become something of a buzz word lately. A lot of people misuse the term ‘concept store’ to refer to any form of store design, but a concept store is much more. Rather than a means to present products, concept stores are more like an art form, creating a narrative and focusing on the customer experience.

Retail design in China has presented a stage for some of the most interesting designs of concept stores throughout the world. Creating a unique aesthetic makes these retail stores desirable, often involving interactive elements to engage shoppers. Despite being the capital city, Beijing is not the only place to find exceptional design. Let’s take a look at three brands with inspirational retail design concepts in China.


Bookstore chain Zhongshuge has branches in different cities: Beijing, Chengdu, Yangzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Their design has received global acclaim and has become a ‘must-see’ tourist destination thanks to the grand scale of their retail store design. Each store concept is different but still holds true to the brand identity. A few pictures of Zhongshuge Shanghai are shown below.

"A bookstore by X+Living in Shanghai draws shoppers into an urban retreat"
Image Source: Frame

"The most beautiful bookstore' in Shanghai"
Image Source: China Daily

Nestled in the Songjiang district, Zhongshuge has transformed the retail space into a series of rooms that inspire playfulness. The store layout is full of angles, with hidden displays under stairs and around corners, nurturing discovery. The majority of ceilings are mirrored, creating a dizzying other-world effect one might find through the looking glass and encourages customers to remove themselves from day-to-day mundanity. The animal themed children’s section encourages exploration with a world map on the floor, allowing little ones to feel as if they were travelling great distances in a short amount of time – just like when reading a book.

Gentle Monster

Gentle Monster is a Korean eyewear brand with concept stores in China, Korea, the USA, Hong Kong and Singapore. Each concept store has a different theme exploring abstractions such as spiritualism, deification, exploration and salvation. Drawing on the monstrous element of their brand, Gentle Monster creates imaginative displays that could come alive at any moment. Each store display develops intrigue without explanation, allowing customers to imagine their own story. Playing on perspectives is a genius idea for an eyewear brand, drawing away from the products themselves and tying the brand with the imagination of creative visionaries.

Their retail design in Shanghai uses natural materials such as straw, soil and cotton which conjures images of primitive spirituality, blending the natural and unnatural worlds.

Image Source: Gentle Monster


JOOOS is a designer department store in Hangzhou, China. In 2016, designers X+Living created four ‘JOOOS fitting-rooms’ that showcased the top 100 Tmall fashion brands in four collections: Mori Girl Collection, Celebrity Collection, OL Collection and Fashionable Girl Collection. For the store concept, a ‘fitting-room’ was created for each, showcasing the products in uniquely designed spaces. The store concept was to show the emptiness of buying online using open, empty spaces which naturally draw customers to the products and offer an alternative.

Despite the impersonal nature of online shopping, there are many additional services that make the experience fun and customizable. To imitate the aspects of the online shopping environment, the fitting-rooms had a large interactive screen outside which allowed customers to preview the products before entering the space. Each fitting-room environment was equipped with a make-up area, selfie area and rest area, creating an omni-channel experience that provided instant gratification through likes and comments on the customers’ social media.

"X+living's fashion concept features four contrasting aesthetic identities"
Image Source: Design Bloom

The Mori Girl Collection used muted colors and minimal infrastructure, creating clothing racks from hemp rope strung between bamboo poles. The basic, understated retail design contrasts with the modern clothes design whilst creating a soft, natural environment.

"This Retail Space for Designer Department Store, JOOOS is Super E-P-I-C"
Image Source: Habitus Living

The Fashionable Girl Collection was bold, with quirky elements such as neon buttons hanging from the ceiling and a patterned floor. The bright colors created a sense of fun and vibrancy.

"X+living's fashion concept features four contrasting aesthetic identities"
Image Source: Design Bloom

The Celebrity Collection created an open space design based on birdcages. In Victorian times, beautiful birds were kept in cages such as those used in the retail store design so that they could be admired and adored. This delicate space created a Princess-themed environment in which customers could relax and feel like royalty.

"This Retail Space for Designer Department Store, JOOOS is Super E-P-I-C"
Image Source: Habitus Living

The OL collection used concrete and muted colors to create a more refined and sophisticated store environment. The soft textures of the carpet and furnishings helped the space to remain feminine whilst still emphasizing functionality.


Whether creating retail design in Beijing, Shanghai or anywhere else in China, the aim should not be to show off products. The store concept should be based on abstract ideas that represent the brand and link to customers’ own identities and aspirations.

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5 Star Plus Design Confirmed to be the Assigned Design and Construction Partner for the Austrian Pavilion at the World Winter Sports Expo 2018

July 30, 2018

5 Star Plus Retail Design is proud to announce that we will be the assigned design and construction partner for the Austrian Pavilion at the World Winter Sports Expo 2018.

With the Olympic Winter Games taking place in Beijing in 2022, the World Winter Sports Expo was organized for the first time in 2016 with the target to bring winter sports closer to 300 Million Chinese people.

Image Source: World Winter Sports Expo

This year, Austria was selected to be the Major Guest of Honor of WWSE 2018 . Hosted by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Austrian Pavilion will feature some of Austria’s most successful companies associated to winter sports: AST, Fischer, Swarovski Optik, Wintersteiger, and Axess, among many others.

Image Source: World Winter Sports Expo

Image Source: World Winter Sports Expo

The pavilion design will also include a “tourism discovery street” with different tourism related organizations (for example, the Austrian National Tourism Office, Tirol, and many others).

Besides the Austrian Pavilion, 5 Star Plus Retail Design is also designing and building the exhibition stands for several other international exhibitors at WWSE 2018.

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The Future of Luxury Retail – New Digital Technologies

July 25, 2018

New digital technologies are transforming the future of luxury retail in China. The rise of m-commerce and major online retailers such as Amazon has meant that brick and mortar store designs are looking to evolve in order to remain competitive. New digital technologies such as blockchain, the internet of things, big data and virtual reality are finally being introduced to the luxury retail industry in China. Brick and mortar stores can and will survive. However, they will need to be creative and begin utilising these new technologies within their store designs if they wish to remain competitive.

Big Data

Big data is making its way into the luxury retail industry rapidly. Retailers want to personalise and better cater to their customers and the main way they can do this is through the use of big data. Algorithms are used to analyse big data; this then provides retailers with vital information on consumer preferences and trends. Furthermore, big data can tell retailers which individuals spend the most, what motivates them to buy more, how they behave, and the best way to reach these consumers. If retailers utilise this information they will be able to maximise their ability to stay relevant within their industry.

"Data Analytics: Challenges and Implementation"
Image Source: Hidden Brains


Blockchain is most likely to be known due to its association with bitcoin. However, luxury retailers should begin considering using blockchain to increase efficiency and maximise their ability to compete against online retailers. The blockchain network can be used to reassure consumers about the quality of products they are buying. Furthermore, the encrypted ledger system which comes with blockchain can tackle the issue of counterfeit goods by creating a “digital passport” which shows all the steps within the supply chain. This reassurance is not only great for retailers but also consumers. Generation Z values authenticity more highly than ever before.

Furthermore, retailers can use blockchain to generate greater customer loyalty by incorporating blockchain into loyalty schemes, customers will be able to access their rewards immediately after receiving them. Blockchain is far more efficient at allocating these rewards as it will not have to go through a centralised system which can often take several days.

Chinese luxury retail fashion brand Babyghost have teamed up with BitSE and its blockchain project. They have started placing QR codes on the labels of their clothing which allows customers to verify the authenticity of their products.

"Designer Brings Blockchain to Fashion"
Image Source: Fintech Singapore

"Babyghost and Vechain: Fashion on the blockchain"
Image Source: Bitcoinmagazine

Internet of Things

The internet of things (IoT) has created an omnichannel shopping experience where online devices are capable of interacting with each other automatically. Luxury retailers need to begin thinking about implementing the IoT in their brick and mortar store designs. IoT can combine online and offline aspects to maximize customer experiences. Luxury retailers can send out vouchers and coupons to consumers in real time who live in close proximity. Moreover, it allows retailers to gather vital information which can be used to further expand customer loyalty and increase sales. Utilising IoT will allow retailers to effectively reach their desired target audience.

An example of this is the Hudson Bay Company who has integrated IoT into their brick and mortar store design to enhance consumers’ experiences. They have equipped 90 of their Canadian stores, and 50 Lord & Taylor locations in the US. As shoppers walk near these shops they are sent push notifications enticing customers with special offers or promotions.

"12 Crucial questions Answered on Beacons’ growing influence on the retail industry"
Image Source: OpenxCell

"Retail dynamics of the internet of things in the future"
Image Source: Experfy

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) has been predicted to revolutionise the world of retail design. Retailers have begun applying the use of virtual reality more and more within their brick and mortar concept stores. The use of VR can provide unique and exciting experiences in the hopes of luring more shoppers in-store and away from E-commerce. The use of virtual reality removes the limitations of space and time. Retailers can therefore design a space with no limits. We can expect retailers to begin implementing a greater use of VR as it becomes more accessible and more affordable.

North Face collaborated with cinematic VR company Jaunt where they provided consumers the opportunity to virtually experience an immersive tour of California’s Yosemite National Park and the Moab desert in Utah. The use of VR creates a more personalised shopping experience within the store design while forging a greater emotional connection between the brand and its customers. This personalised shopping experience will help to increase profits for the retailer.

"The North Face gave these shoppers a VR experience that suddenly got awesomely real"
Image Source: Adweek


Recently, robots have become more and more common in the retail industry. The addition of robots inside store designs can help improve business and help retailers to stay relevant with consumers. The use of robots can help attract customer attention this is because retail robots are a new innovation which helps to lure customers into a store. Furthermore, robots can improve efficiency as they can keep track of a business’s inventory.

Lowebot was first introduced to home improvement retailer Lowe’s flagship store in 2016. Customers can ask Lowebot by speaking or using a touch screen on where to find items they need inside the store. Lowebot can also answer basic customer service questions such as information on each product. The use of robots is novel yet has the ability to entice customers in-store due to consumers experiencing something new.

Brick and mortar stores will need to analyse the cost and benefits of whether to include robotics in their store design because it may not be relevant for all retailers and will be more beneficial for some more than others.

Image Source: Lowe’s innovation labs

Image Source: Lowe’s innovation labs


New technologies such as big data, blockchain, the internet of things, virtual reality and robotics are revolutionising the future of retail. Brick and mortar stores should consider utilising these new forms of technology which will allow them to improve the shopping experience for consumers while also gaining vital information on consumer behaviour. All these new digital technologies have their pros and cons. It is important to match these with exciting and creative store designs. However, for businesses to stay competitive and relevant within the constantly adapting Chinese market, it is important to consider the benefits of these new technologies.

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What the Nose Knows - Sensory Retail Design

July 23, 2018

Researchers have discovered that far more goes into the shopping experience than what the customer sees. Everything from the music playing, the lighting of the room, to the materials used as the flooring creates a unique shopping experience and adds to the store identity. Recently, researchers have discovered that using scent marketing is an incredibly effective strategy to positively affect the shopper’s experience and enhance a store identity. Different scents cause different emotions and it is important to use the smells to create the outcome in the company’s market identity and strategy.

Image Source: rent.com.au

Using a specific scent tailored to the store’s market identity “increased intent to purchases by 80%”(Nike). Cinnabon is an example of a store properly implementing the scent branding strategy by using their iconic, rich smell of cinnamon to entice customers to their store and buy their products. Companies do not need a signature smell to positively enhance their store identity. Instead they can use generic ambient scents and get the same positive outcome. Below are ambient scents that companies should consider to activate a specific feeling within their customers:

1. Relaxation

The smell of orange has been found to limit anxiety and get rid of stress. Eucalyptus also creates a calming feeling. Furthermore, the smell of Jasmine makes people feel at peace and is used as an antidepressant. These three scents can be used to make shopping a less stressful experience and allow shoppers to unwind. Pandora focused on scents similar to these to make their store identity feel relaxing. The relaxing smells compliment their elegant and poised store design.

"Pandora Store Design"
Image Source: caps-architects.com

2. Happiness

The smell of lemon and lime has been discovered to increase overall mood and happiness. Lemon triggers serotonin to rush to the brain to make the customer feel more cheerful. Lemon also is the most powerful citrus smell. Since the sense of smell is most closely related with memories, creating a positive impact can be done more easily with a positive smell like lemons. The concept store Tigerlily uses a combination of lime and other scents to create a positive and warm store identity. The use of these scents helps reinforce the positive and upbeat store design.

"Lakeside Joondalup"
Image Source: www.lakesidejoondalup.com.au

3. Alertness

Companies want to have a strong brand image and impact on customers. An easy way to make their company stand out is by using scents that increase alertness within the store. The scent of Rosemary increases attention and focus within customers. Rosemary also limits fatigue. The smell of cinnamon also allows the brain to focus more clearly. Furthermore, the smell of Peppermint allows deeper concentration within customers. Samsung is an example of a store that uses smells similar to these to create a focused environment for their customers and employees and add to their chic store identity.

"NordWood Themes"
Image Source: Unsplash

Using scent marketing is allowing companies to go the next step in being competitive in their individual industries. It is not enough to create an aesthetic design. Now companies need to use scents to be memorable and create specific and positive emotions within their customers. The best store designs realize that the shopping experience incorporates all five senses, and even the scent of the store is vital.

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5 Star Plus Presents: “New Retail, New Design” at UK-China Retail Forum 2018

June 28, 2018

Image Source: China-Britain Business Council Guangzhou

The China Britain Business Council (CBBC) hosted the annual Great British Brands Festival (GBBF) on June 28, 2018. Located at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Guangzhou, the GBBF presented a UK – China retail forum. The first day of the festival included inviting leading industry experts to discuss what ‘New Retail’ meant for the Chinese retail and design industries this year. They invited a vast range of companies from BMW, to Marks & Spencer, to Chelston Manor to hear this year’s retail news.

Image Source: China-Britain Business Council Guangzhou

Image Source: China-Britain Business Council Guangzhou

5 Star Plus’s Managing Director and industry leader, Barbara Seidelmann, was invited to deliver a speech on the latest retail trends in her presentation: “New Retail, New Design”. Barbara’s speech began with an overview of the current retail market and analyzed differences between Western and Chinese consumer behavior. Furthermore, she discussed how prominent online distribution has become in 2018 and how to incorporate this into various retail and restaurant stores.

Image Source: China-Britain Business Council Guangzhou

Barbara concluded her speech by discussing the opportunities and future of Brick-and-Mortar stores. She gave insight on how ‘New Retail’ involves making the shopping experience more individualized and entertaining for 2018 and future years. The future of retail is always changing. She was able to present about these changes and give a strong outlook of what ‘New Retail’ entails for the future.

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Retail-tainment: Where Store Design Meets Entertainment

June 22, 2018

With the increased popularity of shopping online, traditional Brick & Mortar stores need to find a way to attract more customers. The biggest trend of 2018 thus far has been the push towards ‘retail-tainment’. Shopping is no longer limited to getting the products needed and leaving. Now the entire process of shopping has become a memorable experience.

Traditional Brick & Mortar store designs are going the next step by appealing to the customer and focusing on ease and personalization. Consumers often feel overwhelmed trying to discover exactly what they are looking for. This issue can be solved with Retail-tainment.

"Nordstrom’s Newest Store aims for a Personal Touch"
Image Source: www.latimes.com

Nordstrom perfectly executed this strategy with their new store design: Nordstrom Local. At this location, customers will find limited clothes but a guaranteed enjoyable time. Customers will be treated to fruit juices or a cocktail, manicures, and handpicked clothes. The customer can relax while clothes are tailored to their specific requests. Nordstrom Local’s strategy is to allow customers to get exactly what they want without having to manually rummage through countless racks of clothes and wait in endless lines. Instead they can sit back, relax, and enjoy a unique shopping experience.

"Nordstrom’s Newest Store aims for a Personal Touch"
Image Source: www.latimes.com

"Nordstrom Just Opened a Tiny store Without Any Inventory"
Image Source: www.cnbc.com

Although retail-tainment is more common among luxury retail stores, it is possible for any type of store design to benefit from retail-tainment. For example, Target launched ‘Target Wonderland’. Target managed to entertain customers with different games for children to play with while simultaneously making the shopping experience more convenient by giving each customer a lanyard that allowed them to easily scan products they desired.

"Target Invokes Willy Wonka for Its Store of the Future"
Image Source: fortune.com

One of 5 Star Plus’s latest projects, the Exhibition Stand Design Department for International Trade UK, was designed with retail-tainment in mind. Besides displaying various products, 5 Star Plus created a large pavilion to allow entertainment to occur as well. Activities like the afternoon tea area invited customers to enjoy tea and snacks, as well as sit and relax in the exhibition stand longer.

"Exhibition Stand Design, Department for International Trade, UK"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Retail-tainment has been successful for two major reasons. The first being that it makes the products more memorable. The second is that retail-tainment increases brand loyalty to luxury stores (an issue that many high end stores have been trying to effectively overcome). Retailers need to consider how to use retail-tainment within their own stores to make an impact on their customers. Although it can be costly, when done effectively, retail-tainment adds incredible amounts of value to a company’s image.

Is Retail-tainment right for every Retail store?

It is important for Retailers to make a positive and lasting impression all while making the shopping experience more memorable. It is not necessary for every store to serve special drinks or provide onset tailoring at their store locations. However, retailers need to consider what strategies would be most effective for their brand image.

In short: Yes, especially in 2018 retail-tainment has made store designs more competitive and memorable to customers and altered the shopping experience.

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Our New Shanghai Team

June 14, 2018

5 Star Plus Retail Design is proud to announce the expansion of our team in Shanghai. We have chosen to continue growing our presence here in order to better accommodate our clients in the rapidly growing city. Our projects in Shanghai thus far comprise of exhibition stand and restaurant design projects and include working with Advantage Austria, the Austrian National Tourist Office, the UK Department for International Trade, the British Chamber as well as Oh Chic, a subsidiary of EG Distriselecta. Further projects have been completed in other cities in the region, such as a jewelry store design project for HMSC in Hangzhou.

"Four Ways to Give Your Restaurant Dining Room a Quick Improvement"
Image Source: Isango

To support our growing clients in Shanghai we have a new client manager, Samantha Chalmers. Samantha comes from the United States and has spent several years studying different markets all over the world. With a background in international business, she is familiar with the differing implications of foreign operations including policy and strategy methods. One of her focus points was diving into emerging markets, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Chinese market as a whole, putting a strong focus on understanding the needs of consumers on both a cultural and psychological level. This has given her a deep understanding of East Asian values and the needs of Chinese consumers. As many of our clients are foreign retail companies looking to tap into the Chinese market, Samantha will help ease the process of opening a store by connecting retailers to resources through project management of a retail design concept. Additionally, her experience in small scale start-ups has provided her with adequate experience in both online and offline tactics for retail marketing.

5 Star Plus Retail Design offers a variety of services from concept design to rebranding services. Our specialized team of designers and marketers work diligently to provide services that most effectively apply the brand identity to adhere to the Chinese market. With our growing presence in Shanghai, we will also be able to extend our services to major cities in the surrounding area including Nanjing, Hangzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou and more. Apart from our Shanghai operations, we also provide services in a variety of cities worldwide including: Beijing, Vienna, Urumqi, Singapore, and New York City.

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2018 Relaunch - 10 Tips to Sustainably Increase Revenue in Stores

May 30, 2018

In order to sustainably increase revenue in stores, retail brands need to design a perfect in-store experience and create long term relationships with their customers. Here are a few tips to achieve this.

1. Optimize your store's exterior design.

The store façade and window should be designed to represent your brand and products. They are also the perfect means to create brand awareness and educate customers. Make sure your logo is designed to be visible from far, and a good selection of your products is displayed in the store window

Shop Render

2. Welcome Customers entering your store.

Greet all your customers entering your store, irrespective of gender, age, and other characteristics. It is important to give customers a warm welcome, make them feel comfortable and let them check out your products, even if they have no purchase intention.

3. Design your customer service to be barrier free.

Ensure to use an open body language when talking to your customers (no crossed arms!) and remove any furniture from the store space that could be perceived as a barrier between you and the customer. Examples of such barriers could be the sales counter, island furniture, or columns. Since furniture cannot always be removed, make sure to stand at a location with no barrier when talking to the customer.

4. Guide the customer through the store.

You want to make sure to give each new customer the best overview of your brand and introduce the various collections. Don't leave customers alone in your store – guide them and add a few sentences about each product at which they look for a few seconds, even if the customers mention that they "just want to have a look".

5. Adjust your sales approach according to each customer.

Some people are more communicative, others prefer a quiet shopping environment. Some customers need more space, others again want more information. Be sensitive and adjust your sales approach and the amount of information that you give to each person's individual needs.

6. Create a personal connection.

Purchase decisions are emotional choices. Most consumers don't purchase merely because of product characteristics, but because of something else about the product. This could be the artistic design, the heritage of the brand, the unique manufacturing technique, or other abstract values that can be hard to define. Each retail store should therefore target to create a personal connection between the customer and three very important things: the brand, the sales person, and the product. If they love the brand, you, and the product, you will make a sale. Sales consultants need to speak to the unique emotional needs and motivations of each person.

7. Support the customer in finding the perfect piece for him or her.

It is not up to the sales consultant to recommend an item; it is rather about finding out the needs, preferences, and expectations of the customers and to discover accordingly the perfect piece. Again, what is sold is not only a "product"; it is a manifestation of emotions, values, and a lifestyle, to the customer.

8. Reconfirm the choice of the customer.

Many customers doubt during the payment process whether they really have made the right choice. It is important to compliment the customer on their choice and assure them that they will enjoy the product for a long time.

9. Personalization and customer relationship management.

Be equally friendly and polite to all your customers, and remember the names and preferences of your repeat customers. Support your sales team with a digital customer relationship management system where customer preferences, personal data and purchase history can be stored and traced. Nothing creates more loyal customers than a personalized welcome "Good morning Mrs. X", accompanied by an honest smile.

10. Pack every product like a gift.

You want your customer to feel happy when carrying your product around and be excited when opening the packaging at home. Pack all products, including the ones which are exchanged or repaired, as nicely as you can. Plus, customers who carry your shopping bag around the mall are great advertising for your brand.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Retail Store Design

May 23, 2018

You’ve got your products; you’ve got your brand; you’ve even had success selling online. So much success, in fact, that you are looking to open a bricks and mortar store. You’re looking for a place to showcase your products and entice new customers, somewhere that sells the idea and principles behind your brand. Opening a flagship store sounds easy in principle, but a lot of work goes in to making sure the retail store design is right for you. 5 Star Plus Retail Design are experts at design and have decided to share a few helpful hints for you to consider when opening a new retail store.

1. Budget

Rather than thinking ‘how much does this cost?’ think about ‘how much do I want to spend?’ If you approach a designer with an unlimited budget, they can carve out a little piece of heaven, but the same effect can be achieved with a smaller budget. Designers are adept at making cheap look chic and using low-cost alternatives achieve the same effect as high-end. They can come up with creative solutions, using ingenious design to make an impact. For example, using perspective to make the store appear larger and more open.

" Li Xiang’s Zhongshuge bookstore is stacked full of wonder "
Image Source: Frame

The use of tall mushrooms in the Zhongshuge flagship bookstore design makes the customer see the store as a big, wondrous place full of possibilities.

2. Store Layout

When designing a store, it is important to think about how your customers will move around. When they enter a store, most people turn right, so this space should be filled with exciting retail displays that draw people in. Through clever unit placement, the customer’s journey can be plotting so that they will spend more time instore browsing. Other things to consider include where to place the till, how to include storage on the shop floor, and providing additional facilities for guests such as seating.

It is important to consider your own store needs, as the layout must be functional. If products have to be stored on the shop floor, then storage space must be integrated into the design. If staff members have to carry goods or require equipment out front, then there has to be enough space to allow for its use and clear access paths.

"Shoe & Accessories Store Concept Design, Högl"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Our Högl store design China created a path for customers to walk around the store, with interesting displays in the center. The till was placed at the back of the store so that customers were required to walk past the products to make a purchase, whilst also being close to the employee space.

3. Materials

Design materials are often split into natural and man-made, each giving off a different feeling. For example, a natural material such as wood can feel more welcoming and wholesome than man-made plastic. The properties of different materials conjure different mental images, which can impact on how your brand is perceived. To appear traditional, the use of bamboo can tie a space together. If you want to appear industrialized, metal is a good choice.

Texture is also very important for adding depth and warmth to a store design. Shiny, reflective surfaces are used for bold, clean, futuristic atmospheres, whereas using fabrics can create a sense of warmth and comfort.

"Old Fiberboard Ceiling Tiles"
Image Source: Sad Waters

With expert handling, even cheap materials such as fiberboard can be made to seem sumptuous. These fiberboard ceiling tiles can be used to create a rich, traditional atmosphere.

4. Shapes and Colors

Think about what feeling you want your brand to represent. Are you a healthy, nurturing brand? Then use soft lines, bright lights and colors such as green and yellow that induce a feeling of happiness and growth. Shapes, colors and lighting all combine to create a subtle, often subconscious set of cues that impact on the overall mood of a store. Knowing what each color or shape represents will help you to align the store design with your brand. Also, consider the gender of your audience. Soft curves are traditionally considered feminine, whereas sharp edges and right angles are more masculine.

"Bloom Bloom Bloom Pop-up Shops by Emmanuelle Moureaux"
Image Source: retaildesignblog.net

Colors have been kept to a minimum in Issey Miyake’s retail store in order to bring out the contrasting bright colors of the products. The use of white surfaces with bright lighting and soft shadows draws the customer towards the products.

5. Lighting

Lighting is important to draw attention to the product displays, grabbing the customers’ attention and highlighting the products. Ensuring a well-lit, bright display helps to showcase products and results in more sales. Generally, the brighter the store, the more products will be sold. Integrating well-designed lighting into a retail design can be challenging, as it combines placing the lights in the right location, integrating the lights themselves with the store design, considering wiring in the store infrastructure, and ensuring the light quality is in-keeping with the store displays.

"Diamond Dazzle Stores by Reggiani, Beijing & Shanghai – China"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

Diamond Dazzle’s Store Design Beijing & Shanghai: both stores use bright lighting, integrated into the design itself. Spotlights on the ceiling and behind mannequins help to highlight products and eliminate shadows. The large light, shown above, incorporates lighting into a piece of art.

6. Windows and Instore Displays

A captivating window display helps a store to stand out in a crowded marketplace and brings in new customers. It’s a great place to get creative and show the brand concept, emphasising the personality of the brand. Instore displays are also a very good way to emphasise the brand concept whilst displaying the products. It is a useful way to highlight the benefits of products and can include information on the benefits of a product in a visually appealing way.

Image Source: A Silent Scream in a Noisy World

Barney’s window displays designed by Lady Gaga brought to life surreal scenes designed to entice and inspire.

7. Digital and Interactive Elements

Modern retail design should try to incorporate interactive elements in order to engage the customer. Having something to do within the store turns shopping into an experience and encourages them to spend more time getting to know the brand. Including digital elements in the design is a great way to promote omni-channelling and provide more information, specialist options and include an element of imagination. AR technology in particular is helping to revolutionise the shopping experience and can be applied in many ways.

"The Shifting Role of Retail"
Image Source: Voxx Exhibits

8. Trusting an Expert

Working with 5 Star Plus Retail Design makes this process a lot easier. Our team of designers understand how all the above elements work together to create an impressive, unique retail store design, realising your vision in an efficient and timely manner. Working within your budget, we know how much materials cost, how long construction will take, and can manage the creation of your store from start to finish. Opening a new retail store needn’t be stressful; making use of experts’ time and knowledge will save you a lot of stress and help to create a lasting impression.

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New Concept Design for PUREONES

April 28, 2018

Image Source: PUREONES

For a long time, luxury has been associated with the West. Europe in particular has a rich heritage, fine materials and quality craftsmanship that has brought about fashion brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Prada. These brands, and those like them, speak of decadence, born from a desire to distinguish between classes and to show wealth. For many years, these ideals were out of place in China and although in recent decades we have seen a rise in popularity, luxury goods are still in juxtaposition to typical Chinese values. So where is the offering for the refined Chinese man who wants to take pride in all he is? Jin Xiuqi’s brand PUREONES is the answer.

Jin developed the PUREONES brand in order to bring China into the global marketplace of fashion. He wanted to create a clothing line that represented how China truly was, rather than the gimmicky ‘China-style’ so often seen in the West. Drawing from Confucian and Taoist thought, taking styles and techniques from the Song and Tang dynasties, Jin created a line of clothing that acted as an extension of the man himself. Emphasizing the balance of yin and yang, and heaven and Earth through minimalist sewing patterns has created a unity that expresses the past and present, as well as the inside and out. In doing so, ‘China-style’ can become meaningful ‘China Design’. For Xiuqi, it is important to cultivate the self, as it is only when we are at peace within that we can look outwards to the family, the state, and the world.

Image Source: PUREONES

It is with this in mind that 5 Star Plus Retail Design began designing the new concept for PUREONES retail stores. When approaching the retail design, we knew that the store should reflect the principle of looking from the inside out, drawing from international methods of displaying a brand identity in order to establish the true purpose of the individual. Drawing from nature and creating an organic, environmentally-friendly store concept was key.

Inspired by the curves found in Chinese rice fields, rivers, mountains and forests and following the Taoism way the store design leads you from one space to another in a very natural way. Each element is designed to look like it was made by nature itself. Using high-quality wood and stone materials to tie this concept with the physical space, the plain square box of a typical retail outlet transforms itself into a natural oasis and transports the customer to a calming, open environment. To bring in some engaging contrast, vertical space was optimized with mirrors, wooden strips resembling trees and a focal point around a seating area. The metal mesh drawing down from the ceiling makes the space private and enclosed, which not only creates an intimate VIP lounge internally, but highlights the outdoor, natural feel of the rest of the store.

The natural theme is further supported in the window display. Video projections within the display area will change with the seasons, creating a dynamic effect that draws people in. To complement this, there will be an installation made from buttons, simultaneously showcasing the beautiful porcelain detailing of the products and contributing to the environment. The buttons can be changed to create a different ambience, representing a forest, clouds, heaven, or earth. We look forward to see the new designed store for PUREONES.

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Emotional advertising online – How to use emotions to make your ads go viral and increase sales

April 27, 2018

Take a moment to think about the products and services that you use in your daily life. The laptop you are working on right now, the clothes and jewellery you are wearing today, the snack you ate earlier, the smartphone you might hold in your hand reading this article, etc. What was the reason you bought these products from these particular brands? Most likely, you don’t have a logical explanation for that. You may have thought, “it just feels right to buy it,” and brands are hoping for just that! It has been scientifically proven, time and again, that customers rely on emotions alongside logical reasoning when making a purchasing decision.

To quote the legendary Salesman Zig Ziglar, “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” Emotions create memories, memories create actions. The feelings triggered through a brand campaign engage the customer, spurring them to act. On the simplest level, this translate to liking or sharing the ad content through social media or in personal conversations. More effective campaigns can lead to increased brand reputation and awareness, and spur consumers on to buy the product or service.

"Emotions Get You Sales with Emolytics"
Image Source: Emolytics

Types of emotions in advertising

There are countless emotions one can feel; however, research shows that there are six universal emotions which can be considered ‘the core emotions’. These are: happiness, anger, disgust, fear, sadness, and surprise. All of the core emotions are used in advertising, although the effectiveness of each emotion differs. As previously discussed, it is important that that an ad creates memories. So, which emotions make a campaign memorable? As shown on the graph below, emotions can be distributed into four categories, based on the relevent arousal and valence. Arousal refers to the intensity of an emotion, whereas valence describes the positive or negative character of an emotion. Studies show that ads with a high level of arousal are the most memorable, and reinforcing arousal with a positive or negative connotation ingrains the ad content more deeply, spurring the audience to either embrace the positive, or reduce the negative. Let’s take a look at the different types of high-arousal campaigns

"What Makes an Ad Memorable"
Image Source: Emolytics

High-arousal, high-valance campaign

In March 2017, Gucci launched a new campaign for watches. The goal of the campaign was to reach a younger target audience; therefore, the brand chose Instagram as their main advertising channel. In addition, they created the hashtag #TFWGucci (That Feeling When Gucci). In case you are not familiar with it, the phrase “that feeling when…” is one of the most commonly used phrases online for starting a funny story on social media. This campaign was a huge success thanks to Gucci’s imitation of memes.

"Humour - Gucci"
Image Source: Digital Marketing Institute

Gucci created high arousal by using humour, a high-valence, high-arousal emotion. This created happiness, associating the Gucci watches with good times. In total Gucci memes amassed around 2 million likes and more than 21,000 comments on Instagram, thereby creating a huge buzz around the brand and their new watches.

High-arousal, low-valence campaign

Using emotions in advertising can be risky. Every individual has different emotions towards each campaign. In addition, if it is a global campaign, cultural differences will trigger emotions differently around the world. The riskiest ads are those which aim to trigger our emotions through negative valence, a strategy often used by human rights campaigns. These campaigns inflict negative emotions; however, encourage people to change their behavior for the better. There are many successful campaigns that prove it is sometimes worth taking the risk.

In 2017 Airbnb gained a lot of attention for its #WeAccept campaign. The campaign intention was to promote acceptance among people of the world regardless of background. Part of what made this campaign so powerful was timing. It was launched merely days after Donald Trump announced the travel ban for people from certain Muslim countries. By taking a risk and choosing the right timing, Airbnb’s #WeAccept campaign gained over 5 million views on Youtube and 110,000 views on Instagram within the first month alone.

"Timely - Airbnb"
Image Source: Digital Marketing Institute

The Airbnb campaign provides a prime example of how to create high arousal with a low-valence emotion such as anger. The campaign drew on anger over current political decisions and encouraged the audience to respond through the more positive behaviour of accepting everyone. Multiple marketing blogs and experts credited Airbnb’s #WeAccept campaign as one of the most successful campaigns of 2017.

Using arousal and valence in retail design

Although we have talked about advertising campaigns, the same principal of high-arousal can be used in retail design. To guarantee the best possible success of emotional advertising it is crucial that the campaign is executed holistically which means that online advertising, retail design and in-store activities are tailored to transport a specific emotion.

Taking the example of Gucci into account, it is interesting to know that before launching their campaign they started creating a new look for their retail stores. Gucci used rich pinks associated with the high-valence feelings of love and flirtation.

"Gucci - Miami"
Image Source: ATR

To sum up, if the emotions created through a campaign resonate with our personal beliefs, values and feelings we are more likely to buy something based on emotional rather than logical reasoning. So when planning your next advertising campaign, don’t focus on cold hard facts, but think about the emotion you want to convey to your audience.

To guarantee the best possible success of emotional advertising it is crucial that the campaign is executed holistically which means that online advertising, retail design and in-store activities are tailored to transport a specific emotion. Taking the example of Gucci into account, it is interesting to know that before launching their campaign they started creating a new look for their retail stores.

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AUSTRIA CONNECT China 2018 – “Let's Talk Strategy!” Event Review

April 26, 2018

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

AUSTRIA CONNECT China 2018 – “Let's Talk Strategy!” took place in Beijing from the 8th to 9th of April, marked a first for Austria, with the largest ever political delegation to visit a foreign country. Over 300 people attended the event on behalf of their Austrian companies or Chinese subsidiary to discuss new business models, attend talks, and conduct business. Thirty business contracts were signed during the event, collectively worth over 1.5 billion euros.

5 Star Plus Retail Design were honoured to work alongside Advantage Austria to realise their theme of “Let’s talk strategy!” as sole designers for the conference venues.

The Welcome Ceremony

The welcoming ceremony provided the perfect opportunity for everyone to catch-up with old friends, network with potential business partners and most of all, have a bit of fun. EQUIS Bar kicked off the two-day conference in a trendy, sleek space. The industrial-chic interior provided a soft, warm glow to induce feelings of bonhomie, making a room of three-hundred people feel like an intimate venue.

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

Making use of the wonderful Spring weather, many patrons were to be found outside. Despite the towering buildings looming above, the EQUIS Bar courtyard felt like a secret inside the city, a peaceful hideaway blending man-made rock with natural foliage. As night fell, the crisp white glow of Advantage Austria branding drew focus, creating anticipation for the days to come.

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

Talks and Working Groups

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The delegates, including several Federal Ministers, were treated to a topical roster of talks pertaining to international trade between Austria (as well as Europe on a larger scale) and China, with many business negotiations taking place alongside. Throughout the conference, all eyes were focused on the speakers who stood in front of a large white info board or screen. So as not to take away from the purpose of the conference, 5 Star Plus Retail Design chose to keep design minimalistic in the actual conference rooms, electing to project logos and key graphics where appropriate. Using subtle techniques made a lasting impression, such as the placement of a large archway whose contrast to the environment welcomed those walking under it into a new way of thinking.

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

The Gala Dinner

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

The event ended in Beijing Dadong restaurant with networking time in the garden and a gala dinner complete with Chinese dancing show and, of course, Beijing’s signature dish Peking duck, which was cut and served in front of the guests.

Image Source: ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA Beijing

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Having worked with Advantage Austria on several projects, we were aware of the sleek, clean designs that the client prefers, and were excited to bring something special to such an important event. As an Austrian business in China, it was wonderful to see so many other companies following the same path as 5 Star Plus Retail Design.

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Design Shanghai 2018: Pavilion Execution for Advantage Austria

March 30, 2018

Design Shanghai is one of the world's most prestigious international design events, and Asia's premier design event. It has established itself as the go-to exhibition for talent and is rooted in the heart of Oriental culture. This year, between 14-17th March 2018, Design Shanghai was back, celebrating its 5th anniversary with exciting new content.

Advantage Austria, Austria’s trade center for international commerce, participated in the Design Shanghai event, and asked 5 Star Plus Retail Design to execute a stand for their Austrian products. Using high-quality materials and ensuring all exhibitors optimised their space were our main targets for creating a strong impact during the three-day event. The result was a successful stand with a dynamic structural design that had everyone passing by stopping to check out the stand.

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Why is Europe taking inspiration from Chinese Shopping Malls?

March 28, 2018

In the 20th Century, department stores and shopping malls became institutions, changing the way consumers shop. With lavish displays and labyrinthine corridors of shops, malls and department stores championed choice. You could spend a whole day looking around the different stores. Nowadays, footfall is still high, but malls and stores have had to adapt to customers’ changing needs. It is no longer enough to offer variety, people want more from their shopping experience. China is leading the way in retail-tainment, and the rest of the world is starting to follow suit.

So, That’s Entertainment

The recent move into e-commerce has created stiff competition for bricks and mortar stores, making retailers question, “what do consumers want?” The answer has always been simple: they want everything. An all-encompassing destination that offers entertainment, fun, and caters to all of their lifestyle needs. For department stores and shopping malls, injecting entertainment into the mix is a great way to bring the online shoppers offline again and again.

China saw this need early – the fact that malls have become tourist destinations stands testament to that. Chinese malls offer much more than typical retail stores, they also house restaurants, bars, spas, schools, gyms, beauty parlours, art galleries, gardens, supermarkets and much more. Malls are increasingly considering this entertainment value to draw in the crowds. The Global Center in Chengdu is a great example of this. The largest building in the world, the mall hosts a 300-meter long indoor beach, appealing to consumers’ love of novelty and providing a space to relax, regardless of the weather.

"Chengdu - The working week"
Image Source: stanzilieri.com

Something for Everybody

The variety of entertainment options on offer means that malls are destinations for everybody. Whether you’re solo, in a couple, with friends, or on a family outing, there’s enough to keep everyone entertained in their own way. It’s common to see grandparents drop children off at their English classes before going to enjoy the scenery whilst parents browse the shops. Since everything is close-by, they can all meet up again for food, choosing from one of the many food and beverage options, and finish up the day with a group activity like bowling, or going to the cinema.

This lifestyle focus has changed the way people shop. As there is so much to do, there is no need to plan activities in advance – you can arrive at the mall and see how everyone feels in the moment. It also removes the pressure to buy anything tangible, as the environment is enjoyable enough to count as its own entertainment. Even something as simple as including a supermarket can draw in crowds at unconventional times. A lot of retail spaces are built with offices above them, to draw in people on their way home from work. Whereas previously they may have gone straight from the office to home, the convenience of all-encompassing entertainment areas means that it is easier to grab a drink with colleagues, or meet friends for music and food. Sanlitun SOHO in Beijing is an ideal example of using the location to draw in a variety of crowds. Each of the stores optimises their window display in order to lure in more customers, and the inclusion of light shows and buskers makes people want to spend more time there.

"Sanlitun Soho – Design and Architecture"
Image Source: SOHO China


Where shopping destinations in China are getting bigger and better, Europe’s progress is much slower. Mergers and acquisitions across Europe are seeing shopping malls receive the attention they need to compete in the global marketplace. Drawing on combined know-how from different companies, retail spaces across Europe are taking notes from China, adding an entertainment value to the retail spaces. Although we have yet to see an indoor beach, and ice rinks are still ambitious, European department stores and shopping malls are increasing the number of food and beverage offerings, promoting art instillations and including nature as an integral part of their design. Many developers are now introducing architecture groups to create cohesive environments, such as Haskoll’s development of The Oracle in Reading, UK.

"The Oracle - Reading"
Image Source: Haskoll

The development in Europe is a lot slower, but there are a lot of cultural habits to overcome. Increasing food and beverage offerings that interact with the environment will support the slow food lifestyle, and including indoor and outdoor spaces will help break up the day. Most European countries have a market culture and are used to going to different shops in order to get the best of each product. The convenience of having everything in one place is slightly at odds with the historic need to travel in order to get the best produce; however, breaking up the journey with entertainment makes it seem like two journeys. Not sure about this paragraph.

Moving Forward

The challenge for retail design is to ensure that the stores inside the malls and department stores are bold enough to compete with everything else going on. Captivating window displays are more necessary than ever, in order to draw the eye. Consider expanding target audiences to appeal to everyone who uses the space, or alternatively make a statement to become the destination store for one particular segment. Drawing from Chinese malls will provide ample inspiration for new European stores, but be aware of cultural differences in consumer behavior. Begin by using entertainment to complement existing behaviors and the customers will soon be asking for more.

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Are You Still Relevant with Younger Sophisticated Luxury Consumers in China?

February 26, 2018

Chinese consumers are showing less and less brand loyalty and are increasingly likely to switch between luxury brands. Brands can’t outcompete each other by simply having top-of-the-range products, they need to offer something more. This is particularly true for the younger, more digital Chinese shopper who seeks foreign brands with an established heritage. So, how can luxury brands attract these consumers in China?

Image Source: Unsplash

Omni-Channel touch points

Omni-Channel touch points are the touch point online and offline which are likely to inspire customers to make a purchase. Brands can influence and attract customers in many locations from print magazines, social media channels, brand websites and mobile applications, to the design of retail stores. Effective marketing needs to be put in place everywhere that consumers search for the brands, making sure no touch point goes overlooked. Retail brands in China can no longer rely on simply selling luxury goods in stores. To attract younger, more sophisticated Chinse shoppers, brands must use diverse marketing strategies that tap into online-to-offline retail.

To effectively engage with this segment of Chinese customers both in store and online, companies must ensure their brand image is consistent through all retail touch points. Social media is widely used nowadays to offer promotions and discounts; however, luxury brands use their social networking accounts in a different way. Discounts and promotions can have a negative impact on luxury brand reputation, as the brand is seen as less exclusive. Some luxury stores have introduced their own e-commerce stores, but it is more common for luxury brands to use digital to promote and advertise their offline activity. Their digital presence assists the search process and increases brand awareness, but most shoppers must still go in store to attain a luxury item.

Distinctive retail design concept

The design of retail stores is also being transformed, so as to attract younger Chinese shoppers through the creation of a ‘brand experience’ with the use of technology. Digital technology is being implemented in retail design, most typically through the inclusion of information terminals, interactive touchscreens and display functions. Another trend that is becoming more popular is placing LCD screens on the façade of retail stores, to entice customers in from afar.

"4 Great Ways to use Digital Technology in Retail Stores"
Image Source: The Terrier and the Lobster

Luxury brands are also implementing experimental retail design concepts to attract new customers, such as integrating restaurants, café’s, hotels and pop up stores. These innovative designs promote the brand values and increase brand loyalty, specifically appealing to the younger Chinese shoppers who are looking for a complete brand experience.

VIP experiences

In order to attract younger, more sophisticated Chinese shoppers, brands need to offer VIP experiences, which make the customer feel special for choosing them over competitors. These experiences create brand loyalty from consumers, as an emotional connection is formed with the brand. Brands have now realized that younger customers want more than just luxury goods and that an experience will provide more pleasure and satisfaction. Making sure a shopper has a VIP shopping experience with dedicated sales people and a private room is an effective strategy, as it establishes a customer relationship, leading to the customer buying on impulse. For example, Louis Vuitton creates a VIP experience by closing selected stores for half a day and arranging private showings for customers who spend more than 200,000 Yuan.

"Clem Onojeghuo"
Image Source: Unsplash

What to do

It is clear that luxury brands now have to diversify their marketing strategies in China to attract younger more sophisticated shoppers. Online and offline retail are equally important, as younger Chinese shoppers use online devices more than ever before. If luxury retail brands really wish to improve customer relationships, however, they need to make sure they focus on the experiences they can offer the consumer, rather than just the number of media channels they have.

Ensure all consumer touch points are utilized, whether traditional or digital. Maintain exclusivity when using online platforms by encouraging in-store purchasing and resist the urge to discount. Novel retail design can help promote the brand values and including digital interfaces supports omni-channel consumers. VIP experiences promote brand values by creating a unique experience for the consumer. Remember these four points if you want to remain ahead of the game and stay relevant to young luxury shoppers.

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Who let the dogs out - Special decoration for Chinese New Year 2018

February 14, 2018

Chinese New Year is the oldest and by far the most important festival throughout China. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is determined by the Lunar Calendar.

Even in modern times, many Chinese have preserved their abundant traditions for the Spring Festival. Traditional influences on dressing can be seen in many Retail Design Stores. Chinese New Year is not just a big festival for Chinese people but also big business for retailers.

No dogs, no sales

Decorations strongly depend on the animal representing the new year in the Chinese zodiac. 2018 ushers in the year of the dog. For this reason, we see many international brands including dogs in their retail designs and window displays. If there are no dogs, then there are no sales. That might be a bit of an overstatement; however, Chinese New Year’s decorations definitely have a positive impact on sales when done correctly.

Chinese New Year decorations tend to border on the kitsch. The issue for most brands is that this decoration style does not match their brand image, therefore, brands must be creative. The main challenge for retailers is to create an appealing and festive window design that attracts Chinese consumers without interfering with the brand’s visual identity. Around Beijing’s shopping malls we found several inspiring examples of international brands welcoming the upcoming year of the dog in their own style.

The Italian designer brand Trussardi provides an elegant example of a Chinese New Year window display. As commonly known, red is a very important color in Chinese culture and is also the pre-dominant color in most traditional Chinese New Year decoration items. It represents luck, joy, happiness and good fortune. Trussardi made use of this auspicious color, with the addition of a window sticker wishing everyone walking past the store a Happy New Year. The outline of a dog completes the subtly festive Chinese New Year window design.

Moschino brings it to a different level. With their current window display at their Parkview Green Beijing Store they fully embrace the concept of using dogs with the color combination of red and gold to increase sales. It’s easy to assume that their “dog fashion” is a best seller these days. As previously discussed, red is a very important color in Chinese culture. When combined with gold, representing wealth, it is the ultimate Chinese New Year color combo.

The French women’s fashion brand Maje is another outstanding example of a very appealing Chinese New Year window display. Similar to the previous examples, Maje’s Beijing store window predominately uses red and gold. However, what is particularly interesting about their window design is that they emphasize the seasonal feeling of spring by using flowers as a major decoration item. Nevertheless, the real eye-catcher in this close to perfect window display is the cuddle puppies. A lovely way to welcome the year of the dog.

Ted Baker provides another spring-like Chinese New Year window display by applying flower stickers and a pastel color palette. For contrast, they showcase a few red dresses from their current collection as a highlight. The ‘Happy New Year’ slogan is written in gold and, of course, dogs are not missed out. Focusing on the Spring element helps Ted Baker to retain a classy brand image, whilst still catering to the festival trends.

The Swiss luxury watches brand IWC has chosen a traditional retail design for the Chinese New Year. Again, we see red as the predominant color in combination with gold. However, the main attraction of this window display is the dogs once more. It is unlikely to be coincidence that they feature 8 dogs in total, since this is the lucky number in China.

To sum up, this year it’s all about dogs. The colors red and gold always work as a great combination for Chinese New Year decoration. It is remarkable how so many retailers in China use the same idea but realize their design in a unique way perfectly tailored to their brand image.

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When Did Pop-ups Become So Popular? Some Key Insights Into Retails Temporary-space Trend

February 9, 2018

Flagship stores hold a time-honored position as the heart of creative design which showcase a brand concept. Flagship stores sets the stage for an entire brand design, allowing customers to know who they are and what they’re selling, as well as how they stand out from the crowd. A recent trend in China shows companies looking to establish their retail design as something modern and exciting by changing the very nature of the ‘store’. Taken up by entrepreneurs with growing frequency, pop-up stores are big business.

Pop-up stores are temporary installations, often in malls or department stores that are helping small brands and big brands alike to be seen. Rather than conjuring images of elementary school bake sales, pop-ups are professional, regulated spaces used to show off the brand and products. As 61% of Chinese consumers think that pop-ups provide attractive shopping experiences, we wanted to give you a few reasons why we expect to see this trend continue in 2018.


For merchants, pop-ups can give a higher level of control with lower risk, requiring substantially less money, whilst being fun for the consumer too. The short-term nature of pop-ups means the store is great as a trial run before investing in a permanent bricks and mortar store and can help choose smart locations for the next store opening. If one area is not fruitful, the pop-up can move to another area without difficulty.

What about the consumers? Retail design is constantly looking to innovate the retail space to keep consumers engaged, which is where flagship stores come in. China has some great design leaders, however; not everyone is able to make it to flagship stores in Beijing or Shanghai, and although they may know the brand, this can make them feel less connected. Pop-up stores can help bring customers closer, as a temporary design brings taste of the flagship to them.

Some pop-up stores are designed with this in mind. For example, the American eyewear brand Warby Parker uses a bus which can be driven across America. It attracts consumers in natural settings, bringing a bit of fun to an otherwise practical product. The mature retail design in their school bus contrasts with the youthful exterior, appealing to a wide audience. This is a wonderful idea for out-of-the-way areas that rarely get to host brand events, as it takes something from the ‘everyday’ and makes it special.

"Warby Parker Class Trip: Traveling School Bus Eyeglass Shop by Partners & Spade"
Image Source: The Terrier and the Lobster

"Warby Parker: Class Trip"
Image Source: Unscalable Growth


Pop-up stores are a great way of collecting market data, too. Over a third of marketing investment is wasted because brands don’t understand their customer’s motivations to buy and how to cater to those motivations. Pop-ups provide a small-scale environment in which to trial-run new campaigns and products. With a more personal approach, it is easier to understand a customer’s needs when visiting a pop-up, to understand which items are more desirable and how many customers are likely to make a purchase. Using a pop-up for preliminary data collection before committing to a physical retail store can provide key data from which budgets can be drawn up, retail design can be drafted, product portfolios can be trimmed, and effective marketing messages can be established.


The temporary nature of pop-up stores creates a buzz around the brand and products. Limited availability increases demand and makes buyers more impulsive, meaning that a temporary store can get more interest than a new store opening. China combines a love for limited editions with unparalleled word-of-mouth to help pop-ups quickly gain traction. As it moves from city to city, can even create a stir prior to installation.

Chanel Coco Café in Shanghai wasn’t even directly about Chanel. Open for 12 days, the café was cute, chic, and offered a different kind of luxury. For existing buyers, the café appealed to a larger frame of lifestyle imagery, showing how people who wear Chanel should eat. This worked for the aspirational goals of those who want to buy Chanel too. The food and beverage offering was still expensive, but significantly less so than the durable products on offer.

Image Source: Instagram

Image Source: Instagram

Collaborating with a different industry for a pop-up also draws in a different audience, who don’t necessarily buy the products yet, but share the brand values. This allows for better cross-selling. Gourmets have very selective tastes with food and beverage, but may have never stepped foot in Chanel due to perceived distance in values. If gourmets are pleased with the food offering, they are more likely to associate the Chanel brand with ‘something for them’.


The very nature of pop-up stores means that they are ideal for lifestyle branding. Usually smaller spaces, part of the appeal of pop-ups is that they can be installed anywhere. This means that non-traditional spaces can be utilised for marketing, showing products and services in the environment which they would be used, or providing contrast to their surroundings in order to stand out.

A lot of bars and food pop-ups make use of contrast by creating outdoor spaces inside. During the busy Christmas period, brands focus on giving the customer what they need – relaxation. For instance, the 2017 Jägerhaus Bar in Angel Central created a pocket dimension amongst the hustle and bustle, where customers could relax and unwind.

"The Jägerhaus Bar pop-up opens at Angel Central"
Image Source: Retail Design World

Pop-ups can be an ideal method of omni-channelling in today’s digital marketplace, as the senses still play an important role in purchases. Pop-ups allow for sensory marketing to still have a place in the heart of online shoppers, letting customers touch, taste, smell, and feel the products, before ordering online or mobile. Campaigns that encourage a symbiotic relationship between ‘try’ and ‘buy’ can take away the pressure of buying in-store, or offer extra discount for exposure on social media. What’s more, it adds a bit of fun to the buying process.

Pop-up popularity

As more and more stores test-run through temporary retail spaces, we expect to see successful brand designs transferred to bricks and mortar stores. In the modern day, we want what we want as soon as possible, and although pop-ups might offer a fun, exclusive experience, they are not to be depended upon for ongoing needs. Over time, customers will grow tired and find pop-up products inaccessible, which means those that make the move from temporary to permanent early will be in a position to welcome them with open arms.

Does that mean you shouldn’t bother with a pop-up? Not at all! Being ahead of the game is an advantage for temporary retail spaces, but playing it safe and waiting for the success of others could knock you off the board. Pop-ups should complement your flagship store, not replace it. The very nature of pop-ups means that whilst they are trending, they should be embraced.

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ISPO Beijing 2018 – What’s Hot In Winter Sports Industry Retail Design

January 29, 2018

ISPO is the leading multi-segment sports exhibition in Asia, taking place in both Munich and Beijing at the beginning of each year. Having secured the Olympic Winter Games for 2022, Beijing is a hotspot for the entire winter sports industry. Therefore, it was no surprise to see international brands showcasing alongside local Chinese brands at ISPO Beijing. This year, over 500 exhibitors represented more than 700 brands at the China National Convention Center in Beijing from 24-27th January 2018.

Every year the winter sports exhibition showcases major innovations in the outdoor, action sports and skiing segments. In addition, the latest trends in fashion, fabrics and fibers are presented across 40,000 square meters. Such a wide and varied showcase means that temporary exhibition designs require that little-bit-extra to stand out from the crowd, and this year there is one trend n particular that started making waves.

This year will see an increased use of dazzling lighting throughout winter sports retail, mainly in white and blue. The stark colors will be used to emphasize the cold, imitating clear blue skies and white snow to create a winterly feeling. Although brands typically shy away from cold designs, opting for mood lighting and soft furnishings, winter sports are well-positioned to go against the grain and be a bit more daring. The conditions which winter athletes are exposed can be unforgiving, so it stands to reason that the consumers themselves can be too.

Outdoor and adventure sports are often no-nonsense, and sportsmen apply logical decision-making to their purchases. Although they want their winter-wear to look good, the customers are primarily function based. This practical approach favors simple, honest brand concepts, and any brand brave enough to do something dramatic with their lighting shows a brand identity in line with the customer’s own risk-taking behavior.

Alpine Pro went for a clinical approach this year, showing harsh lines and sharp edges. With paneling akin to a VR simulator, it’s easy to imagine their products in any setting.

Simple, stark lighting on a matte background adds extra emphasis. The arrowed nature of the lights above help to indicate a forward motion, moving the consumer towards the desired products. Similar designs would be equally valuable in window displays, to increase footfall.

Bare structures like the one below were used to frame the products, adding depth and emphasis with very little effort. Such simple but well-executed design left a lasting impression.

In an open exhibition hall, building walls can limit a brand’s exposure. Meplaser found the balance between an open and a private retail design with a semi-transparent construct. Without the lighting, the exhibition design would have looked more like a prison. However, with effective twists in the material coupled with blue lighting made it easy to imagine yourself stepping into an unexplored ice cave..

Harsh lighting can be unforgiving – it highlights any flaws or sloppy workmanship. Although blue may not be the most flattering light, it is a bold move that shows the brand is confident that their product can withstand scrutiny.

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Color of the year 2018: Ultra Violet – Inspirations for future Retail Store Design

January 24, 2018

Every year the color institute Pantone announces an official color of the year. Throughout the year, this color will be seen everywhere – in fashion, interior, decoration, product and retail design. Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Color Institute, stated “The Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design; it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today.” With the dawn of a new year comes a new color: the Color of the year 2018 is PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet.

Take a moment to look at this color and think about what you associate with Ultra Violet.

"Ultra Violet"
Image Source: www.pantone.com

One thing is for sure, Ultra Violet is a dominant and vibrant color. Mostly, it is associated with royalty, mystery, magic or witchcraft. It is undisputed that Ultra Violet radiates something mystical and cosmic. Named after a particle wave just outside of the visible spectrum, Ultra Violet has always represented something mystical, almost within our grasp. When it comes to color psychology purple represents self-confidence, sophistication and elegance. In China the color symbolizes divinity, spiritual awareness and immortality. In addition, purple-shaded colors represent love or romance in modern China. Generally, Ultra Violet attracts the younger generation.

Pantone’s official statement on why they chose Ultra Violet is powerful: “We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to PANTONE to 18-3838 Ultra Violet, a blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies and the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection, intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come." - Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone color institute.

"Ultra Violet"
Image Source: www.pantone.com

Leatrice’s statement makes clear that Ultra Violet is a futuristic color. It inspires us to think outside of the box, to look ahead and use our imagination to see what has not come into being yet.

Ultra Violet compliments the recent retail trend of storytelling to attract the shopper’s attention. It is a global trend to create window displays that invite the audience to step into a different world, which can be achieved through means of centering the decorations on a fairytale theme, as an example. Ultra Violet is the perfect color to add an extra sprinkle of magic.

Versace telling the story of Cinderella. The purple light gives a touch of magic.

"Harrods' Designer Disney Princess Dresses Unveiled"
Image Source: Vogue

Ultra Violet in Retail Design

Throughout the year we will increasingly witness the use of different Ultra Violet shades in various retail establishments since various brands and designers around the world build on Pantone’s color of the year suggestion. In order to foster inspiration, let us have a look at some examples of how Ultra Violet has already manifested in the retail world so far.

Lulu Lemon uses illuminated dichroic film that reflects vibrant colors such as green and pink; however, Ultra Violet is predominant. The colors shift when viewed from different angles, creating a magical illusion. A simple but innovative way attract attention to the window display.

"3D dichroic installation for @lululemonausnz featuring Pantone's colour of 2018, Ultra Violet"
Image Source: Dashing

Converse created a kaleidoscope experience featuring Ultra Violet – which is particularly striking with the use of neon lights. This is a perfect example of how Ultra Violet acts as futuristic color, playing on the current trends seen throughout science-fiction to inspire wonder and indulgence.

"Ultra Violet retail inspiration from Converse"
Image Source: Dashing

Emilio Pucci boutique in Osaka, Japan used a purple-colored carpet. The color puts an emphasis on the elegance and exclusiveness of the brand, conjuring imagery of royal grandeur.

"Emilio Pucci boutique at Hankyu Umeda, Osaka"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

Since Ultra Violet is a highly dominant color, it may not be suitable for every brand or retailer. However, another way Ultra Violet can be integrated into a retail establishment is to use colored decorations, adding a bold touch to even the simplest of design palettes.

Image Source: Concepts & Colorways

If you would like to find more information about The Significance of Color in Retail Store Design please click here . We are excited to keep track of how Ultra Violet will be integrated into upcoming retail store design.

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Christmas Decorations 2017 – What’s Special About This Year’s Christmas Décor?

December 22, 2017

Bright lights and bold Christmas décor such as trees, bells and stars has become a trend of the past! In recent years it has become increasingly common to be bold with Christmas retail design. This year, Christmas decoration is actually not as Christmassy as you may expect, as we witness two major trends in 2017. One trend is storytelling, using décor to create a magical flair through the window design and island displays. The second trend is surprisingly understated, simple and subtle. These major trends could not be more different from each other. Nonetheless, both styles are very present in retail store design all around the globe. Let’s take a look at some examples and inspiration for this year’s Christmas season.

Once Upon a Time

Christmas is not just an event, it is a feeling. This Christmas feeling is strongly brought forward by nostalgia – and this nostalgia comes with childhood memories. In adult life, this time of the year is known to be the most stressful time, so it is not surprising that we look for escape. Therefore, reminding people of the days when Christmas was solely about tradition – such as writing letters, baking Christmas cookies and decorating the house – is a beautiful way to recapture the Christmas spirit. For this reason, many brands use storytelling to create a Christmas nostalgia.

Lord and Taylor in New York City created a window display that epitomizes nostalgia to perfection. It transports the viewer back to a Christmas long before adult life, to a worry-free time full of wonder.

"Lord & Taylor: The Best and the Brightest"
Image Source: www.townandcountrymag.com

The fashion retailer Saks Fifth Avenue centered this year’s Christmas decoration around the Disney adaptation of the fairytale ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. Since the film adaptation celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, it is another great example of how brands can use nostalgia to reinforce the Christmas feeling.

"Saks Fifth Avenue: Once Upon a Holiday"
Image Source: www.townandcountrymag.com

Fenwick’s department store in Newcastle, England is renowned for their Christmas window displays, with the unveiling of the Christmas window drawing in larger crowds than the city’s light turning-on ceremony. This year, they celebrate the British icon Paddington Bear in a series of heart-warming scenes that uses rich lighting and an extensive use of props to create a cozy winter showcase with the intrepid bear at the center.

"Fenwick Newcastle's Christmas Window 2017 Unveiled: Love From Paddington"
Image Source: www.fenwick.co.uk

Christmas Magic

Another way to incite Christmas nostalgia is through the creation of some magical flair. What is primarily remarkable about this trend is that it does not use the traditional Christmas color palette and symbols. This decoration style is typically artsy and futuristic, using abstract imagery. Overarching elements such as winter weather, gift-giving or childhood whimsy can make abstract store concepts relevant.

The charm of Tiffany’s window display in NYC takes us out of this world into another magic world.

"Tiffany & Co.: Tribute to Gene Moore"
Image Source: www.townandcountrymag.com

Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury goods department store in Manhattan, provides another interesting example of how retailers create a magic world to enhance the Christmas spirit. The use of silver brings an icy glamour, whereas the combination of 1930s fashion with dinosaur fossils appeals to the quirky side of consumers.

"Bergdorf Goodman: To New York, With Love"
Image Source: www.townandcountrymag.com

Down to earth

From the magic world, down to earth. The increased use of organic materials and earthy colors aims to create a cozy and inviting environment. So instead of hanging fairy lights in all the colors of the rainbow, try hanging something organic or green - for example, mistletoe or pine cones. This is particularly suitable for more serious brand concepts and provides a touch of warmth without losing a serious demeanor. Another element of the organic and earthy Christmas decoration trend is wood. In combination with something green and a touch of white, wood in all shapes and colors perfects the cozy and earthy decoration style.

Retail design Beijing provides a perfect example with the H&M window display in Sanlitun. The window design is an excellent example of a “down to earth” Christmas display.

"H&M Store, Beijing"

We can also witness the same trend in Europe. Instead of displaying a big, colorful Christmas tree, Jil Sander’s store in Vienna, Austria is keeping it very low-key using solely earthy colors. Cones and light bulbs provide a very subtle touch of Christmas iconography.

"Jil Sander store, Vienna"

Jones store in Vienna is another great example of an earthy Christmas window display.

"Jones store, Vienna"


To sum up, this year retailers either go over the top by using sophisticated story-telling whilst designing their window displays, or they come down to earth by using organic and simple materials.

Obviously, the first trend requires more effort and a larger budget, making it suitable for big brands. However, the main argument for the extra expense is that these kinds of window displays leave a long-lasting impression, encouraging consumers to see your store as a part of Christmas for years to come.

The second major trend of using organic materials and earthy colors takes less effort and budget but still looks very appealing to customers. The main benefit is that it is not only suitable for Christmas but also for the entire winter season. This low-key approach can draw in those with Christmas spirit and humbugs alike.

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Moving Forward with Food & Beverage Branding in China

December 20, 2017

With an increase of online shopping and the changing attitudes of Chinese consumers, retail trends are causing brands to reconsider their marketing strategies. Retailers must now design store layouts that enhance customers’ shopping experiences, and mall owners need to promote slow shopping. Many are doing this by adding more food and beverage (F&B) establishments. The F&B industry is China’s fastest growing sector, with an expected average growth rate of 10.6% between 2015-2018. The retail market value of China’s full-service restaurants in 2014, excluding fast food, was CNY 1,865 billion and is forecasted to reach CNY 2,274 billion by 2019. These increases are primarily due to rising disposable incomes and continued urbanization, which have created expansion/entrance opportunities not only for retailers, but for the F&B sector as well. As such, restaurant design in China is more important than ever. This article will discuss why incorporating branding into retail design is crucial for F&B businesses in China’s expanding market, as well as how such branding can be applied to the evolving eating habits of Chinese consumers.

Food Safety and Health

Domestic food scandals have been damaging to the trust of Chinese consumers. A lack of trust in domestic brands, coupled with rising disposable incomes have allowed many customers to substitute for high-quality, non-domestic products instead, effectively increasing the popularity of international imports. A desire for authenticity, as well as a growing concern for physical well-being, have made health-oriented F&B brands more attractive for like-minded consumers. Restaurant design in China has started to incorporate international elements and proudly promotes foreign origins in order to optimize this.

"Restaurant Design, The Mission Fresh Grill"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

5 Star Plus Retail Design has helped The Mission Fresh Grill to implement a concept design that exemplifies how an F&B brand supports active lifestyles whilst ensuring its customer of the food quality. An open kitchen restaurant design in Beijing allows customers to view the food preparation process, while only the freshest of high-quality ingredients are used. This allows the consumer to make their own judgement on the quality of produce, whilst simultaneously showing that the brand has nothing to hide. An open environment demonstrates that the company is proud of their offering, and shows respect for their customers’ requirements.


The increase in foreign imports has internationalized the Chinese palate. With more disposable income, people are now more likely to try new foods that are non-essential. Rather than focusing on nutritional value alone, consumers are looking for exciting flavors that provide more than just sustenance. The recent coffee boom is a great example of this F&B trend.

Innovation is not limited to the products offered, but also includes the means through which it is delivered. Widespread online connectivity has created the need for F&B brands to develop e-commerce platforms in order to survive in China’s ever-growing competitive market. Omni-channeling can adapt various technological interfaces to make customer interactions more convenient and efficient. This area is a great opportunity for an F&B business to design e-commerce platforms in a way that attracts customers into the establishment by further spreading its brand’s image. By ensuring the online presence resonates with the restaurant design, a cohesive brand image can be created.

"KFC’s online ordering"
Image Source: digital in the round


Having an attractive, transparent brand image can create emotional connections with the right consumers. For a brand to thrive, it needs to target market segments that hold the same values or desires as the brand itself. Chinese consumers want the foods they eat to be a channel of self-expression, so the more an F&B business’ store or restaurant design incorporates the brand’s lifestyle message, the more effective the brand will be at aligning itself with its target consumers. This is not limited to the bricks and mortar store, but applies to the online presence as well.

"Starbucks China’s target segment"
Image Source: TSI

"Adapting to local flavors"
Image Source: TSI

Starbucks has done an excellent job at capitalizing on China’s recent coffee trend by targeting ambitious young professionals who want to appear trendy and prosperous. The store design offers them a comfortable, practical space which brings a transnational flair to local environments. Instead of relying on its reputation and previous global success, Starbucks has adapted local flavors into its menu as a stepping-stone to its signature coffee experience. This shows a concern for the Chinese consumers’ tastes and values, incorporating their personal needs into the brand concept on a regional level.

In summary, brand image is not only an important factor for retail design in China, but remains relevant for F&B brands as well. Food safety; healthy, active living; increasingly globalized appetites; as well as online and offline customization are all major Chinese food trends shaking up the F&B industry that brands need to recognize. Incorporating these trends into effective branding helps F&B brands connect with aspiring Chinese consumers who adhere to the same trending values and lifestyles.

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British Chamber of Commerce in China Christmas Party 2018:Event Design and Production for BritCham

December 13, 2017

On December 1st, the British Chamber of Commerce in China hosted a Christmas Party designed to impress their guests at Rosewood Hotel Beijing. After impressing the chamber with the design of last year’s party, 5 Star Plus Retail Design were invited to once more create the event design concept, which included interior and graphic design elements, as well as design execution. We were proud to host a corporate table at the event and be a sponsor for such a beautiful evening.

The Gala event was themed “Icy Wonderland”. Upon entering the event’s location, one shook off the outside world and was transported to an ice cave. This was not only achieved by covering the ceiling and pillars in white but also through adapting the lighting concept accordingly. The color concept of the Christmas party mirrored the icy wonderland theme, held in light blue and white.

Of course, no winter wonderland would be complete without a snowman, who turned out to be the most photographed object of the evening.

We were glad to see that, similar to last year, the design was used as a backdrop for taking pictures and everyone seemed to have a great time.

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10 Key Points for Successfully Working with Franchise Partners

November 24, 2017

China and its cities Beijing and Shanghai are on the top of the list of new sales territories for many retail brands. While there are many ways to enter the market (such as export – directly working with wholesalers or distributors - working with licensees, or founding a subsidiary in China), many brands choose a franchising model where they work with one or more local partners for their expansion strategy.

A franchisee sells products based on a proven brand concept and has to adhere to many different regulations imposed by the brand headquarters (including the store design, staff attire, product range to be carried, product display, and prices).

In our view, the two most important things to be considered when working with a local company are the selection of a partner who shares your vision, as well as consistent follow up and control when implementing the brand image. Here are our top 10 key aspects to consider:

1. Select your Partner Carefully: Many brands can't wait to come to China and when a local company finally shows interest in their products, the brand headquarters often jump at the opportunity, quickly signing a distribution or license agreement. However, it is important to do a thorough background check and select the right partner. Check their track record: the geographic presence, existing relationships with landlords (department stores and shopping malls in Beijing, Shanghai and other bigger cities) and network of sub-distributors in smaller tier cities and other regions.

2. Exclusiveness– yes or no? Are you looking for a general distributor or do you plan to work with several partners in China? A general distributor or exclusive franchise partner has more responsibilities and control over the brand in China. This usually includes the responsibility of investing in brand promotion and the right to work with sub-distributors. You need to decide whether the license should be limited to certain geographic areas in order to maximize local knowledge. If you may want to enter the market directly in the future, you can also reserve yourself the right to do so.

3. The Contract: Make sure you know what you want and have a clear long-term strategy covered in the contract. You should be certain to include the duration of the agreement, geographic territories, and termination terms. Prices should be controlled by the brand headquarters and new store locations should be pre-approved.

4. Minimum Purchase Order: Purchase prices and other conditions should depend on the minimum purchase order value that is specified in the contract for the first and following years.

5. Marketing Expenses: General distributors and exclusive franchise partners are typically contractually committed to invest a certain yearly amount into marketing and promotion for the brand in China.

6. Marketing Materials: In many cases, local partners do not have a strong marketing team. This means that there is often a sub-optimal marketing strategy and the brand is not promoted in the right way. In order to avoid this, the franchise partner creates and publishes their own marketing materials. This can lead to marketing messages that do not fit into Chinese norms, and appear off-message. Therefore, the brand headquarters need to regulate the details of the collaboration on marketing issues in the contract. For an efficient promotion of the brand in China, the marketing department at headquarters needs to understand that speed is fundamental in China and give full support to the local partner.

7. Store Identity Handbook: When working with franchise partners, it is crucial to ensure that all retail stores are built in line with the international brand image and worldwide store design standard. Most brands develop a store design or identity handbook that specifies all details related to the store design. This includes all products and materials required for the façade, in-store area plans, furniture and fixtures, product displays, and other elements. With a store identity (SI) standard, brands can reinforce a globally consistent brand image.

8. Control of the Brand Image: Even with existing guidelines and a standard detailing the store design, it is important to regularly visit the stores to reinforce the correct implementation of the brand image. It is important to check the store design regularly (with the first check taking place before the store opening), as well as the product display, staff attire, sales techniques and customer service, among other things. In particular, stores in smaller Chinese cities are more likely to diverge from the brand standard, so should be monitored.

9. The Pricing Policy: Ensuring consistent pricing across China is another challenge. Good practice requires brands to specify the right to exercise control over the retail prices in the franchise agreement. Most brands will publish retail price lists for the different markets on a yearly basis. Regular site checks will ensure that distributors and franchise partners comply with price regulations.

10. Regular Training of Staff: Be aware that your franchise partner is also your customer and that the more support they get, the better they will be able to represent your brand and sell your products. The sales team especially will need support and regular trainings to understand the brand philosophy, as well as uniqueness and true value of the products. They will only be able to sell effectively if they are convinced of the products and have no doubts about the quality of your products and services. Assign someone to conduct frequent trainings.


Whether to franchise or not depends of the size of the brand, the amount of resources the headquarters are willing to spend on the Chinese market, as well as the amount of control you want to exercise over the brand development in China.

At the moment, brands that are show successful long-term franchise are medium-sized companies that have a certain heritage and are often still family-owned. Companies of this size typically focus on creating high-quality products in an often traditional environment where fewer efforts are spent on marketing and business development. Working with a local partner that has well-established sales channels and relationships in the market makes absolute sense.

By contrast, products that are very new, creative or innovative require more groundwork for creating brand acceptance by using a more creative marketing and design strategy. Since many franchise partners still work with traditional marketing and sales channels, such retail brands should consider entering the Chinese market themselves, by opening their own stores.

Independent from the expansion strategy chosen, ensure that you have a globally coherent brand image and give increased support to the local marketing and sales teams.

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How to Optimize Space for a Small Flagship Store Design

November 24, 2017

When it comes to store retail design, a small flagship store can seem daunting, even to the most experienced of designers. With a small space comes considerable challenges such as maintaining an open store design layout, displaying substantial amounts of product on the main floor and not visually overcrowding or stimulating the customer. Through trial and error, store designers have learned various tips and tricks to maximizing space when conducting a small retail store design.


The layout of a store will ultimately determine the path store owners can take with the store. With regards to small retail stores, the floor plan must be carefully thought out so as to make the most out of the limited space provided. There are five primary floor plans designers utilize which are straight, diagonal, angular, geometric and mixed. However, only some of these floor plans are best suited for small store designs. With a straight floor plan, also considered the most common in design, this allows for designers to utilize the greatest amount of the floor space. Fixtures merely should be placed at right angles. A diagonal floorplan creates heightened visibility in stores and so with a small space, being able to see everything clearly is ideal. Angular, geometric and mixed floor plans, however, often require more space and are not best practice when it comes to small store designs. This is because with an angular floor design, it requires customers to walk around in different pathways throughout the store. This would pose as a challenge to accomplish in such a small space. In terms of a geometric floor design, it too usually demands a big space in order to create unique patterns and it ultimately does not maximize the entire store layout. Finally, a mixed floor design combines favorable elements derived from the other four designs and thus the same issue arises where a spacious layout is required.

The retail design Beijing store, Adidas Y-3 Store, exemplifies a straight floor plan layout. Throughout the retail design store, all the products are clearly visible from any viewpoint whether one stands from the front or back of the store. Once more, the open pathways provide customers with easily access to the products.

"Adidas Y-3 Store, Beijing"
Image Source: Nick DePaula

Fixtures and Displays

Throughout the store, fixtures and displays are what attract customers to the product. However, while it is important to make these structures visually appealing, it is equally vital to ensure their functionality. Creating structures that can have multipurpose usage such as hidden storage and adjustable shelving will maximize the store’s space potential. In addition, designing fixtures and displays on wheels to include a movability factor adds flexibility potential to the retail store design. The following are examples of specific fixtures and displays that can save store’s space.

Slatwalls/Gridwalls- These types of walls are extremely versatile and can double up as product displays and store decoration. They save space and practically anything can be hung from these types of walls. For instance, these types of walls can accommodate various accessories, hooks, hang rails, clothing and shelving.

"Get Store Uomo by AMlab, Fossano – Italy"
Image Source: Davide Dutto

MASH, located in Beijing and designed by 5 Star Plus Retail Design, makes use of a flexible wall design in which products can be displayed in numerous different ways up upon the wall. Adjustable short rods can be pushed through any of the holes on the wall to make way for hanging and showcasing different items.

"Store Design: MASH Flagship Store in Beijing"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Nesting Tables- This Asian retail design store utilizes nesting tables throughout the space. The multi-display tables are the perfect solution to showcasing products to customers in a way that grabs their attention and interest almost immediately once entering the store. Their stacking potential and capabilities make them a feasible and easy way to save space when needed.

"Wooden Store Interiors! Quicksilver Store by Specialnormal Tokyo"
Image Source: Koichi Tormura

Adjustable Shoe Racks- In this shoe display system, store owners have the flexibility of choosing how many shoes to display at a time. There is no height or width restrictions for the shoes and the solid pieces of wood can remain closed or open via a simplistic mechanism nested in the interior of the wall which turns a pivot in front of the wall. This innovative design not only saves space but also adds a visually appealing factor to the store.

"Skechers TR Casual Showroom Zemberek Design "
Image Source: Yıldız Mh.

Hidden Storage Space- In this children’s store, the clothing displays double up as storage. Underneath each display is a pull-out drawer that can hold more merchandise. Combining such hidden storage elements creates the opportunity to hold more products on the main floor while maintaining a spacious and uncluttered layout.

"FINKID Children Clothing Concept Store by The Store Designers, Erfurt "
Image Source: The Store Designers® Silvia Talmon

With a small store, preserving and optimizing space is invaluable. Without a logical plan, things can get easily cluttered, lost and unprofessional looking. Every detail must be thought-out so as not to neglect any part of the store. The more space preserved, the more flexibility gained.

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A ‘scan do’ attitude: How QR codes revolutionized the Chinese retail landscape

November 9, 2017

What are QR codes?

QR (quick response) codes are a type of barcode used with high frequency in China; however, people in the West may be unfamiliar with them. Although they started off within the automotive industry, QR codes can now be seen across visual merchandising, providing information and payment services. Every poster has a QR code leading to a webpage where you can buy the product, get more information or join in a conversation.

They’re not only used for information – QR codes have become one of the most efficient ways of paying for goods. Integrated with the Wechat and Alipay apps is a ‘wallet’ which allows for users to transfer money easily to vendors or friends. Retail design should ensure that QR codes are placed in a highly visible place and are well lit, to assist the scan. Most consumers know that the cashdesk will have a code and will often have payment ready before they even meet the cashier. Paying through e-commerce has become such a common way of paying that even taxi drivers, street vendors and buskers have their own QR codes.

"Pay Taxi with Alipay"
Image Source: Internet Marketing China

QR in Retail

Perhaps the most common setting for QR codes is within a retail store. Customers can use QR codes to scan desired items, find prices that aren’t listed, review additional product information and even compare benefits against competing brands. QR codes are beneficial as space savers, allowing brands to establish retail design based on their identity, without sacrificing display space in order to provide information. QR codes can also provide a quick inventory check, leading to less floorspace being required to display products. Simply scan the code and an assistant can bring your size and color from the stockroom. This is a great way of integrating online and offline functionality, maximizing logistics and customer service.

QR codes are also used extensively in social settings. A common feature in Beijing retail design, particularly in malls, is to include a large LED screen. Shoppers can scan the QR code and share their own messages and images, making the shopping experience more interactive and fun.

"Hutaoli bar and restaurant makes use of QR codes to gather audience feedback on their performers and create a festive atmosphere.
Instagram Photo by Heyuanyuan_hyy"
Image Source: Imagala

Consumer Benefits

Probably the most noticable benefit of QR codes is that they don‘t leave a paper trail. Payment receipts are sent to the app, but QR codes eliminate the need for paper receipts, coupons, cloakroom tickets, and you won’t be handed lots of small change after a transaction. With both consumers and companies looking for ways to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, QR codes help the retail industry do their part for paper reduction.

QR codes have also made public transport a lot more accessible. A quick scan of a code can give you a real-time update of buses and trains, tell you how long you need to wait, and if there are any delays. You can rent a bicycle anywhere in the city with a quick scan. Companies such as Mobike and Ofo have millions of bikes throughout cities big and small, without any physical retail stores – all the information you need is just a scan away.

"Bike-Sharing Arrives In Hong Kong Thanks To New Startup Gobee.bike"
Image Source: Green Queen, Hong Kong

QR codes are so prevalent in society, that they are even printed on business cards and applicant CVs, for easier self branding. This also has the advantage of taking away the difficulty of finding someone online – there is no need to get the correct name or telephone number, the QR provides accurate and up to date information.

Benefits for Business

Given how quickly payments can be processed, it stands to reasons that businesses are attracted to the QR code. Even outside of commerce, QR codes are an efficient means to provide further information about products and services. Rather than relying on customers to recall the brand and research it themselves at a later date, it provides an immediate way of keeping consumers engaged, whilst exposing them to further marketing messages. What’s more, it reduces the risk of forgetting the URL, and can store the webpage for future reference.

QR codes are useful for reaching a large audience at the same time. Including a QR code in presentations allows for immediate access of source materials, or for providing further information that may be too lengthy to include in the original format. A good use of this is in the food and beverage industry, to provide nutritional and dietary information.

"QR Code Poster"
Image Source: Michael Kappel, Flickr

The electronic nature of QR codes helps companies to measure their reach, tracking engagement and building communities. As they can store large amounts of data, QR codes are becoming increasingly common in specialised industries too. For example, the Japanese government use QR codes on foreign visas, which track all previous history of entry to the country.

Why hasn’t the West embraced QR codes?

There are a number of reasons that QR codes haven’t made their way into the Western retail space, including security risks, irregular phone service and the culture being less image-orientated.

Western people are often concerned about account security and misuse of information, so connecting a bank account to a mobile device can cause concerns. Although infrequent, there have been cases of malicious codes being created that steal money, record browser history, use a mobile devices GPS, and access the phone camera.

Not everyone in the West uses their mobile phone in day-to-day life, and even when use is common, a lack of wifi and data availability can make QR codes difficult to use. Perhaps part of the reason is that Westerners are less quick to take up new trends, preferring to stay with tried and tested methods, even if they are more inefficient.

With the rise of Generation Z, we may in fact see a rise of QR codes in the retail space, as cellphones become the primary electronic. The up-and-coming generation don’t know life without the internet and are used to being constantly connected.

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Marketing Luxury Goods towards Chinese Consumers

October 30, 2017

When it comes to purchasing luxury goods in China, consumers have varying attitudes and expectations of branded products. With wide variation, it can be difficult for brands to appeal to a broad range of people. So, how can luxury retailers attract consumers into buying their products?


"Luxury China: Market Opportunities and Potential" by Michel Chevalier and Pierre Lu has identified 4 types of Chinese consumer attitudes toward luxury: luxury lovers, followers, intellectuals and laggards. These consumers are male and female between the age of 35 and 50 years old, living in Tier 1 mainland economic cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen) with successful professional careers.

Image adapted from "Luxury China: Market Opportunities and Potential" by Michel Chevalier and Pierre Lu

Based on this classification, 5 Star Plus Retail Design has identified current ways to attract each group of consumers in China. Although the goal is to increase sales, whether online or offline, correct branding can lead to increased brand reputation and desirability.

1. The Luxury Lover:
Luxury lovers know exactly what they want from luxury brands and enjoy everything that comes with the lifestyle: heritage, attitude and status. These are the consumers who want to ‘buy in’ to exclusivity and show their high-status and love of quality. 60% of luxury lovers are women who are very sensitive to trends, do not listen to the opinions of others, and have a clear understanding and vision of what they appreciate from shopping luxury. They also love to share their brand experiences with their friends and family, making them powerful opinion leaders.

How to attract them?
As luxury lovers know exactly what they like in a brand, marketers need to present the brand's history and communicate promises effectively through all channels (offline and online). Luxury brands in China need to focus on inspiring luxury lovers with appealing product design that clearly features the brand's logo; producing engaging advertisement campaigns in high-end fashion magazine (digital or print); whilst utilizing innovative video commercials and attractive retail store design concepts. The key here is to make the brand relatable to the customers, showing the same core values that they themselves possess. This can be done by showing elitism through superior quality and a long tradition at the forefront of fashion.

2. The Luxury Follower:
Luxury followers are the ones who are heavily influenced by the media and public opinion, rather than following their individual style. They are more likely to want to know why the brand is so famous; how many retail stores they own; the number of online followers on social media platforms; and which celebrity are wearing their products. They are impulsive buyers, who want and need the latest seasonal luxurious items to feel like a part of their social network. 72% of luxury followers are women.

How to attract them?
Retail brands need to focus on producing popular product designs. The key is to create buzz around trendy luxury goods, by showing the luxury followers that famous celebrities and social media stars are fond of their products. Asking celebrities to design a limited-edition collection for a luxury brand will also attract these consumers to make a purchase. The brand logo should be clearly displayed, so that luxury followers can receive instant gratification from associating with the right brand. An example of a European luxury brand that has collaborated with stars on limited collections and has successfully built a strong presence in China is Modern Creation Munich (MCM). Their fun and trendy approach to luxury items has made them a hit with the younger Chinese generation.

3. The Luxury Intellectual:
The Luxury Intellectual category has a balance gender spread with 45% being male. These consumers have their own understanding of luxury and are less influenced by the media and public opinion. They are very rational, individualistic people and prefer discreet, classical luxury products. These consumers love to compare items and are very analytical about it. Quality is at the forefront of their decisions.

How to attract them?
In order to appeal to them, brands need to design simple, classic products, with minimum appearance of the brand's logo. Functionality is favoured by this group, and products should be made with utmost care. The quality of a product should be obvious through the use of high-end materials and superior craftsmanship. As Luxury Intellectuals are analytical, a well-written description of each item on the luxury brands website is a must for attracting them. A good sales team with a vast knowledge of all the products needs to be in place to efficiently assist them in-store.

4. The Luxury Laggard:
84% in this category are women. Advertisements, trends and other external factors have little effect on them. These consumers in China purchase for functionality rather than fashion. They want to purchase quality products that are practical and durable. Luxury laggards are rational, impulsive and opportunistic buyers that love a great luxury bargain.

How to attract them?
Brands need to focus on functionality, quality and usefulness of the product. They are price-conscious and very impulsive buyers. An effective way to attract this group is to set up a store in an outlet mall, where reasonable pricing is in place. Creating other pricing opportunities, such as sales, will allow brands to invite and pull them to purchase in-stores and online.

" Jimmy Choo shoes are an example of low-key branding, where only people familiar with the brand can recognise the shoes. Jimmy Choo is known for superior quality couture."
Image Source: www.dennislutter.de

Foreign luxury brands wanting to effectively strengthen their presence and positioning in China's luxury market must appeal to all consumers, considering different consumer attitudes towards luxury into their marketing strategies.

This research shows that luxury audiences are predominantly ‘Luxury Intellectuals’ with a secondary base of ‘Luxury Laggards’. Both groups favour quality over status and are unlikely to be swayed by media and public opinion. As such, the quality of the product must be at the forefront of promotion, paying special attention to precision detailing and durability. A classic style is likely to be preferred, so that the design can last several seasons without going out of style.

This approach is beneficial for all groups, as superior quality is more likely to attract high-status consumers, including celebrities and icons, which in turn will appeal to Luxury Followers. By emphasising the products’ superior craftsmanship, Luxury Lovers know that they are buying an excellent product.

From conceptualizing the layout of the retail design store to any branded event, never forget to consider to whom you are selling your products to and how the brand's message and image are delivered. Profit comes from giving the customer what they want, not by finding an audience that accepts what you offer. Understand your audience and strive to be everything they need and more.

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Opening Soon! THE MISSION Mexican Grill at Central Park Plaza

October 23, 2017

Following the success of THE MISSION’s store opening in the China World Mall, we are excited to announce their second Beijing store opening besides Chaoyang Park! 5 Star Plus Retail Design has helped translate the original restaurant design to compliment the new surroundings and bring wholesome burritos full of flavour to the many park patrons.

"MAD’s “Chaoyang Park Plaza”Breaks Ground"
Image Source: www.gooood.hk

Chaoyang Park Store has something for everybody, whether you’re looking to unwind from a stressful work-week, spend precious time with loved ones, or get in touch with nature. Opening a new store at the centre of such a refreshing and fun place made perfect sense for the American – Mexican restaurant THE MISSION.

Restaurant Design in the New Plaza

You’d be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into the future on entering the Central Park Plaza, as the buildings showcase cutting-edge design. This new development combines sleek, urban surfaces with formations found in nature, creating a distinctive environment that links natural and modern aesthetics. THE MISSION’s trendy wood and metal furnishings are at home in these surroundings, whilst soft lighting and cactus adornments make the space feel as fresh as the food.

"MAD’s “Chaoyang Park Plaza”Breaks Ground"
Image Source: www.gooood.hk

The Opening

The grand opening of The MISSION’s Central Park Plaza restaurant is by the beginning of November, but as work is now underway, we couldn’t help but share our excitement.

If you’re looking for a reason to unwind and enjoy yourself, what more do you need? You’ll soon be able to take a stroll through the park, enjoy a boat ride, or some of the many amusements and drop by THE MISSION to enjoy a meal as fresh and exciting as your surroundings!

Address: Central Park Plaza, 10 Chaoyang Park South street, Building #7, 1 Floor 7-9

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Globalization versus Localization in Retail Design - What You need to Know to Succeed

October 16, 2017

When considering store design on an international stage, it is important to adapt to local requirements. Some companies embrace this entirely, changing the store in line with advertising and product offering to make consumers happy. But this doesn’t work for everyone – there is a fine line between adapting to suit customer requirements and maintaining the correct brand image.

Getting it right

Starbucks is world renowned for its ‘third space’ away from home and work, and is one of the most recognizable brands in cities all over the world. Starbucks’ retail design manages to differ from store to store whilst maintaining a cohesive brand design. Their flagship store design incorporates elements of the local environment and is changed to suit local lifestyles.

"11 Stunning Starbucks Stores around the World"
Image Source: Starbucks

"11 Stunning Starbucks Stores around the World"
Image Source: Starbucks

Getting it wrong

Americans are famed for their consumerism, which is something British supermarket chain Tesco’s shop design overlooked when entering the American market. The stores they opened were one fifth of the size of American superstores, making customers feel limited in choice. The stores were located further away from towns, meaning customers had to drive further than to their competitors, for less choice. Alongside this, Tesco removed cashiers, opting to install self-service checkouts, as is common in Europe. For Americans, customer service is a large part of the shopping experience and being automated reduced that.

"Keeping it Consistent"
Image Source: Retail Week

Personal Motives

Store design can be affected by what needs a customer has, the level of technology they like and how much time they like to spend. In areas where customers have less time, standing tables are becoming a feature, so they can quickly eat and leave. Others look for a more leisurely pace, where the incorporation of tablets preloaded with entertainment are offered, encouraging the customer to stay for longer.

If a customer wants to show their status by buying luxury goods, the shop design should be open and display fewer products, to give a sense of extravagance. Alternatively, if consumers are looking to show their individuality, the store should offer a unique design, often telling a story about the brand. The Khaosan hostel chain in Japan is a great example of this, as each location has a completely different identity.

"Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory"
Image Source: Khaosan Tokyo

"Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel & Ryokan"
Image Source: Khaosan Tokyo

Global Imagery

One of the simplest aspects of store design lies in color and imagery. Different cultures have different associations, for example, red is often associated with love, but in different situations can represent anger. For the Chinese, who see red as ‘prosperous’, this can often be shocking. Similarly, imagery can differ, for example, in Italy chrysanthemums are laid on graves, but in Australia they are used to celebrate Mother’s Day.

"Closeup of a Chrysanthemum Flower"
Image Source: Jason Edwards

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The 3-Pillar Retail Strategies: 3. Personalization

September 27, 2017

As the third part in the “Three Pillar Strategies” series, we look at how personalization needs to be integrated into store design so that brands appeal to Generation Z and survive the changes in Chinese retail habits.

Personalization is vital for brands to learn what shoppers want. Through data collection and providing customers outlets where they can personally customize products, brands discover styles, patterns, colors, and trends preferred by customers. Whether implemented online or through boutique design centers in-store, this means that brands can be assured their products sell, rather than hoping their designers are on trend.

Nike, a company specializing in athletic apparel, is using personalization to a competitive advantage. Guests visiting select flagship stores have the option to customize shoes and t-shirts with a vast range of colors and patterns. The outcome is a unique, exclusive product that fulfills the customer’s desires, giving each individual control over how they look and feel.

"Retail Will Change More In The Next Three Years Than It Has In The Last 50!"
Image Source: B&T Magazine

Sephora is also using the art of personalization to provide customers with products aligned with their personality, lifestyle and desires. Customers create a profile and input information relevant to brands and products they find interesting. This information, accompanied with details regarding prior purchases, is analyzed through a chain of algorithms to create a list of beauty products suited to the customer’s likings. Both the customer and Sephora have constant access to this list across all devices and stores, meaning that the company can not only measure brand popularity, but how trends change over time. As new products are released, the list is updated and the customer is informed, allowing for targeted advertising and increased likelihood of purchase. The brand can keep its visual identity up to date by showing the same trends as their customers.

"SEPHORA’s BEAUTY INSIDER® Proves Beauty Addiction Has Its Privileges"
Image Source: L'Etage Magazine

Individualism is becoming an essential form of expression across the retail industry. As more customers seek outlets to differentiate themselves among their peers, brands have an opportunity to show that they are uniquely positioned to give the consumer what they want, leading to increased brand loyalty and acquisition of new customers.

When a company caters to an individual’s needs, the customer is unlikely to accept substitutions. What’s more, they feel as if their voice is important, leading to increased word-of-mouth advertising, an increase in product reviews and the development of a community around the brand. It is no longer enough to tell customers that they want what you have; the message moving forward is that you have what they want.

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Visit of Former President Dr. Heinz Fischer at the Austrian Pavilion at World Winter Sports Expo 2017

September 8, 2017

We feel privileged that Dr. Heinz Fischer, former President of the Republic of Austria, visited the Austrian Pavilion which was designed and built by 5 Star Plus Retail Design for the World Winter Sports Expo (WWSE) in Beijing yesterday. Mr. Fischer who is also President of the Austrian Association for Promotion of Friendship and Cultural Relations with China came to promote Austrian Winter Sports in China. He opened the afternoon session of the summit dialogue “Leading the Way” with a speech and then visited the Austrian companies exhibiting at the expo.

Further speakers at the summit were Dr. Martin Glatz, Commercial Counselor at the Austrian Embassy and Head of Advantage Austria in Beijing, as well as Martin Dolezal from SNOWSPORTS.

The Austrian Pavilion was designed to have its own identity yet give each exhibiting brand its own private space for brand promotion and business meetings. The concept of the exhibition stand design was to create a light and dynamic structure with clean lines that would make a strong statement. Visibility from all sides, the maximization of usable space, light, and an open, flowing atmosphere were further important considerations that influenced the design. Austrian companies exhibiting at WWSE included Axess AG, SKIDATA AG, Swarovski Optik KG, the Austrian National Tourist Office, International Ropeway Review and SNOWSPORTS.

Read more about the design of the pavilion and check out the photos here.

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5 Star Plus Retail Design Speaks in London: The Future of Bricks and Mortar Retail in China

September 6, 2017

5 Star Plus Retail Design’s founder and managing director Barbara Seidelmann was invited to talk about “The Future of Bricks and Mortar Retail in China” at the China Britain Business Council London Headquarters on August 30th. Key points of the update included changing consumer characteristics as well as how the retail landscape is moving towards a more lifestyle oriented market.

During the second half of the talk, Barbara shared practical strategies that retail brands should implement to stay ahead in China. Companies need to adopt a retail strategy that integrates brick and mortar with different online channels and is centered on the brand. Retail store design has to focus on the consumer experience.

Attendants of the event included representatives from well-known British retail brands such as The Body Shop, Speedo, The British House and Jellycat, among others. We look forward to seeing more British brands enter the Chinese retail market soon.

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The 3-Pillar Retail Strategies: 2. Omnichannel

August 24, 2017

Following on our last Customer Experience post, we look at the next strategy in our three pillar series: using an omnichannel approach to remain at the forefront of retail in these changing times.

Omnichannel is a tactic brands across the retail industry are incorporating into their business model to provide shoppers with a seamless shopping experience both online and offline. Different retail channels such as mobile devices, desktops, and brick-and-mortar stores, keep customers constantly connect to brands. For pizza chains like Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut, an omnichannel approach is a vital component in their business strategy. Customers place their order by calling the store directly or customizing their meals online. Their orders are submitted to the chefs who prepare the meals as specified. The outcome is the same; however, the path chosen to order differs.


Omnichannel strategy is not only for the pizza industry. Brand like Starbucks use omni-channeling to drive their loyalty program. Customers can check or load balances onto their loyalty card by phone, online, or through visiting any Starbucks location. Rewards earned or changes made to the balance are instantly updated across all channels, allowing users to be informed regardless of the platform they are using.

" Image Gallery: starbucks app "
Image Source: Image Gallery: starbucks app

As companies attempt to reach audiences on a larger scale, using multiple platforms offers individuals flexibility and diversity. Customers who encounter a problem with a single service point are no longer going to turn away, but simply turn to a different channel. Through increased satisfaction, efficiency and convenience, having an omnichannel strategy is an asset not only for the customer, but for the brand itself.

It’s not limited to customer retention, either. The increased visibility offered by an omnichannel approach means that the brand maintains top-of-mind appeal. Multiple platforms allow for different product lines to be prioritized in different areas, inciting customers to buy more. For online channels, advertising can be catered to each individual’s preference, ensuring that every product they see is relevant to their own wants and needs.

"B & Q"
Image Source: B & Q

One way that British company B&Q use omnichannel selling makes DIY a much simpler task for everyone. A customer can use the website to find the products they need, for delivery or pick-up. It offers a real-time service which shows the closest stores that have the product in stock. As their customers are often in the middle of a messy, potentially ruinous activity when they need the products, B&Q offer a quick and indispensable service.

" Can click and collect save the high street? "
Image Source: University of Brighton

The retailer John Lewis takes this one step further. When they realized that two thirds of their customers combine online shopping with on-store shopping, they rolled out ‘Click and Collect’ – where you can order online and pick them up in store. This means you can browse at home and go to the store next day assured that your size and color has been reserved. It takes away the worry of being out when the delivery man arrives and gives the customer a reason to have another look around the brick-and-mortar store too. It has been so successful that it is now imitated by many high-street retailers.

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5 Star Plus Retail Design in the NEWS Magazine

August 20, 2017

We are pleased to share that 5 Star Plus Retail Design and our founder Barbara Seidelmann were covered with a full page in the August's second edition of "NEWS", one of Austria's leading magazines.

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The 3-Pillar Retail Strategies: 1. The Customer Experience

August 17, 2017

As introduced in our previous article “Preparing the Retail Industry for Future China: An analysis of markets, challenges and solutions ”, the Chinese market is changing and only those companies that tap into experience, omnichannel and personalization efforts will have a place in the new retail landscape. This week, we will look at how you can tailor customer experience to stay at the forefront of customers’ minds.

Shopping is more than looking for accessories and objects to be fashionable. Shopping is an experience. Retail stores like Gucci and Topshop revolve their business design around creating a positive customer experience using cutting edge, interactive technology and high-quality service. They do so for one reason: it gets results. A study by Harvard University (Kriss, 2014) shows customers who have the best past experiences spend 140% more than those who had the poorest experience. With the astronomical benefits of providing shoppers with a positive experience, brands ought to create a pleasant shopping experience through three tactics: slow shopping, technology, and brand imaging. To receive all the benefits of a positive shopping experience, it is critical for brands to incorporate all three tactics into their retail operations.

1) Slow Shopping

Creating a comfortable atmosphere that allows customers to leisurely browse merchandise while being hassle-free from eager employees is a tactic known as slow shopping. Slow shopping emphasizes control, giving the customers power to make their own decisions at their own pace. An open design lets shoppers explore the retail store without unwanted intervention, which is crucial for the brand to gain loyal customers. Allowing customers to shop at their own pace also leads to more spending. For example, Urban Outfitters have a very large array of items on display that people can walk around and inspect at their own pace. The store clerks are at the ready, but not in the way. Urban Outfitters successfully created a slow shopping environment and have accomplished their perfect design.

" How "Slow Shopping" Could Save the Brick & Mortar Store (and Destroy Your Budget)"
Image Source: Apartment Theory

2) Technology

Touchscreens, monitors, or interactive projectors allow brands to connect with customers in a creative way that is exciting, informative, and familiar; which assists in the development of brand image. By incorporating technology into the retail store’s design, a brand gains an edge over competitors through captivating customers. One example of this is Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing store. Uniqlo utilizes cutting-edge neuroscience technology to analyze a person’s feelings and determine the best outfit for them on a screen in front of them. The user puts on a headpiece and is shown images. Based on their brains reaction to those images, they are shown the perfect shirt on the screen once the sequence is complete.

"9 Examples Of Innovative In-Store Technology"
Image Source: Annex Cloud

3) Brand Imaging

Think of brand imaging like searching for a partner. We search for people with whom we can identify, who have direction, provoke feelings of excitement, and give us butterflies. People want brands that care about them, who put their needs first, and offer attractive products related to their lifestyle. Brands that follow these guidelines increase their number of shoppers exponentially. The most popular way that brands do this is through product placement and celebrity endorsement. Showcasing a role model overcoming a difficult environment makes the regular shopper feel empowered if they buy their products. An example of this trend is Puma’s Forever Faster campaign. Usain Bolt is renowned for being the world’s fastest man. He overcame the barrier of a human speed limit and Puma depicted that in their promotional design perfectly. Bolt is geared out in Puma, showing a lifestyle choice that attracts his admirers to the brand.

"The Forever Faster man, Usain Bolt"
Image Source: Daily Pinner

Humans seek experiences every time we get out of bed. Whether it’s traveling to a different city, tasting a new dish, or meeting up with friends, we form opinions around events we believed will make us happy. Be creative; stand out and give your customers a reason to choose your brand.

" New study: happy shoppers spend 127 more per shopping trip "
Image Source: The Retail Bulletin

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Determining the Most Effective Way to Showcase Your Product

July 20, 2017

When it comes to clothing stores, presenting your clothes in a functional, professional, and sophisticated manner can have the power to make or break your store’s success. Customers need to be able to clearly see and understand the vision and brand identity throughout the store design. Determining how to set up racks and shelving to display your product is dependent on various factors such as store size, layout, merchandise, and the overall look.

Product placement is proven to have a direct correlation with sales, which is why the most successful store designs pay great attention to detail when it comes to their design layout. Larger stores have the luxury of utilizing both clothing racks and shelving while maintaining a very spacious layout. On the contrary, smaller stores must be mindful of space. Folding clothes and displaying them on shelves provides a clean and spacious look while simultaneously taking up less room. As a result, stores can display a greater amount of inventory on the show floor. Another benefit to shelving is its eye level and comfortable viewing range.

DENHAM the jean maker’s 120-square-metre new flagship store design exemplifies how a small store can utilize space with shelving instead of racks. The shelving throughout the small store helps open the space and make it seem larger. This creates a spacious, comfortable, and enjoyable experience for customers.

"DENHAM Store, The Hague-Netherlands"
Image Source: Philip Jintes

While utilizing shelving is important, clothing racks are necessary for most clothing shop layouts. Clothing items such as dresses, coats, formal wear, and easy to crease or wrinkle clothing need to be hung up or their appeal is lost. There are three main types of racks that stores can utilize, straight racks, branching racks and circular racks. Straight racks are the most commonly used involving a horizontal bar supported by two vertical legs. They can be rolling or grounded, which provides storeowners with the flexibility to rearrange their store layout. Branching racks consist of a central base with posts that spread out from it. This provides customers with a unique vantage point that allows you to view merchandise from various angles and sides. Circular racks embody maximizing efficiency due to their 360-degree vantage viewing point.

Ellassay flagship store in Shenyang, China showcases the use of both straight racks and circular racks throughout its store. The circular racks in the middle of the store provide the perfect way for the store to feature and display their favorite items. Ultimately, incorporating both styles contribute to the elegant and spacious atmosphere. In China, it is important to present customers with both high quality products and a sophisticated store design.

"Ellassay flagship store by Stefano Tordiglione Design, Shenyang – China"
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

When designing Halti in Beijing’s Jinyuan mall, 5 Star Plus Retail Design effectively incorporated both shelving and racks into the overall layout. Utilizing shelving and racks provides variety to the store and a visually stimulating experience for customers. As a result, the store design is able to stand out from other Beijing store designs.

"Store Identity Design, Halti"
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Shelving and racks add to the ambiance of a concept store design. Finding the perfect balance between the two is ideal for a store’s success. Not every store design is the same and remembering to keep functionality, flexibility and your customers in mind when designing the store will help you attract more people.

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Preparing the Retail Industry for Future China: An analysis of markets, challenges and solutions

July 14, 2017

“The retail industry is one of the most promising fields of business in China due to their upward trend of annual GDP and the dramatic increase of spending power for both rural and domestic households;” said Statista, a company specializing in international markets, trends and development. With a steady increase of purchasing power throughout the country’s 1.3 billion residents, opportunities for growth and sustainability are exponentially increasing. However, this does not come without challenges. Weak business models and the increase of technology are proving difficult obstacles for many brands to overcome. How can they address these challenges and prepare for the future?

Understand the Market

Currently, the Chinese market is unlike the United States or European market. Studies show individuals in the western parts of the world tend to be more self-actualization oriented, preferring products relating to their lifestyles. In contrast, individuals in China tend to be under the Emotional and Social needs categories, preferring products of status, value and achievement. However, this difference is beginning to change. Individuals in the Chinese market are beginning to develop a self-actualization mindset. People still seek value but, they seek value in the form of experience. Brands will need to consider this change moving forward as this will affect how they develop products to target future customers.

Be Aware of Challenges Facing the Industry

In the past, brands could maintain relevance due to scarcity. With the rise of digital commerce and the access to any product in many places, brands suffering from weak business models no longer can compete. Additionally, brands are treating their digital sites and physical stores as two separate entities; failing to understand each platform serves a unique purpose. Customers use digital media as a starting point for conducting research, reading reviews and finding the best prices while relying on physical stores to conduct the transaction.

The Future: Implement a Three-Pillar Strategy

Brands seeking sustainability in the retail industry must implement a three-pillar strategy focusing on experience, omnichannel and customization.

Experience: Shopping should be more than conducting a transaction. It should be an experience. Customers who have a positive experience with a brand will be inclined to make additional purchases in the future.

Omnichannel: Omnichannel provides customers with a seamless shopping experience whether online, in-store or mobile. Those seeking to shop from home or on their way to work can do so through a multichannel approach.

Personalization: Personalization is how brands can tailor customer needs. Demand for personal customizable products is increasing as customers are on the prowl for items that are unique, exclusive, authentic and represent their personality.

Scarcity is no longer an option brands can rely on to maintain relevance. As customers begin to expect each of these strategies when they shop, brands failing to adapt to the changing industry will suffer. Readers will be able to find in-depth articles detailing each of the three pillars on our website in the coming weeks.

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Top 6 Restaurant Design Trends of 2017

July 7, 2017

While delicious food and high-quality service is essential for the success of a restaurant, the ambience of a restaurant is of equal significance. In today’s market, there is a plethora of dining options. Having a design that will draw in customers is integral to a restaurant’s prosperity.

An interior designer must incorporate brand, story and style all into one when designing a restaurant. The following are some retail design trends and considerations for restaurants in 2017.

1. Concept/Theme Based-Design:

Having either a conceptual or theme-based design allows for a more personal dining experience and is proven to be more inviting and energizing. The top restaurant designers develop interiors that portray a story that unfolds while people dine. This helps to build customer satisfaction and loyalty.

"Four Ways to Give Your Restaurant Dining Room a Quick Improvement"
Image Source: RC Supplies Online

2. Natural Textures and Materials:

Incorporating natural textures derived from nature continues to be a popular design trend utilized by designers. Using more than one material and mixing either wood, brass, leather, tile, marble or metal adds dimension and heightens the consumer’s dining experience.

"Academy of Art University Interior Design School Daily Blog"
Image Source: www.interiordesignschooldaily.com

The Mission Fresh Grill, located in Beijing’s recently constructed China World Mall, illustrates the mixing and combining of natural textures and materials. 5 Star Plus Retail Design worked with The Mission to convey its brand identity throughout the restaurant through uses of natural wood, high-quality materials and stainless steel. These natural elements not only draw people in to eat, but also signal to customers the emphasis of high-quality ingredients.

"Restaurant Design, The Mission Fresh Grill "
Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

3. Ambient Lighting and Ceiling Design:

Ambient lighting, customized pendant lighting and recessed mood lighting has grown in popularity among restaurant interior designers. Lighting has evolved to provide two purposes—exuding light and providing art. Contrast to previous years, interior design for restaurants has departed from the dark and industrial chic look and is moving towards a brighter, more modern appeal. Ceiling designs have begun showcasing and exposing wood or unconcealed metal pipes to give way to a more innovative atmosphere. Lighting and ceiling choices assist in creating interesting imagery with the intent of luring guests in.

Image Source: kdzjj.com

4. Vintage with a Modern Touch:

Adding elements of glamour and vintage flare to modern interior design layouts provides a sophisticated and glamorous feel. Luxe trimmings, velvet upholstery and glamorous patterns provide a sleek and refined atmosphere.

Image Source: Block Sixteen Hospitality

5. Color Tones:

Greens, specifically light green, is a trending color for retail design in 2017. This color exudes a refreshing and revitalizing charm that symbolizes a fresh start. In addition, colors that are vibrant with earthy tones are great accents. Pastels and chroma (graphic colors) contribute to an organic feel.

"Väkst: A Greenhouse Restaurant in Copenhagen"
Image Source: BLOGLOVIN'

6. Minimalism:

Like previous years, minimalism is a key design element that has the power to open even a small space. A simple, clean look is proven to make people feel calm and happy. Minimalism also allows for flexibility and functionality in the design layout. In restaurants, a minimalistic layout gives way for easier navigation.

"A Tax Agency Transformed: Restaurant Usine in Stockholm"

All 6 trends serve to provide consumers with both a visually appealing and enthralling look that will draw them in to dine. The trends are extremely conscious of keeping balance and harmony in mind. With continual growth in the restaurant industry, restaurants must constantly keep up with the latest trends. Having a clear concept store design will make the incorporation of trends into the layout easier. At the end of the day, people are quick to judge and one glance is all a consumer needs to tell if they are interested or not. Thus, for restaurants, making the right first impression through an impressive design layout is imperative.

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Tier 2 and Tier 3 Opportunities in the Chinese Retail Market

June 30, 2017

As Chinese retail markets in tier 1 cities reach maturity, retail companies are looking towards tier 2 and tier 3 cities for expansion opportunities. The combination of high real estate prices and saturation of the retail sector in major urban centers has made expansion in these areas more difficult. In 2015, the urban population was just under 56% of the total population. This is expected to rise up to around 59% by 2018. Not only is there a migration shift from rural to urban, but there is also an increase in household disposable income. By 2018, 66% of households will fall into the USD 10,000-plus per year income bracket, effectively increasing overall consumption.

"China Retail Report, Q1 2015"
Source: National Bureau of Statistics China/BMI

This increase in consumption consequently forecasts China’s retail sector to grow on average by 10.8% every year from 2015-2018. Since the retail markets in cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai have become saturated for the reasons aforementioned, it will be the lower-tier cities that experience a significant portion of this growth. These booming hubs have been given improved access with new transportation infrastructure, including airline routes, better highways and high-speed rail lines. As people flock to these cities to look for work, a new untapped consumer market emerges. The graph below shows the steady but significant growth of this new consumer class. Some of the tier 2 cities include Tianjin, Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Nanjing and Xi’an. Proactive municipal governments along with low land costs typical to these cities give retailers a great opportunity to establish or expand their presence in these areas of the Chinese market.

*Population earning over USD $5,000
*China60 refers to cities that are not
categorized as tier 1, EIU, 2015

"China60: From Fast Growth to Smart Growth JLL, 2015"
Image Source: JLL

Retailers that offer premium or luxury items will cater well to these large consumer bases, as Chinese consumers generally see these goods as a mark of prosperity. There is a shift though in Chinese consumer attitudes. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, fulfilling esteem needs drove luxury purchases in the past, but it is now trending to make purchases that satisfy actualization needs. This means that consumers are starting to purchase brands because they identify with the lifestyle the brands represent, rather solely because of the product’s prestige. Tier 1 city dwellers are at the forefront of this trend, but it would be a strategic consideration for retailers, as more and more people in lower-tier cities are shifting towards this consumer attitude.

"China60: From Fast Growth to Smart Growth JLL, 2015"
Image Source: JLL

Some lower-tier cities have been experiencing a large growth in shopping malls. The pie charts above show that physical retail space in these cities is expanding more quickly than in tier 1 cities. Despite this demand for more shopping centers, retailers need to be conscientious of the increase in online shopping, especially with technological generations entering the consumer base. Malls are combating this threat by dedicating more space to food and beverage and concept stores, which altogether makes shopping more of an experience. Retailers expanding or entering into lower-tier cities can combat this threat by taking into account their store layout and the message/lifestyle they want to convey. Thoughtful retail design can influence how customers perceive a brand’s lifestyle and can help place emphasis on experiential shopping; something that e-commerce cannot compete with.

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5 Star Plus Retail Design Speaks at Food and Drink Forum 2017

June 23, 2017

The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) hosted its fifth annual Retail, Food and Drink forum on Thursday, June 15, 2017 at the British Business Center in Beijing. Introducing this year’s Great British Brands Festival (GBBF), the goal of the forum was to allow businesses from the UK to learn more about the challenges and experiences from industry experts within the Chinese market. Barbara Seidelmann from 5 Star Plus Retail Design was invited to speak at the event. Among her, other speakers included: Peter Bloxham of PFB Associates, Lynne Hua of The British House, and Demi Ping of CBBC.

Having over 10 years of experience in the retail market, Barbara Seidelmann spoke about The Future of Retail: Entertainment and Lifestyle. She started by explaining the shift in Chinese consumer shopping habits and how this affects the design process for brick and mortar stores. One of the key points she made in the presentation was the importance of omni-channeling for brick and mortar stores, which would personalize and better cater the retail experience to consumers. Barbara also showed how the experience factor serves as an important aspect in retail design, as it helps appeal to Chinese consumer needs in an evolving marketplace. In-store personalization and aspects of experience and omni-channeling can be tied into one cohesive brand image within retail design.

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A Growing Marketplace: Retail Design For Kids

June 15, 2017

Luxury retail stores specailizing in children’s wear has become a growing trend over past few years. According to Business of Fashion, by 2020, the Asain Pacific children’s wear retail marketplace is expected to grow by 32%. As millenials continue to have children, their shopping habits indicate that they are willing to spend more on their children for higher end products. There are different design elements that must be taken into account for both the parents, and the children. Common trends in 2017 for children’s retail design China include, having a family focus, technology integration, and gender neutrality.

Cognitive Interests in Kids

The cognitive interest of children plays a role in the design elements chosen for a children’s retail store. Children 3 – 5 years of age are very curious, and learn how and why things work through tacticle sensations. Children 6 – 10 years of age have a stronger memory and are more coordinated. They like to solve problems deductivley, through reading and reasoning. Taking these interests into account help designers develop captivating displays and incorporate interactive brand elements into a store’s design to attract kids into the retail store.

Interactive Branding

Interactive branding is an essential part of a kids retail store. Integrating technology into the brand attracts tech savvy youngsters, and allows them to discover a brand through a familiar outlet. A recent study done by the ASP Group, used eye tracking software to discover that people were 77% more likely to engage in displays that involve movement.

Jou Jou Toy Store in Salt Lake City, Utah-USA, takes interactive branding to the next level with a digital design concept where monsters can interchange between pictures leaving kids with a fun and interactive experience.

" Welcome to the Grand America "
Image Source: Shannon Bird

Design trends

The most important thing in a child’s life is family. Having family oriented designs for both younger and older children is a primary goal in many retail design concepts.

Many design concepts include bright inviting colors such as yellow and green, as well as whimsical concepts like sketched shops, or fairytale-like designs with a playground feel. The Candy Room in Melbourne Australia uses a cartoon design concept in colors of black and white to play into children’s imagination while also drawing attention to the fun colored packaging of the candy.

" The Candy Room, Melbourne Austrailia "
Image Source: Trend Hunter

Depending on the size of the retail design space, a design can include a large space for a play area, or a smaller space to make the child feel like they are in a secret hideout. Kids Republic store design in Beijing China creates the feeling of a fun board game, designed for children to climb and follow various pathways, while also incorporating fun nooks for children to crawl inside and read their favorite book, thus appealing to the cognitive interests of all age groups.

" Kids Republic, Beijing China "
Image Source: The Cool Hunter

Keeping millennial parents in mind for the design concept, gender neutrality seems to be a growing trend in 2017. As the race for gender equality continues, stores everywhere continue to add gender inclusive elements and colors into children retail store design concepts to put less of a focus on ‘who’ the product is for and more a focus on ‘what’ product will work for the child. Harrods Toy Kingdom in London England uses a gender neutral color scheme and removes labels of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ from toy sections throughout. The store provides plenty of places for children to try new toys and explore through creative brand elements.

" Harrods Toy Kingdom, London England "
Image Source: Pintrest

" Harrods Toy Kingdom, London England "
Image Source: Big Sister Association

The growth in children’s retail is expected to grow substantially in the coming years. 5 Star Plus Retail Design understands the expectations and considerations that must be taken into account when designing a children’s retail store in China. It’s important to consider the cognitive interests of different age groups to allow children to discover the brand story through interactive displays and digital features. We also prioritize the creation of a store that is appealing to the parents who do the shopping as well as the children who will accompany them.

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Australia-China Business Awards (ACBA) 2017: Event Design and Production for AustCham

May 25, 2017

The Australia-China Business Awards (ACBA) is an annual event, organized by AustCham, with the support of Westpac and other sponsors, to recognize the success of Australian and Chinese companies working between the two countries in the Greater China region. For the past 24 years, the event’s location has rotated between the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. 5 Star Plus Retail Design had the honor of developing the full event design concept as well as the production of the awards for this year’s event.

ACBA 2017 was hosted at the JW Marriot Beijing on Thursday, May 18th. This year’s gala had over 450 guests from 36 key businesses in both China and Australia.

Considering the scale of the event and the importance of giving to the space, it was crucial to create a festive, cozy atmosphere. This was achieved by integrating the ceiling into the design through the creation of a modern design concept. Projected lights and logo images moved across the ceiling establishing more dynamic feeling. 5 Star Plus Retail Design had the honor of developing the full event design concept as well as the production of the awards for this year’s event.

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Visual Identity Design for the Sino-Swiss Business Awards 2017

May 17, 2017

The Sino-Swiss Business Awards (SSBA) is an exclusive, once-every-two-years event organized by SwissCham and supported by the Swiss embassy. Similar to previous events hosted by SwissCham, 5 Star Plus Retail Design acted as a proud visual sponsor and developed the full visual identity design concept as well as the design framework for the gala night.

SSBA 2017 took place at Rosewood hotel Beijing on May 13th. This year's awards ceremony was crowned by the official visit of Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation.

Suitable for a festive gala night and a formal business-oriented event, the visual identity focuses on clean geometric shapes for an official yet dynamic look. The color concept is based on tones of red, a reference to the Swiss flag, with an emphasis on the festive nature of this special night.

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4 PR Tips that Will Keep You Ahead in the F&B Industry

May 2, 2017

On her podcast blog The Business Cuisine (http://www.thebusinesscuisine.com) Denise Chen shares best practice tips for the successful marketing of small food and beverage businesses. We are sharing a summary of those valuable insights.

F&B is seen as a lucrative industry to be a part of as there will always be paying customers. However, in this new economy, as consumers – in China more than anywhere else - strive to live longer and healthier, they tend to be more selective of what they put into their stomach. They read reviews and news before trying a new restaurant, and they ask around before making a decision to buy. Therefore, for some that go into the F&B business to make quick money, many die after just a year or less of operation.

" Creative marketing activities are a crucial aspect for F&B brands to stay alive. "

Tip 1: Build a brand, not product

Great food is the essential step to get in the industry, however, it takes a lot more to build a successful business that does not close in 6 months. People need to remember your name and not just another food place. Remember, food itself doesn’t talk or travel - story does.

Element Fresh did a brilliant job in building its brand as a leading American restaurant chain that focuses on healthy food and lifestyle with 27 locations across China.

Over the years, the brand conducted consistent new activities that reminded consumers that this is a legit company that is trying to do things to keep their promises, so the message people receive is: I can trust this company, I am happy to go back and tell my friends about it too.

Element Fresh partnered with China’s National Tennis Champion Li Na (李娜) for their 2016 Fall&Winter New Menu Launch with slogan – LIVE FRESH With LINA. As a worldwide public figure, Li Na represents sports and health. In this campaign, Li Na dressed as an Element Fresh chef preparing yummy and healthy food by leveraging an influencer’s public image to showcase the brand’s commitment to healthy food and lifestyle. When people talk about Element Fresh, naturally in their minds they will associate Li Na and the image she presents as the brand image.

In summary, it is about having a clear goal of your positioning, formulating a strategy and creating a plan to execute.

Tip 2: Create your story bank

Bill Gates firstly said in 1996, content is KING. In this context, food and drinks is not what sells, narrative does. A good example for a brand with a systematic content pool is Moka Bros.

" Moka Bros’ WeChat Account "

As a consumer of MokaBros, besides the diverse content ranging from fitness tips, education about one type of food or recipe, festive greetings etc, one of the most attractive contents is called “Humans”, where each week a customer is interviewed for their inspirational story that is in line with the brand image MokaBros is sending out – to inspire.

Don’t just talk about yourself, engage your audiences to be your brand’s ambassadors that are in line with your brand image, and therefore add more flavor to your story bank.

Tip 3: Be proactive

The core of PR is communication. In a nutshell, PR’s function is to create content, find target media and convince them to write about you instead of your competitors. That means PR has to be extremely proactive in every area of the job. If you are lucky, and the reporter knows you or members of your team, then you get the chance to be mentioned in a story he is writing about. If you are unlucky, and your competitor is more active and reaches out to the same reporter first, then you lose this opportunity for publicity.

Just put yourself in a reporter’s shoes, every reporter gets pitched probably more than 20 times per day from PR professionals and in-house PR. What are the chances he or she will spend more than 3 minutes trying to find anything about you actively, if you don’t make his job easier by reaching out first?

" Applebee’s Grill&Bar Shanghai Closed "

An analyst, Charles Yan from Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting, once commented in an article about why an American restaurant failed in Shanghai, the main reason for Applebee’s closure relies on its location. But what’s more than the physical location is that there were no activities conducted to build its brand awareness on the ground level to drive traffic to their underground store.

In other words, don’t simply expect opening a location with good food and service then people will find you, if you don’t market yourself proactively and consistently to help people find you, you are meant to fail.

Tip 4: Ally with your competitors

In PR, collaboration often refers to co-branding. What does that mean? It means instead of holding an event for one single brand, you gather 3 or more brands from or outside of your industry to hold an event together to address one particular topic. The benefit of co-branding is increased public impact including media attention. One F&B brand that is doping this effectively is Great Leap Brewery.

Great Leap initiated Beijing Professional Brewer’s Guild, a self-organized gathering where the brewers, business owners and other members in the craft beer industry meet every quarter, learn and share industry knowledge from each other, aiming to improve and advance the whole craft beer industry in Beijing.

In summary, as for retailers, food and beverage businesses need to focus on creating a brand. This is done by developing a feasible marketing strategy, an interesting story and consistently pushing content over a wider number of marketing channels.

Please go to The Business Cuisine (http://www.thebusinesscuisine.com/prtips/) for reading the full article.

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The Future of Retail: Entertainment and Lifestyle - The Role of Brand Strategy and Retail Design

April 28, 2017

The retail world is experiencing a time of change. This shift is perceived as threat by some and as an opportunity by others. Market reports insist that online retailing is the future and many luxury retailers report decreasing sales revenues. New shopping malls seem to open with a smaller number of traditional retail stores. What is happening in the market?

In an increasingly saturated and regulated market, the purchasing behavior of local consumers as well as their needs are evolving. What are the reasons for this market change and what can retail brands do to stay ahead?

The Evolution of Needs (and Purchasing Behavior)

" Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs "

In recent years, consumers in developing countries and in industrialized markets showed one important difference in purchasing behavior: While people in the West tend to spend more money for products and services that serve self-realization, customers in developing countries like China used to purchase products that are easily recognized for their brand and value. This reflects consumption for “being” versus “having”.

The background of this behavior is explained by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which says that humans need to first satisfy physiological and safety needs before emotional needs. Once these are fulfilled, people want to fulfill social requirements like respect and self-esteem. The last step in the pyramid of needs is self-realization where humans feel that they already possess everything and now want to develop as a person (e.g. intellectually or physically) or experience new things (e.g. through adventure travel).

While traditional retail sales in China were strongly motivated by “having” and “showing” to satisfy social needs during the past decade, consumers have been moving up the pyramid and are now purchasing more products and services connected to “self-realization”. Retail products are not purchased mainly for the branded logo, but because of the style that a certain brand represents, the craftsmanship, innovation or lifestyle they stand for. More often than in the past, consumers purchase products because they “like” the items, and not because of the functions or social value they represent.

In terms of purchase motivation, the consumer behavior in China is growing similar to that of the West.

China - A Changing Retail Market Environment

A more developed retail market in China has also led to a more regulated environment limiting corruption and therefore gift purchases. More transparency thanks to the government’s anti-corruption campaigns and the use of social media have further reduced the aspiration of people in the upper Chinese classes to display wealth. Nobody wants to be associated with improper wealth or spending by either the government authorities or the public.

An increasingly saturated market also means that a larger number of market players are competing in the same retail segments. More choices on the market allow consumers to research options as compared to years ago when there was often only a very limited choice of international products.

While a decade ago the general public could usually not name more than ten international luxury brands, the Chinese now have an extensive knowledge of foreign luxury and designer brands. The non-existent knowledge of labels many years ago was accompanied by the fear of buying something that could be a fake brand or not perceived well in the social circle, and consumers therefore often opted to make a safe investment and purchase an LV or Gucci product, two of the most well-known brands at that time.

Today, international prices are transparent and local consumers travel to international destinations more often, leading to increased retail spending abroad. While the so called “Golden Age” is over, there is still huge potential in the retail market in China.

The Future of Retail Brands and the Role of Retail Design

Whereas shopping malls in China and elsewhere traditionally had a ratio of 70% retail stores and 30% lifestyle, food & beverage, and entertainment, this proportion has become the opposite. This change is driven by the consumers’ desire to spend time in the mall and have fun. This market shift offers an opportunity for brands to adapt, provide additional value and, if successfully implemented, create a much tighter connection between the brand and customers.

Retail brands need to find a way for customers to experience both the brand and the products in the brick-and-mortar store. While customers might do some of their purchases online, the actual store will remain the premier place to research and test products, feel the brand and go for after sales services. This means that while the same stores might generate less of the same retail sales value, they assume a new role in expressing the brand and need make a strong statement in the market.

Without a powerful presence of brick-and-mortar stores, online sales will not succeed. In line with the market shift, existing stores should be rebranded as concept or flagship stores and offer a set of services that are not available elsewhere. For this, a well thought-through brand strategy and impactful retail design play a very important role. Retail stores have to be transformed into dynamic environments that integrate all of the brand experience including on- and offline channels. In order to stimulate sales in the actual stores, brands can adopt some of the following strategies:

- Offer products that are not available online, such as e.g. partly customized products (for example, featuring the customer’s name somewhere on the product)

- Offer services that attract customers (e.g. free cleaning, checks)

- Organize events, brand collaborations and promotions

- Integrate a cafe or food and beverage concept into the overall store design concept

While implementing the above, the key to success is having a clearly defined brand that is implemented consistently through different on- and offline channels as part of a dynamic, market-oriented retail strategy.

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Retail Design Strategy: What We Can Learn from the First Branded Stores 50 Years Ago

March 24, 2017

More than half a century ago, retail was a completely different world. While many products were branded already, shopping was done in department stores, category specific stores (stores selling either shoes, hats, dresses, accessories, books, or electronics, for example), and some of the very few first malls in the US.

Focus on Functionality of Store and Choice of Products

While nowadays stores are designed by retail designers, they were planned by architects at that time. Functionality came first: stores focused on the display of products and had to optimize the use of space and organization of brands. Besides a usually prominent signage at the entrance of the retail store, shopping spaces had no branded elements. Smart lighting concepts did not exist yet – lamps were distributed across the ceiling to evenly light up the room.

A Typical Department Store in the 50ies
Image Source: laughingsquid.com

Window Displays were Simple and Focused on the Products
Image Source: dharn.org

Shirleys Shoe Store selling Various Brands
Image Source: thefashionarchives.org

A Typical Accessory Store in the 1950s
Image Source: thefashionarchives.org

His Master’s Voice (HMV) Store Selling Records in the 1950s
Image Source: feelingmyage.co.uk

His Master’s Voice (HMV) Store Selling Records in the 1950s
Image Source: londonist.com

The First Branded Retail Stores

Mono-brand and high-street fashion stores were nonexistent unit the 1950s. One of the first successful fashion store concepts was BIBA in London, which could be seen on TV and products ordered the next day. As visible on the picture below, BIBA had an impactful branded facade. The store’s logo was widely recognized and helped to build up the luxury appeal. Part of its success came from the strong social function of the store – people visited and stayed just to been seen and become associated with the fashionable high society.

BIBA High Fashion Store in London with an Impactful Signage (1950s)
Image Source: telegraph.co.uk

Different Product Categories inside the BIBA Store
Image Source: evoketw.com

Branded Stores as Social Statement

Vivienne Westwood was one of the first to open a store with an overall retail concept. Always choosing a strong theme, the designer’s main purpose, besides selling fashion, was to deliver a strong social message. The store, which first opened in 1971, was then called “Let it Rock”, then renamed into “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die” one year later and rebranded into “Sex” in 1974.

First Store opened by Vivienne Westwood, rebranded several times
Image Source: worldsendshop.co.uk

Store Design in 2017

: Interestingly, the most commercially successful stores half a century ago were the ones that were directly associated with an aspired lifestyle or delivered a strong social message. Consequently, they had clear positioning and a brand message that people could identify with. This is also true when planning and designing retail concepts today.

Today, branding and the communication of a strong message keep playing an important role in retail design. The products themselves, in comparison with 50 years ago, have a slightly lesser importance. Consumers purchase products because they identify themselves with and support a brand and its message. The customer experience and use of technology where customers can interact with the brand and product are additional crucial aspects for retail design concepts.

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Opening Soon! The Mission Fresh Grill Flagship Store at China World Mall

February 28, 2017

A long awaited new concept will soon open its doors in China World Mall at the end of March. Tapping into the quickly developing fast-casual dining market focusing on healthy food choices, The Mission Fresh Grill will provide American style grill options like burritos and tacos to local consumers. The focus of the brand is to provide customers with the highest quality food that is prepared with traditional culinary cooking methods: The food is served at its peak freshness for an on-the-go/active lifestyle customer in a friendly and inviting luxury environment.

The Mission Fresh Grill will open in the latest building of Beijing’s China World Mall that will be home to a variety of both new and well-known retail brands, restaurants, and bars as well as a karaoke place. Different from buildings 1, 2 and 3 of the mall, China World 3B was designed with more open spaces – many restaurants, bars and clubs will have their own terraces. This new building is projected to become a new center where people meet and go out, and compete with the well-known Sanlitun area which is still the favorite choice of Beijingers to meet for a coffee, dinner, or drinks.

What is The Mission Fresh Grill?

Founded by people from Seattle and Beijing who have more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant business, the owners aim to bring a new healthy “American-style” lifestyle to China. This American brand is unique to Beijing and offers a menu full of cool international flavors from breakfast burritos and bowls to some of the best taco's in Beijing. The Mission Fresh Grill sets itself apart through their executive chef curated menu, high-quality healthy proteins with no antibiotics or GMO additives, and with a customer experience that will set the bar for restaurants in China.

The Design Concept

The restaurant design concept of the brand is based on values like health, freshness and the color of the ingredients. While there is a common theme, each location is designed individually and adapted to its environment. At China Word Mall, the owners and the mall wanted the store design to have a cool vibe and an artistic feel. While the abundant natural wood and high quality materials focus on the healthy aspects of the brand, the stainless steel kitchen emphasizes important values such as the high quality of the ingredients and hygiene. The fun open kitchen allows customers to view the culinary food preparation process while food is customized to perfection. Customized metal elements, a wall sculpture, and intelligent lighting communicate the origin, positioning and depth of the restaurant brand.

The Mission Fresh Grill at China World mall is the first of many stores of the brand. A restaurant besides Beijing Chaoyang Park will open in the next months, and a location in Sanlitun is being planned. Further steps may take the brand to Shanghai.

With its many delicious food choices and sophisticated yet relaxed environment, The Mission Fresh Grill might just be the right place to go when dining while catching up with friends, meeting with business associates or just sitting down for a quiet bite while catching up on social media and work.

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Understanding China: Strategic Retail Design

February 27, 2017

International retail brands that come to China have high expectations. Unfortunately, they often also have a couple of misconceptions. The retail market in China is different from Europe, North America, as well as all other countries. Retail design concepts need to be adapted accordingly. The local market presents its own challenges and brands need to adapt. Consumers are more sophisticated then brands often anticipate, and retailers have to outcompete other brands through a strong brand identity that is promoted together with an associated lifestyle. In this article we line out the most important points that you need to know when planning to open retail stores in China.

" Store Design Concepts in China need to make a strong statement "

1. Financial Investment

China is not a cheap country any more. Some of the costs associated to entering and operating in the country’s tier 1 cities like Beijing or Shanghai (store rents, salaries, advertising) are close to those brands would have to pay in Europe and the US. Retailers who want to come to China do have to make a certain financial commitment and invest for the long term.

2. Sophistication of Retail Consumers

The days where companies can sell anything and products are bought just because they are European or American – the period often also named the “Golden Age” for foreign companies in China - are over. Consumers are smart, compare choices, and travel abroad. Chinese do not pay a premium price for products and brands that are not well known and do not succeed in communicating superior value that justifies a higher price.

3. Importance of the Brand

In China, a strong brand is everything. We are often surprised that some of the retail brands we work with cannot answer basic questions about the brand positioning and brand personality. What is your brand message? What is your unique value proposition as compared to competitors? Do whom do you want to sell?

Products without a clearly defined brand that is communicated consistently throughout all marketing channels (retail design, advertisements, editorials, print material, etc.) will not sell. In China, more than anywhere else, consumers purchase products because they like a brand, not because they like the product or its functionalities. If the brand is perceived as “cool”, the products will sell.

4. Promotion of Lifestyle and High Impact Retail Design:

In addition to the importance of the development of a strong brand image, brands often forget that while consumers might be familiar with the products and the associated lifestyle in their home country, Chinese consumers might know nothing about it. This applies especially to all non-traditional retail products, like bijoux (trendy jewelry that has no investment value and is made of less expensive materials other than precious metals or precious stones), and lifestyle related products (binoculars, pens, travel accessories), for example. Since locals have not grown up with these “hobbies” (the majority of people was suffering hunger 30 years ago and the government-controlled market only opened up to international retail products in 2005), extensive education and promotion of the respective lifestyle are required before consumers understand how the mentioned products can be used and why they should be bought.

Retail design in China therefore has to be essentially different from more traditional retail concepts that are successful in the West: Store design concepts have to focus on the customer experience and showcase the attractiveness of the brand and the related lifestyle. Stores should never look traditional and conservative; instead they have to be bright, modern, dynamic and “cool”. Chinese consumers like to enter spaces that are different and have a high visual appeal; they aspire the lifestyle that a certain store communicates. If the store design is right, the product will be purchased.

5. Technology, Continuous Redefinition and Change

A last, very important point to acknowledge and integrate into a brand’s strategy for China is the constant, advanced use of new technologies of Chinese as well as the fast pace with which the market changes. LED screens, monitors, and technologic support has become the standard in stores in China. Brands have to continue to develop, grasp the trends and changes in the market and adapt their retail concept. While the core of the brand should remain the same, facets of the identity that are also expressed in the latest retail design concepts have to evolve. Brands are like people – they have a complex personality and are required to become more mature with experience.

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Trends in the Outdoor Sports Retail Sector: ISPO 2017

February 22, 2017

The 13th International Sports Trading Show (ISPO Beijing 2017), the largest yearly international exhibition of outdoor sports and fashion brands, took place in Beijing from February 15th to 18th. This year’s exhibition attracted 502 exhibitors and 728 brands to show their products.

Being one of the fastest growing segments of the retail market in China (and everywhere else in the world), brands are evolving and developing innovative products at a rapid pace. The following trends were observed at this year’s exhibition:

1. Products are becoming lighter, smaller, more colorful and thus not only suitable for outdoor aficionados but the mass consumers.

2. Branding plays an increasingly important role. The competition is increasing with more brands entering the market, retailers thus need to build brand loyalty.

3. Outdoor fashion brands can be classified into two types: 1) The ones focusing on premium product quality and professional equipment that have a modern and clean exhibition stand design. 2) Brands that appeal to a broad customer range and therefore heavily invest into the development of marketing materials as well as stylish, sometimes colorful exhibition stand designs that create a high visual impact.

4. Chinese brands have discovered this market and offer medium quality products at more or less reasonable prices.

A number of Austrian brands showcased their products including snowboards, binoculars, skis equipment and skiwear in the Advantage Austria Pavillion. Besides the Austrian Pavillion, people could also visit the French, Korean, and Australian Pavillion.

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Interview "Design to Achieve Business Goals" with The Business Cuisine

January 26, 2017

We are proud to have been invited to an interview with The Business Cuisine, a platform focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation in the Food & Beverage industry in China. Denise Chen, founder of The Business Cuisine, sat down with Barbara Seidelmann, founder and managing director of 5 Star Plus Retail Design, to discuss how retail design should be used by brands to achieve their strategic business goals.

Key points to take away from the interview are that design needs to be very functional, fulfill the business requirements and should be planned strategically. Often enough, store designs do not have a comprehensive enough understanding of the retailer's or restaurants' operational processes and focus on the aesthetic aspects only. When starting to develop a store design concept, both owners and designers first have to be clear on the business concept, the positioning, target customers and the marketing strategy before thinking about how to translate the brand concept into a three-dimensional space.

The interview is available in the form of a 40-minutes podcast at The Business Cuisine (http://www.thebusinesscuisine.com/5starplus/).

If you have questions, comments or feedback on our interview, please send us an email to retail.consulting@5starplusdesign.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

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2017 – An Outlook on Color Trends in Retail Design

January 22, 2017

As mentioned in our previous blog post "The Significance of Color in Retail Store Design" back in July, color plays a significant role in retail design to communicate a brand's personality, create a mood and stimulate purchases. Yet where do the preferences for certain colors come from? Much of the emotional response to colors comes from deep within us as an instinct. However, colors applied in interior design also reflect times, societal or political changes or the economic climate. Think of the earthy colors of the 1960ies which were inspired by the hippie movement, or the neon colors of the 1980ies, as examples. With this in mind, it becomes even more important to understand this year's color trends and associated effects on retail design concepts.

We have summarized the expert opinions and selected "color of the year" from the leading organizations in this field. 2016 was a year with many political and economic changes, in consequence, the color choices in 2017 seem to reflect a desire for calmness and peace, as well as a return to and appreciation for nature.

Dulux's Color of the Year 2017 - Denim Drift

Dulux's color of the year 2017 is known as "Denim Drift", which tells the story of 'life in a new light'. It is a color palette with ten stunning shades of blue. Although their color trend palettes were designed around household, these palettes are also applicable and effective within retail store design.

" 2017全球色彩趋势:生活,另眼相看 "
Image Source: dulux

Apart from blue being the world's favourite color, it is also a color that generates positive emotional response. Blue gives the feeling of calmness, happiness, and comfort, which are the feelings that most retailers should provide to their customers. According to the Creative Director at Dulux, Marianne Shilingford, to suit the style and personality of a space, five of the shades are cleaner, and have brighter tones that gives a bigger visual impact. Meanwhile, the other five are more muted and atmospheric, which tones visual impact down. This palette provides a lot of flexibility on how a space looks and feels as it can be combined with various elements, and subtly change under different light conditions.

" Hugo Boss Store Retail Design "
Image Source: Interior Design Portfolio

PPG's Hottest Color of the Year 2017 - Violet Verbena

PPG's choice of the hottest color of the year is confirmed! Violet Verbena is the color of the year 2017. The color is a muted lavender tone that works well in elegant spaces yet also creates a bit of warmth. Mr. Dee Schlotter, Senior marketing manager at PPG which specializes on innovative industrial surfaces, described Violet Verbena as a both modern and nostalgic color tone.

" Our Color of the Year 2017: Violet Verbena "
Image Source: PPG The Voice of Color

Dee Schlotter said: "We are seeing this shade of violet on the runway in fashion, retail design and in textiles for the commercial and residential segments." Violet is a color associated with spirituality. It promotes mental balance and resolve, while at the same time also being ambiguous, mystical and magical. Violet has a strong meditative effect and stimulates our imagination, inspires and motivates us to try out new things. With its calm and sophisticated look, Violet Verbena is definitely a color that makes a statement.

" Our Color of the Year 2017: Violet Verbena "
Image Source: PPG The Voice of Color

Pantone's Color of the Year 2017 – Greenery

With the development of its comprehensive color system, Pantone has been inspiring the colorful exploration and expression of creativity for more than 50 years. Pantone's color of the year 2017 is Greenery.

" Pantone Unveils Color of the Year 2017: PANTONE 15-0343 Greenery "
Image Source: PANTONE

Green has always been associated with spring, emerging life and lush vegetation. As the color of annual renewal and triumph of spring over the cold winter, green symbolizes hope and immortality. The root of the word green lies in the old Germanic word ghro, which means as much as growing and prospering.

" Pantone Unveils Greenery as Color of the Year 2017 "
Image Source: The luxPad

The color green strengthens concentration, stimulates creativity and promotes tolerance. It creates peace and harmony and conveys a sense of balance and satisfaction. The color is also helpful for physical regeneration; walks in nature help us gather new inner strength. In retail design concepts, green creates dynamic in otherwise more traditional spaces, conveys a young and stylish touch or communicates a focus on health aspects for certain brands.

" Leafy Concept Fashion Store by King George Gives Belgians a Glimpse of their Horticultural Heritage "
Image Source: Inhabitat

At 5 Star Plus Retail Design, we appreciate the three chosen "colors of the year" for their subtle elegance, sophistication, and the positive atmosphere they create. Denim Drift, Violet Verbena and Greenery are all great choices of accent color for store design concepts. We are looking forward to seeing how brands will implement these beautiful colors in their retail stores this year and will keep you updated.

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The Importance of Fitting Room Design in a Retail Space

January 9, 2017

As many shoppers have been transitioning to online shopping over the past few years, there have been arguments about how brick-and-mortar shopping will soon cease to exist. However, brick-and-mortar shopping is definitely staying, especially for apparel retail stores, where personal service and fitting rooms provide a shopping experience that is not available online. Most shoppers still have similar preferences of being able to personally see, touch, feel, and try on a product before making a purchasing decision online or in-store.

Image Source: Kristen Loken

Many retailers often overlook the importance of the fitting room experience of shoppers, and do not realize that the fitting room does actually impact retail performance. Fitting rooms are known as the small-but-mighty area of any retail store as they are one of the key elements that lead to the increase of sales and decrease in returns. This is due to the fact that most purchasing decisions are made when shoppers like what they see in the fitting room.

Image Source: Triibe

Fitting rooms are an important part of a brand's store design. The key elements to a brilliant fitting room design are the lighting, mirror, size and color.

It is best to use neutral white lighting, and have multiple lights on the ceiling, or lighting panels down on each side of the mirror. This will not only reflect a real life flattering impression on the customer, but also improve the fitting room experience as the perfect level and quality of lighting will avoid casting awkward and ugly shadows on the customer.

For fitting room mirrors, retailers should never have doubts to invest in large and high-quality mirrors made from high-grade glass and materials. While it may be costlier, high-quality mirrors will provide a more natural and realistic reflection, compared to cheap mirrors that have a misrepresenting and unnatural reflection.

As for the size and color, it is best not to have a small fitting room that makes customers feel confined and unable to have a full view of what they are wearing. Additionally, the colors of a fitting room should not clash with the lighting. It is also safer to use more neutral colors to make a fitting room look even more attractive.

" J&M Davidson's new London boutique on Mount Street "
Image Source: Wallpaper

Different types of fitting room designs can give different effects and results on shoppers who are trying on clothes. A fitting room design with harsh lighting, bad quality mirrors, or an odd color, may result in making customers look unflattering. Hence, preventing them from making a purchasing decision as they do not like what they see in the fitting room.

" The Pelican Studio Concept Store "
Image Source: Yellowtrace

On the other hand, some fitting room designs that unintentionally mislead customers to look better that they would in the natural daylight may come across as 'too perfect'. Although this kind of fitting rooms may manipulate shoppers to purchase the product, however, shoppers may feel deceived by the retailer, and will not be a returning or loyal shopper to that retailer anymore.

Image Source: Pinterest

Therefore, retailers should ensure that their fitting room designs stands between these two extremes, in order to gain a successful transaction whenever a customer walks out of the fitting room.

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SwissCham Night 2016 by Swiss Chamber of Commerce in China

December 23, 2016

On December 9, 2016, SwissCham Beijing hosted the 2nd edition of "SwissCham Night" at Hilton Hotel Beijing. 5 Star Plus Retail Design acted as proud visual sponsor at the event, which both celebrated the end of yet another successful business year for Swiss companies in China as well as the 20 years anniversary since the chamber's foundation. As visual sponsor, 5 Star Plus Retail Design developed the event's visual identity including the design of the key visual, backdrop, menu, tickets, and signage, among others. The creation of a festive atmosphere was important; further inspiration for the event design concept was the timeline from 1996 to 2016. We are looking forward to celebrating the next exciting 20 years of SwissCham in China.

Image Source: swisscham.org
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What's New for 2016 Christmas Decorations

December 21, 2016


In the past, candles were the only available option as a decorative light for Christmas. Although it was a beautiful sight to admire, it was a dangerous and risky method. After centuries, technological advancement led to the introduction of LED lighting and has since maintained to be people's main choice of decorative light. This year, apart from the traditional decorations using LED lights, some countries are using LED projections, which are controlled by a remote system. In New Taipei City, Taiwan, stands a 36m tall 360° 3D LED Christmas tree that is able to project anything that is input into the system that controls it. This Christmas tree is also part of Taiwan's largest and longest 3D projection light show.

" Five best places in Taiwan to celebrate Christmas "
Image Source: Taiwan News


A more sparkling and extravagant decoration that can be used are Swarovski ornaments or crystals. This Christmas, residing under the famous QVB dome in Sydney, Australia, there is a spectacular 24m QVB Swarovski Christmas Tree decorated with over 82,000 sparkling Swarovski crystals and 65,000 twinkling LED lights. In Joy City Mall, Beijing, the Christmas tree is a steel structure in a spiral shape, and is decorated with lines of hanging Swarovski elements.

Image Source: QVB

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Scaffolding & Dummies

This year's Christmas decoration in one of Beijing's luxury malls, Parkview Green, is quite unique and different from the common Christmas decorations in Beijing malls. At first glance, we thought that it was incomplete and still under construction. However, after taking a closer look, it can be seen that the mall is using scaffolding (a temporary structure that is commonly used in construction), dummies dressed as construction workers, and also wrapped gifts under Christmas trees, as part of their decoration. The scaffolding is attached with an elevated green walkway and staircase that allows the public to walk around and have a closer look at the decorations.

Image Source: 5 Star Plus Retail Design

Recyclable Materials

This special looking Christmas 'tree' is located inside a suburban mall in Singapore. The mall decided to go with a recycling theme for this festive season, as the mall wants to encourage the community to protect the environment and go green. The mall is contributing their part by constructing part of the 7m-tall tree with 2,100 plastic spoons, recycled raffia string, gold tinsel and trash bags. Apart from the traditional elements on the tree such as teddy bears, gold ribbons, and gift boxes, there are six glowing ornaments at the base, where each of it is made from 350 plastic spoons. The quirky looking hat that completes the tree represents a star, and is made up of 13 rolls of raffia string, trash bags and gold tinsel.

" Christmas trees with a twist "
Image Source: Strait Times

Themed Window Displays

One of New York's best holiday window displays for 2016 is at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York. Saks adopted a very sweet magical theme this year called, "Land of 1000 Delights". It includes stunning landscapes of colorful candy such as jumbo swirl lollipops, whipped cotton candy, and heaps of rock candy, and festive fashion. The colors used for this year's spectacular window display are mostly, pink, blue, purple and all the other candy colors that bring out everyone's inner child. Saks also has 6 of "The Nutcracker Sweet" themed animated windows that boast enchanting winter scenes among a luscious wonderland, including a journey over the candy cane countryside.

" See photos of this year's holiday window display at Saks Fifth Avenue "
Image Source: Time Out
" See photos of this year's holiday window display at Saks Fifth Avenue "
Image Source: Time Out
" See photos of this year's holiday window display at Saks Fifth Avenue "
Image Source: Time Out

The holiday windows of the famous luxury department in Paris, Galeries Lafayette, adopted an "Arctic Christmas" theme, where the main idea is to spread climate change awareness. Display windows are filled with paper cutouts in the form of intricate, snip-snipped patterns and masterfully constructed origami. The one-of-a-kind design tells the extraordinary tale of the famous family of polar bears who discover an incredible new ice pack for them to play on.

" Artic Windows: All-in-White Christmas Celebration "
Image Source: Galeries Lafayette
" Artic Windows: All-in-White Christmas Celebration "
Image Source: Galeries Lafayette
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British Chamber of Commerce in China Christmas Party

December 19, 2016

November and December are months filled with holidays and festivities - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. During this special time, organizations review the year and celebrate achievements. The chambers of commerce are no exception. On December 2nd, the British Chamber of Commerce in China hosted a Christmas Party designed to impress their guests at Rosewood hotel.

5 Star Plus had the privilege to concept and implement the event design. The theme of the Christmas Party being "mystery", key elements designed included a lighting cave, a Santa Grotto and Christmas lighting in the ball room. A unique spatial experience was developed with custom-designed feature lighting, trees with snow, antique street lamps and lanterns, forming mystic pathways that led to the Santa Grotto where promotional gifts were placed. The Santa Grotto was decorated with a sledge, street lamps, and a fire place. Two well-designed backdrops and appropriate lighting were important functional elements of the event design concept.

We were glad to see that the event design was used as a backdrop for taking a large number of pictures and that guest enjoyed the event.

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How Retail Stores Can Outcompete Online Retailers

November 30, 2016

In today's technology-driven world, more and more customers are discovering and enjoying the convenience of e-commerce. Large e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Taobao are thriving from their ability to sell a wide range of products ranging anywhere from furniture to clothing to food at anytime and anywhere. More and more customers seem to be choosing online shopping because of its ease and, oftentimes, cheaper prices. So how can retail stores compete with this growing online market? For years, retailers believed they needed to economize the shopping process, making the process faster and prices cheaper, in order to keep their customers. More recent findings, however, show that a highly effective alternative solution is to offer customers certain services and experiences they cannot receive from shopping online. Instead of speeding up the shopping process, retail stores should slow it down and allow customers to spend more time in stores.

What is slow shopping

This solution is readily embodied by the concept of slow shopping. Supporters of the slow shopping phenomenon believe that shopping in a retail store should be a leisurely experience where customers are not overwhelmed by the pressure to buy something. A recent report by the Wall Street Journal reveals that customers who spend more time in a store are more likely to purchase products and spend more money because these stores are able to offer customers an experience that exceeds a simple transaction of goods. Boston Consulting Group's survey of over 1,000 people also supports the notion that people are more willing to spend money on experiences than solely luxury products. As a result, retailers looking to trump online competitors should offer a store design and customer service team that turns shopping into an experience, something that online retailers will not be able to provide.

Slow shopping store design

One example of a store design that transforms shopping into an experience is Club Monaco. Club Monaco's new flagship store design in New York City largely promotes slow shopping. The layout of this store encourages customers to calmly browse through Club Monaco's newest line, while stopping by its floral shop, quaint library, or coffee shop to rest and take in all that the store has to offer. The atmosphere that this store design creates does not pressure customers to quickly purchase a few items and leave. In fact, Caroline Belhumeur, Club Monaco's SVP of women's design explains, "We want to create an area you want to hang out in". More than simply clothes, Club Monaco aims to offer its customers an experience that reveals the connections between food, music, art, travel, fashion, photography, and the clothing designs that they inspire. The experience that Club Monaco's store design provides its customers is one that is impossible to find online, and, as a result, keeps customers coming back.

" Shop the Look: Club Monaco's Flagship Store "
Image Source: Savvy Home Decor & Lifestyle
" Flatiron Espresso Bar "
Image Source: Toby's Estate
" New to our 5th Ave Flagship: Putnam & Putnam flowers "
Image Source: Little Black Dog Studios

Like Club Monaco, another popular retailer who has successfully vamped up its retail design to keep customers in stores for longer is Lululemon. In fall 2015, Lululemon opened its largest retail store in New York City. This flagship store design boasts not only the greatest selection of Lululemon apparel and accessories, but also a high-tech digital board and lounge area called Hub Seventeen. The digital board quickly shows customers which workout studios, places to eat, and things to do are nearby. Customers are also able to book workout sessions at their favorite studio or dinner reservations at their favorite restaurant using this digital board. Hub Seventeen offers a space for customers to attend various workout-related workshops hosted by Lululemon, watch new independent films, and catch up on work. As a result of its layout and design, this Lululemon flagship location is able to offer its customers a number of services and a slow shopping experience that they cannot find online.

" Lululemon Debuts Its First US Flagship Store Concept "
Image Source: Well and Good
" Lululemon Opens Its Largest Store Ever in Manhattan's Flatiron District "
Image Source: Well and Good
" Smart Mirrors Transform Retail "
Image Source: Antedote

Slow shopping customer services

In addition to its slow shopping-oriented store design, this Lululemon retail location also offers a concierge service that is happy to provide customers with a wide scope of services, such as same-day delivery of products to your house and booking sessions at a local workout studio and making dinner reservations at restaurants even when they are full to the public. Lululemon's all-inclusive customer service not only elongates the amount of time its customers spend in stores and the amount of products that each customer purchases, but also promotes a lifestyle for its brand.

" Lululemon Has Unveiled its New Store of the Future "
Image Source: Business Insider UK

Retail brand and identity

Another positive aspect of a store design that promotes slow shopping is that it gives stores more space to develop a brand image and even a brand lifestyle. Through the store design and atmosphere, customers can better understand the brand's message and outlook. For example, in Club Monaco's store design, Club Monaco is able to successfully portray itself as a chic, upscale brand whose customers are elegant and successful young adults. Lululemon's flagship store design made it clear that Lululemon is not just an athletic and "athleisure" apparel brand, but also a lifestyle and community that support healthy living and fitness in the context of daily life.

Overall, the slow shopping solution provides retail stores a competitive edge against many online retailers. Slow shopping retail store designs give customers a more relaxed atmosphere to shop in, which is proven to influence customers to spend more money. This is not to say, however, that stores should achieve a slow shopping environment by slowing down customer services and check out lines. On the contrary, retail stores should be able to provide customers with various services that they cannot find online. Lastly, these slow shopping store designs are more conducive to showcasing a brand's image and identity to its customers.

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"Winter in Austria – Europe's No. 1 Event" by Austrian National Tourist Office

November 29, 2016

Austrian National Tourist Office (ANTO) held a one-of-a-kind press event at Kerry Hotel on November 15th. Making a huge impact, the purpose of the occasion was to promote Austria as the top destination for winter holidays. The event was attended by high ranking representatives from the Austrian Embassy, Advantage Austria, Austrian National Tourist Office, Austrian businesses in the winter sports sector such as Fischer and Northland as well as important Chinese media in the travel sector.

5 Star Plus Retail Design was invited to design and implement the event which took place outdoors to recreate a winter atmosphere. Key element of the event design was a photo wall decorated by tree branches and props like a swing, a sledge, ski helmets and jackets for the guests to wear. Some of the elements were sponsored by Austrian winter sports brands to showcase their products. Photos were taken by an international photographer, shared online and printed out to be placed in branded frames. Additional dynamic elements were a huge screen showing ANTO's winter promotion video as well as colored lightning, partly in the shape of snowflakes. As gifts for the guests we arranged for red blankets, snowflake shaped hand warmers and typical folkloric ginger bread. We were glad to hear that the media response to the event was very strong and look forward to the next ANTO activities.

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Visual Coherence - How to Create a Strong Corporate Visual Identity For Your Business

October 31, 2016

The corporate visual identity includes all visible elements related to a brand. It is one of the main pillars of a company’s corporate identity. Other pillars, for example, are corporate communication, corporate philosophy or corporate behavior. However, we as 5 Star Plus Retail Design are experts in creating a corporate visual identity. In the following paragraphs we will define what corporate visual identity exactly is and explain the key elements of a coherent design. Also, we picked out a few inspiring visual identity design concepts.

What does the customer see?

Basically a company’s VI is visible to anyone, anytime and anywhere. Whilst a corporate behavior, for example, can only be experienced by clients who are in touch with you during hours of operation, the corporate visual identity does its job 24/7. Therefore it is important to define, what exactly part of the VI is. Generally, it includes the presentation and style of all communication tools that are being used. For example, business paper, business cards, company logo, promotional material, brochures and packaging as well as the products themselves. Additionally, the website should be aligned with the visual identity design. In broader sense, also buildings, color schemes and dress codes can be part of a brand’s VI. Especially, a uniform dress is worth considering for staff members who are involved in personal customer communication.

As a one-stop service provider offering branded retail design, store design, consulting and project management services to international luxury and retail brands our own visual identity is very important to us.

Key elements of a coherent visual design

At first glance the name of a brand seems to have nothing to do with the visual part. But think again, a brand name should not just sound right, and also looked right. Does the name suit the design you are aiming for? If so, choose your design and be consistent. Whether the style is romantic, classic or modern, a compelling logo is essential. It is a brand’s most important visual element. In the next step, at least 2 corporate colors should be chosen. If you want to know more about the significance of colors, check out our blog article that has been recently posted. As a final step, make sure that typography matches your brand name, design, colors and most importantly, transports the message you want to communicate.

" JP Graziano branding & packaging "
Image Source: retail design blog

JP Grazino is one of the oldest and most famous Italian grocery stores in Chicago. In their corporate visual identity design they are emphasizing the company’s history of almost 80 years. White, green and orange are clearly their corporate colors and easily recognizable in this combination.

" Maison Dandoy visual identity "
Image Source: retail design blog

Brussels’s most famous bakery created an amazing visual identity with the simple combination of white, gold and a bit of black. What is especially interesting about this design is that the package does not look like a regular biscuit box; it more looks like a present.

Corporate visual identity is only one piece of the puzzle of a company’s overall appearance but its influence is tremendous. An inappropriate visual identity can destroy the image of a brand. A good visual identity underlines professionalism and gives businesses a significant competitive advantage. If you are currently developing the VI concept for your retail business or got inspired to re-design it, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We will be happy to support you and create a tailor-made solution.

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Si Simply Italian Grand Opening

October 27, 2016

We would like to cordially invite you to the Opening Event of Simply Italian SI Restaurant at D2 Two in Hong Kong Kowloon this Saturday evening. Join us for an evening with delicious Italian cuisine and fine wines!

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How Background Music Can Make Your Customers Spend More Money

October 20, 2016

Oftentimes background music is easily overlooked by customers and storeowners. As consumers, we are concerned with the products that we can buy. As designers and storeowners, we are more concerned with the store's layout design. However, background music cannot be ignored. It has the power to make customers stay longer, spend more money, and even purchase products at a faster rate. It gives storeowners the means to directly influence their customer's buying behavior. As a result, it is important for retail stores to fully understand the power and effects that background music has on its business.

Benefits of background music

The benefits of background music far exceed what people may expect. In fact, one study shows that playing appreciated music in a store influences 35% of the people to stay longer, 31% of the people to re-visit, 21% of the people to recommend the place to a friend, and 14% of the people to buy more. Background music has the power to boost customer satisfaction by making customers more patient while they wait in line or when customer service is slow. Background music's ability to influence customers' moods, dispositions, and perceptions is a powerful tool that businesses should be aware of and understand.

Music that makes customers spend more money

Studies have shown that classical music, more so than any other genre of music, will influence customers to spend more. This works on two levels. First, classical music gives off an air of luxury. In other words, when customers are listening to classical music, they subconsciously perceive the store's products as more high-end and made with better quality, even if the products have not changed. Second, classical music can spark customers to develop a richer and more classical taste in products, motivating them to spend more money.

" Cartier-flagship-store-Via-Montenapoleone-Milan "
Image Source: CPP-Luxury.com

These findings, however, do not imply that all retail stores should play classical music to increase sales. In fact, playing classical music in some retail settings would negatively impact customer satisfaction and sales. In stores that are marketed as fast, convenient, or cost-friendly, classical music will compel customers to believe that the store is too expensive or too high-end for what they are looking for. So while playing classical music at a luxury leather shoe store can boost the number of sales, playing classical music at a low-cost store, such as H&M, would not.

Music tailored to your customer's age

A customer's age plays an important role in how they perceive and react to different types of music. First and foremost, a business must identify the main demographic of its customer base because different age groups have different preferences. One important difference is that young adults prefer music that is slightly louder, while middle age and older adults prefer music that is softer. This is an important distinction to make because 82% of surveyors say that it is important for a shop to play music at the right volume. One example of a retail store that plays the right music for its customers is Guess. Guess often holds events where they invite popular DJs to perform in their stores to entertain and satisfy their young customers.

" Wovns: GUESS to Partner with TIËSTO "
Image Source: Jazarah!

On the other hand, a store with an older customer demographic, such as the home goods store Williams-Sonoma, should play softer music in order to suit the tastes of its older customer demographic.

" Williams-Sonoma Market Test "
Image Source: flatev

Music that makes customers linger

A number of studies have shown that the longer a customer spends in a store, the more likely they are to buy more products. As a result, background music is the secret weapon store owners can use to make their customers shop in their store for a longer period of time and, therefore, purchase more products. Nevertheless, it is equally important to consider what type of business you would like to portray yourself as and which type of customers you would like to attract. For example, a busy cafe may want their customers to purchase and eat their meals quickly, so that other customers do not have to wait for a table.

" Cafe Gratitude LA "
Image Source: foragetofeast.withtank

Overall, while customers may not pay much attention to the background music that a store plays, businesses should carefully select the type of background music they play in their store and understand how to use background music to its highest potential. There is no universal background music that can work for all stores. In reality, it is businesses must first understand whom their customers are before deciding what background music to use to enhance customer satisfaction and sales. Background music is a tool that gives you the power to impact your customers' behaviors, happiness, and willingness to spend money, so use it wisely.

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Store Design: Innovative Materials with High-end Retail Appeal

September 27, 2016

A person's choice of materials is an expression of who they are. So when it comes to retail design, the materials you use can be seen as an expression of your brand identity and should reflect how you want your customers to feel and act when they enter and explore your premises. Here we have identified materials, ranging from the conventional to the innovative, that you might consider for your future high-end retail design.

1. Stainless Steel

The great thing about stainless steel is that it can take on many forms. It can be used to make a setting look modern and polished and depending on the finishing provide a sense of warmth or coolness. Elements can be linked together to create chain mails or even woven into screens, for example. At Côte & Ciel, a backpack store in Hong Kong, it is used to create poles, among other types of metal, against stone to express 'nature vs. urbanity' and functioning as a tool for displaying their products.

" Côte&Ciel store by Linehouse, Hong Kong "
Image Source: Retail Design Blog
" Côte&Ciel store by Linehouse, Hong Kong "
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

At 5 Star Plus Retail Design, we implemented a three-dimensional look with a layer of stainless steel mesh in front of painted walls in our fashion store design project ORA.

" Fashion Store Design, ORA "
Image Source: 5 Star Plus
" Fashion Store Design, ORA "
Image Source: 5 Star Plus

2. Innovative Woven Fabrics by Wovns

Digital platform Wovns has developed an on demand weaving process that allows designers to order patterned Jacquard fabric in quantities as small as a single yard by weaving multiple designs as one continuous piece of fabric, so the loom doesn't need to be reconfigured before each one. The company's co-founder Dena Molnar said she was inspired by the rise of digital fabrication in fields like architecture and industrial design.

" Wovns: Woven Textiles on Demand "
Image Source: Kickstarter

3. Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is made of various flat products sandwiched between two sheets of glass which can result in a high end, pressed look. Mona, a salon in Oyama, Japan uses laminated glass with thin glass fibres embedded inside which transmit light resulting in a crystal-like appearance.

" Mona beauty salon by GRIP&Co, Oyama – Japan "
Image Source: Retail Design Blog

4. Woven Resin

Although many people would most likely immediately associate this material with garden furniture, it has been redefined by indoor features such as this 3D surface wall treatment from 3-Form. This was once only seen in commercial projects but has now become popular in residences and could easily be seen soon in retail. This feature is extremely easy to install and also has strong acoustical properties.

" Design West "
Image Source: Houzz

5. Piñatex

New materials company Ananas Anam is using pineapple waste to create a material that is an animal friendly alternative to leather. The material uses cellulose fibers extracted from pineapple leaves. The strands are then separated and felted together into a non-woven fabric that is breathable and flexible. It is ideal for seating as it adjusts to your body temperature due to its pours and ability to breathe. Much like real leather, it is very versatile but due to its recent conceptio