The first new-look Spark stores have been rolled out in Sylvia Park and Albany, with more on the way for Spark Northwest and Queen St. Alongside a deeper design-led refresh, the stores will offer free Spark-branded water, virtual queuing, a safe phone-charging station and live accessories.
Lizzi Hines is managing director of Spaceworks Design Group, which carried out the redesign, with head of retail design Christy Ormand at the helm. “Spark has been on a significant agenda of transition and transformation over the past few years and we knew the stores had to deliver on the constantly evolving digital future and had to inspire their expanding target market to connect, share and engage in-store,” Hines says.
“We were tasked with bringing both the tangible and intangible products to life and inspire and engage existing and future customers through clever design. We whole-heartedly believe the design has achieved this in spades.”
Hines says every square metre of the new Spark retail spaces is fastidiously considered, and engineered to guarantee the best-possible customer experience.
“The Spark stores now showcase solutions for the shoppers, rather than simply being a room housing product.”
She says this was achieved by taking the product off the walls, cross merchandising and displaying product alongside accessories which, in turn, creates a story for the shopper rather than ‘racking and stacking’ merchandise.
Spark’s head of consumer sales Greg Clark says the time had come for Spark’s store format to evolve.
“Clearly the big change for us has been the transition to a much more customer focused brand in Spark and that needed to turn up at retail which we ultimately see as being the physical face of the brand,” he says.
A research trip on global best practice showed that many industries, including those in the food and telco categories, had taken a leaf out of fashion merchandising by displaying a “story” around their products.
The team ended up with a five-point list of objectives for the store refresh, which Clark has shared below:
- Access to people, our customers tell us that is the main reason that they come in
- Product as the hero, make it easy for customers to touch and play & understand our products and services
- The environment, make it welcoming and less ‘intimidating’ than traditional retail
- Ease of access, ensuring that the store supports the increasing demand of customers to interact easily with us across multiple channels. Capability will continue to evolve in this space as technology evolves so there is an element of how can we future-proof to plug some things in down the track
- The format simply needs to work for our customers and our staff. How could we become more efficient to enable the team to spend more time with customers.
Besides this concept-driven fit out, the new stores feature a number of shiny playthings: “hospitality zones” serving free Spark-branded water; virtual queuing; a lockable cabinet where customers can charge their mobile phones; live accessories such as headphones and Fit-Bits for customers to play with.
The cabinetry in stores has been retooled to reduce the need for staff to leave customers and retrieve products, and the counters have been designed to strip away traditional ‘across counter’ transactions between customers and staff.
POS counters have been integrated with display tables to bring staff out onto the shop floor, and the lighting has also been tweaked.
“Every design feature is subtle, however when pulled together creates a store environment which aligns with the Spark brand and unleashes the potential of all customers, past, present and future. It empowers the Spark retail staff and ensures product is hero through visual, interactive and audio sensory hubs. We believe the Spark stores is a feast for the senses, taking New Zealanders to a whole new level of retail experience,” Hines says.
Now that the stores are live, Spark will spend time testing the changes and continuing to refine the new fit out so that decisions can be made around further changes.