Architects and designers SHH have created a new retail concept for the residential arm of prestigious global real estate company Savills, one of the world's leading property agents. The first Savills office to showcase the new concept has now opened in Cobham, Surrey. The new concept follows on from Savills' bold identity re-brand, created in-house in 2004, when the company decided to re-evaluate its UK high street estate, now numbering over 80 branches, and to begin a site expansion programme under the internal title of "2010 Retail Vision".
SHH were appointed to the project after an initial 5-way pitch of UK agencies and have been working on various aspects of the new vision since 2006. Initial projects concentrated on a signage and fascia exercise and included a new exterior for the agent's Fulham branch, completed in 2007, before the focus moved on to a full new concept store at the brand new Cobham site.
"Savills was looking to reflect its new mid-market 'affordable luxury' focus and to underscore the fact that they offer the best houses in that price range", commented SHH Creative Director Neil Hogan. "The design had to reflect a company that is discriminating, with an emphasis on great service and expertise, expressed through high quality cues."
Savills was also looking to challenge the rather confrontational approach of many agencies, which can be intimidating for customers, and so the scheme also concentrated on freeing up the interior space inside the new property store as much as possible, allowing staff to be mobile and flexible, responding to customer needs, rather than always sitting expectantly behind desks. There is also no traditional reception or dedicated receptionist in the store. The scheme looked more to talk the language of classic brand centres/hubs than that of traditional agencies, positioning homes as luxury consumer goods. An important part of the brief was also to be seen to embrace new technologies and new ways of accessing information.
The new store fascia is clean, open and elegant with nothing obscuring sight lines through the store and no sign of traditional housing info-cards in the window. The new framing façade is in dove grey, with a pale biscuit-yellow canopy and halo-illuminated steel 3D logo lettering punched out to the right of the storefront (with the same type of lettering also able to be applied to a period façade, where illumination can't be used) and a projecting sign featuring the red Savills logo against a strong yellow background, edged in highly-polished stainless steel. "The logo is very much the hero here" commented Neil Hogan, "and everything else to do with the fascia is relatively muted and quiet, celebrating the bold yellow of the Savills sign." The fascia is lit at night with yellow-effect lighting to underscore further the brand presence.
Replacing store window cards is a single screen inset into the fascia, surrounded with a thin and elegant stainless steel frame. The screen - a bold, state of the art projector screen - carries a single, iconic and eye-catching image at any one time, reflecting Savills' key emphasis on and investment in the very best photography. The image will be mixed at various times with key messages and seasonally-relevant items. Customers can see right through to the back of the store instantly from the entrance. Two internal yellow glass walls protrude into the space from the right (near the front) and the left (near the rear), with the front wall also displaying the logo (in stainless steel once more). At night the glass walls add to the visual cues of yellow layering and contrast well with the exposed brickwork of the right-hand wall.
On entering the store a rich walnut veneer library wall is inset into left hand wall, housing a series of digital photo frames showing current properties. The screens form a halfway point between traditional print and interactive displays, so that people can easily browse them, with the library wall concept referencing traditional interiors and Savills' long heritage. The wall animates the interior and adds theatre. The library wall is lit by two box lamps and a series of spots, set into a heavy black metal strip.
High-level tables to the side of the library wall house touch-screen computers, which show local literature and housing pages and with which customers are free to interact - although agency staff can also do this on their behalf if they wish. With freed-up space, staff can approach customers on a much more neutral and informal basis, which is much preferred by younger customer profiles, although any older customers wanting a more formal interface can also sit at proper desks whenever they wish.
The left-side table tops also feature permanent feature local maps, set beneath glass, with all useful reference points included on them, such as local schools, transport hubs and facilities. Customers can stand to look at them or perch on high bar-type stools (avoiding low-seating as it can make browsers feel trapped or obligated). The tables are less intimidating and more fluid, encouraging the kind of interaction-on-demand that people would experience in a classic retail space. The clean open-side tables were bespoke-designed by SHH to be unobtrusive, but also serve to house IT equipment in their yellow 'foot' area.
Workstations, to the right of the store, are by Bulo Desking. Large chairs and stools are by Boss. Flooring is either a grey/brown ceramic for the hard (public) showroom area and soft (woven matting) for the workstation area, which also features storage in the same bright yellow as the table 'feet' on the left
The front of the store also has a freestanding seating area, whilst the rear screen half conceals a private meeting area for more confidential conversations.