Branded Environments News from Stein, the Retail Design and Branded Environment Experts.

Stein in the News: Going on Record

Fall/Winter 2014 (scheduled events)

Author interviews, press coverage and related appearances:

Heartland Fall Forum: Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association & Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, October 1, 2014. Presentation entitled “Creating a Great Customer Experience” from RETAIL SCHMETAIL™ along with book signing.

Spring/Summer 2014

Author interviews, press coverage and related appearances:

MANN Publications, (pending) highlighting consumer trending from RETAIL SCHMETAIL™ August 2014

Brunswick Dealer Meeting June 23, 2014, French Lick, IN; presentation entitled "The Future of Retailing" along with book signing.

Twin Cities Business (blog) June 3, 2014, Retail Redux by Glenn Karwoski

BookExpo America 2014 May 30, 2014, Javits Center, NY; New Title Showcase, signing

FM 107.1 Radio Interview with Alison Kaplan, May 24, 11:30 AM

Combined Book Exhibit (blog) May 6, 2014, RETAIL SCHMETAIL™: An Interview with Author Sanford Stein, By Claribel Ortega

February/March 2014

After a 15 year effort of research, writing, editing, and rewriting, Sanford Stein published his combination business book and memoir, titled RETAIL SCHMETAIL™ ONE Hundred Years, TWO Immigrants, THREE Generations, FOUR Hundred Projects.

Published by Beaver’s Pond Press, it is available in stores and online, in hardbound and e-reader formats.

Author interviews, press coverage and related appearances:

Milwaukee Launch March 15, 2014 at Boswell Book Company; presentation and signing.

Minneapolis Launch March 5, 2014 at ARIA; presentation and book signing.

Retail Design Diva (blog) March 5, 2014, A New Retail Read, By Janet Groeber.

Minneapolis Star Tribune SHORT TAKES March 2, 2014, RETAIL SCHMETAIL™, by Lee Schafer.

NRF’s STORES MAGAZINE March 2014, Writing The Family Business, by Janet Groeber.

Milwaukee Business Journal February 26, 2014, Remember when? by Stacy Vogel Davis.

October 2013

St. Thomas University Dr. David Brennan marketing class, October 29, 2013; Pre-publication preview of Chapter 11, “The Future of Retailing” excerpt from RETAIL SCHMETAIL™

March 2012

As a sequel to last year’s successful Global Shop 2011 address, Sanford Stein has created a new retail trending presentation, Trend Convergence: Retail’s New World Dis-Order, which focuses on the retailers challenge in creating a successful cross channel customer experience, now and for the foreseeable future. The presentation is divided into five key categories; Chaotic Disruption, Trend Convergence, From Retail to E-tail to MEtail℠, GS1MobileCom, Format Fission & Fusion.

Trend Convergence

January 2012

After the successful launch of the WARN Industries SEMA trade show booth in Las Vegas in November of 2011 STEIN is working with WARN Industries on developing a systematic approach to in-store display of WARN’s branded product through their vast customer retail channel.

The impact of the WARN SEMA exhibit has resulted in a new relationship with DeeZee, Inc. one of the largest manufacturers of aftermarket and OEM accessories for the US and imported truck market. STEIN’s work for DeeZee will be focused on in-store product display and brand management at point of sale.

March 3, 2010

SNEWS Guest editorial: What’s next for the specialty fitness retail industry?

SNEWS has done an excellent job of chronicling some of the specialty fitness retail industry’s recent challenges, which coincided with the worst economic slowdown in modern retail history. There are a myriad of reasons for this industry sector unwinding, some of which were mentioned in two February 2010 articles (click here to see Part 1 and here to see Part 2 of SNEWS stories about the Busy Body/FHI bankruptcy past and present). They include cheap money, indiscriminate dealer expansion and economic chaos. While I agree these elements have all been contributing factors to the inelegant reversals of some key industry players, I believe one must look a bit harder to find the root cause, as well as to gain some insights for a successful rebirth of specialty fitness retailing.

Like most other businesses in the 21st century, retailing has become increasingly complex. What worked in the latter half of the 20th century is simply not good enough in a time of increased competition due to a more demanding and sophisticated consumer, and the impact of the Internet on consumer behavior -- to name just two key factors. Simply put, the days of having the right product at the right price and screaming about it are over.

Today’s retailers must execute at a very high level across many brand touch-points to achieve the desired end-to-end retail experience that customers demand and have come to expect among state-of-the-art retailers. These factors include:

  • pre-shop - the online experience
  • shop - the ease, enjoyment and relevancy of the in-store brand experience
  • purchase - the ease of the transaction
  • post purchase – the satisfaction of expectations

A recently published study conducted by the Verde Group in association with the Wharton School of Business informed us that one of these four factors is both more important to consumers and, coincidentally, less frequently experienced by them: the in-store brand experience.

It has also been my own personal experience that many specialty fitness equipment retailers have clearly and consistently fallen short in this critical consumer-centric area.

Ironically, in a series of dealer interviews on behalf of my client Life Fitness, these very same specialty retailers hit on most of the frequently occurring challenge areas related to the overall poor customer experience.

Over-focused on price
They pointed to the fact their stores were often perceived as too macho or female-unfriendly. Additionally, they lacked critical information on features and benefits necessary to empower the consumer and to guide assisted product selection. I found their stores were often over-stocked, crowded and difficult-to-negotiate. Also, these dealerships seemed compelled to offer seemingly endless brand choice, which is often overwhelming and is a proven impediment to sale. In many of these stores, price appears to be the only product differentiator -- which invariably leads to brand commoditization and market irrelevance.

Study after study tells us that price is the fourth, fifth or sixth most important factor in the selection of fitness equipment by consumers, but all too often that appears to remain the industry’s main focus. Regrettably, in nearly every retail category, there are similar stories of retailers attempting to succeed by underselling the competition and the result is their own marginalization -- and their own undoing.

It is most unfortunate that there have been a number of regional and national specialty fitness retailers who succumbed to this horrendous economy, causing pain and loss to many. However, in contrast to the notion that only small “mom and pops” can survive long term, I would argue that there is nothing inherent in this category that would prevent a well-defined and -executed specialty fitness retail concept to emerge, grow and prosper regionally or nationally. Consumer trending is on our side.

Renaissance of fitness equipment retailing
We have reached a time when the public’s attention is focused like never before on the failure of the healthcare system. We know that obesity has hit near crisis proportions and disease prevention appears to be the only factor in the healthcare debate that receives unanimous support. Businesses, school districts, healthcare providers and the media are shining a light on the benefits of rigorous and regular exercise to reverse the damaging effects of an increasingly sedentary society. I personally believe that we are entering what is likely to be remembered as the renaissance of fitness equipment retailing.

I predict that in the future we will witness the launch of a “defining brand” in specialty fitness retailing that connects on each and every brand touchpoint, resulting in a highly valued consumer brand and in-store customer experience. This consumer-centric brand will focus on lifestyle, fitness, wellness and disease prevention with uplifting retail environments that are female-friendly, empowering to the consumer, and fun and easy to shop. They will feature cardio and strength training equipment, accessories and product intelligence, supplements and highly trained personnel. Everything from the real estate selection to brand identity, from store and web design to marketing and social media planning, will be developed holistically, and executed with great care and financial prudence. These stores will become frequent destinations for a diverse audience including Millennials, Generation Ys and Xers, and Boomers alike.

This is a defining moment for the fitness industry, and specialty fitness retailing in particular. While most players are hunkered down waiting for the market to turn, it is time for an insightful group to seize the opportunity and to write the next chapter in specialty fitness retailing.

--Sanford Stein

March 1, 2010

Minnesota Telecom Alliance invites Sanford Stein to address its members;

Sanford Stein was the keynote speaker at the February 5th meeting of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance in Minneapolis and presented the trending seminar Reinventing Retailing for the New Normal. Mr. Steins address focuses on some of the key consumer trends and branding initiatives that retailers and brand marketers will need to focus on to remain relevant and survive in the increasingly complex world of multi-channel retailing.

“The recession combined with an over retailed America, significant shifts in consumer demographics and overall spending patterns has produced the perfect storm for US retailers. Factor in the constant growth of internet spending and you begin to understand the challenges for store based retailers and retail property owner’s alike,” says Sanford Stein.

February 1, 2010

Minnesota Telecom Alliance invites Sanford Stein to address its members; Franchise Times to feature Stein article on its SuperBook site.

Sanford Stein has been invited by the Minnesota Telecom Alliance to present the trending seminar Reinventing Retailing for the New Normal in Minneapolis in early February. Mr. Steins address focuses on some of the key consumer trends and branding initiatives that retailers and brand marketers will need to focus on to remain relevant and survive in the complex world of multi-channel retailing.

Franchise Times will be featuring an article written by Sanford Stein entitled What’s In-Store in this New Economy on its SuperBook website. The website is a principal resource for individuals considering purchasing a franchise. The article chronicles what retailers need to do to remain relevant at a time when in-store visits are declining and traditional formats are being threatened. “What is a retailer or service provider to do when fewer consumers are crossing the lease line? The answer is to improve the overall customer experience; consumers today don’t want or need better products they want a better buying experience,” reports Stein. The article looks at five key areas or retail touch-points that retail and service operators need to focus on to improve the overall customer experience.

December 9, 2009

Life Fitness retains STEIN to develop retail concept for Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Life Fitness, the preeminent manufacture of fitness equipment for commercial and consumer markets has retained STEIN to develop the third in a series of store-in-store retail concepts. The CENTRO program is a branded store-in-store environment designed to control the Life Fitness brand in multi brand retail environments, while empowering the customer through the complex process of selecting fitness equipment. “Many of today’s fitness equipment stores look like parking lots of iron. They serve to commoditize the entire category, giving customers few cues as to how to differentiate between products or begin the purchasing process” says Sanford Stein.  “We know that today’s informed consumers want to become an active part of the purchasing process. Few dealerships or manufacturers were giving the customers and sales personnel the means to assist in this often daunting process. There were few effective tools for matching customer’s needs with the features and benefits of the cardio and strength training equipment. We wanted Life Fitness’s brand attributes to come across to the consumers in meaningful ways; that enable them to readily understand the quality and ease of use designed into all of their fitness equipment.” While the program was initially developed for key independent American dealerships Life Fitness felt that the program that was working in the US should be adapted to markets abroad. CENTRO 3 is being developed to meet the needs of Life Fitness’s rapidly expanding dealerships throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Besides CENTRO, STEIN was retained in 2008 to design the flagship Life Fitness dealership which opened in the Dubai Mall in the United Arab Emirates last year.

Building on more than 25 years of experience STEIN LLC assists clients in developing successful strategies for retailing and brand marketing. STEIN has created over 300 retail design projects ranging from regional and national prototypes to niche and retail service concepts. For more information call STEIN at 612-338-3339.

November 11, 2009

Sanford Stein is a keynote presenter to retail industry executives and focuses on the profound changes taking place for store based retailing.

Sanford Stein addressed a Los Angeles Retail Marketing Conference on October 28th sponsored by The Friedman Group, a California based retail consulting and training company based in Culver City, California with a network of eleven international offices. The title of the presentation was Reinventing Retailing for the New Normal which addressed the profound changes taking place in retailing and brand marketing.

“The recession combined with an over retailed America, significant shifts in consumer demographics and overall spending patterns has produced the perfect storm for US retailers. Factor in the constant growth of internet spending and you begin to understand the challenges for store based retailers,” says Sanford Stein. Mr. Stein’s address focused on some of the key consumer trends and branding initiatives that retailers and brand marketers will need to focus on to remain relevant and survive in the new world of multi channel retailing.

August 14, 2009

STEIN creates a new retail concept to launch at the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame

Stein

STEIN LLC has developed a novel branded retail concept for the new International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame on the combined USBC/BPAA bowling campus in Arlington, Texas. Called SparePartz, the retail concept will be the featured gift shop adjacent to the new museum facility. It is aimed at the bowling community and will offer a broad range of gifts, wearables and bowling collectibles.

Stein

A mix of retro and modern imagery within the environment has been designed to interest four generations of bowling enthusiasts. “We realize this store must appeal to a diverse audience that has very different emotional connections to bowling,” says Sandy Stein. “We think the retail concept will deliver a terrific final experience to the museum visitor as well as an exceptional profit center for the museum operators.”

SparePartz is slated to launch in November of 2009, and the museum is scheduled to open in January of 2010.

Stein

Building on more than 25 years of experience STEIN LLC assists clients in developing successful strategies for retailing and brand marketing. STEIN has created over 300 retail design projects ranging from regional and national prototypes to niche and retail service concepts. For more information call STEIN at 612-338-3339.

August 17, 2009

Sandy Stein and Ron Hornbaker featured at Health & Fitness Business Forum

A standing-room-only audience at the 2009 Health and Fitness Business Show in Denver heard Sandy Stein of STEIN LLC and Ron Hornbaker of Retail Minds discuss the challenges and opportunities confronting today’s specialty fitness retailers. The popular annual lunch forum sponsored by SNEWS was hosted and facilitated by SNEWS editor-in-chief Therese Iknoian, who gave the audience a snapshot of the past business year.

Stein

Sandy Stein, whose firm recently completed work on Centro, a store-in-store retail concept for Life Fitness, addressed some of the major strategies for specialty dealers to differentiate themselves from big box and other commodity retail environments. “Creating an informative and empowering customer experience should continue to be the goal of the specialty retailer,” according to Stein. “Today’s customers begin the purchase of fitness equipment online, to educate themselves; the store should provide the kind of information that enables customers to further define their needs regarding features and benefits, as well as make emotional connections to lifestyle and well-being,” he reported.

Stein

Building on more than 25 years of experience STEIN LLC assists clients in developing successful strategies for retailing and brand marketing. STEIN has created over 300 retail design projects ranging from regional and national prototypes to niche and retail service concepts. For more information call STEIN at 612-338-3339.

February 23, 2009

Life Fitness Opens Retail Store In Dubai Mall

Life Fitness

The world’s largest shopping complex is now the home of the first store of its kind in the United Arab Emirates. Designed by Minneapolis based STEIN LLC the unique 2000 square foot Life Fitness branded environment showcases the full line of Cardio and Strength Training equipment for commercial and home use.

Life Fitness

“The store balances product display, lifestyle and in-home imagery to give the customer a feeling for how the fitness equipment will look in a typical home setting” says Sanford Stein. “We are also quite focused on communicating the myriad of benefits associated with frequent exercise with the ‘Exercise Heals’ messaging throughout the store. Twenty five percent of the adult population of the UAE suffers from diabetes, among the highest in the world; we want the product benefits to be top of mind to the Life Fitness customers”.

Life Fitness

The store is laid out in product groupings, focused around large curved lifestyle imagery, giving each piece of equipment ample room to be experienced by the customer. Elliptical shaped color pods imbedded in the floor designate proper product placement so the store retains an open feeling. Product information is clearly depicted on product information units empowering consumers through the choice-making process.

Life Fitness

Building on more than 25 years of experience STEIN LLC assists clients in developing successful strategies for retailing and brand marketing. STEIN has created over 300 retail design projects ranging from regional and national prototypes to niche and retail service concepts.

November 11, 2008

Arch support manufacturer redesigns retail stores to increase conversion rate; sees success with every new step.

Good Feet Retail Design

Arch-support manufacturer and retailer Good Feet knows its business from the bottom up: People whose feet are properly supported are more comfortable, active and healthier.The challenge for Good Feet was to package that message consistently in each of the company’s 140 franchise stores so that customers would clearly and quickly understand the benefits of the custom-fitted product. Slowed growth, marginal customer experience and inconsistent brand presentation prompted Good Feet to consult with STEIN LLC, a Minneapolis design firm specializing in branded environments, to establish a new retail prototype intended to increase brand awareness and sales at each franchise. Beginning with a beta store in San Diego’s Mission Valley, STEIN completely redesigned the flagship location with a specific objective: to increase conversions. Despite a weak economy, Good Feet achieved this objective within weeks of the store’s opening in May 2008. Average sales during that time went up about 17 percent.

The original “look” of Good Feet stores was created in the early 1990s, but there had been no corporate update since. Store owners gradually changed the original design of their stores to keep them updated, while following the original stipulation that the stores look cozy and comfortable—like a living room. But without a strong brand image or focused messaging, customers were confused about what Good Feet sold and what to expect during the selling process, according to Leigh Woeller, director of marketing, Good Feet Worldwide LLC.

“The stores were all very different in look and feel, which disintegrated any brand awareness we had established,” said Woeller. “Because the stores were not consistent—and in some cases, not well maintained—customer expectations were violated the minute they walked in the door because they expected the products to cost less based on the way the stores looked.”

Selling message and sequence key to store redesign

“We recognized that Good Feet needed more than a prettier store,” said Sanford Stein, president and principal, STEIN LLC. “Our first step was to reevaluate the entire methodology of selling and then establish a selling sequence and message to ensure a consistent customer response. We began with a study of the psychographics of Good Feet customers to better understand them and their needs. We also conducted in-depth interviews with key franchisees and spent many hours in the store observing the selling sequence and customer behavior.”

Good Feet - Retail Design

“3-Step System” becomes focus of store redesign

The goal of every sale—and the one that provides the highest margins—is to explain the benefits of Good Feet’s “3-Step System” and fit customers with three different types of arch supports that can be used for all activities. These three “steps” exercise, maintain and relax the feet to provide optimal balance and alignment. “However, we found that the message of the 3-Step System—a key brand differentiator—got lost,” said Stein. “Several posters in the store featured dozens of different arch supports, but the messaging and claims were confusing to the customer.”

STEIN representatives also learned from both dealers and corporate principals that once the customer was seated and engaged in a sales presentation the conversion rate was quite high. Yet without strong visual clues or clear brand messaging, there was little to convince a customer to sit. “Additionally, the living room look probably also eroded the customer’s confidence that his or her condition was going to be properly understood and treated,” said Stein.

“In retail and retail service, the right experiential sequence leads to a successful and predictable outcome,” said Stein. “To establish and maintain high brand value and improved conversion rates for Good Feet, the entire customer experience needed to be retooled.”

Good Feet - Retail Design

Engineering a successful branded environment

Together, STEIN and Good Feet named three specific goals to increase the conversion rate at each store: 1) to establish consistent branding; 2) to simplify the sales process for the customer; and 3) to improve—even dictate—the overall sales process for the sales person (“fit specialists”) so that customers would receive the same experience no matter what store they visited.

The new branded environment features an informative interpretive display placed on the right facing wall at entry. This display informs the incoming customer of the benefits of the 3-Step System. Bold and simple graphics educate and even empower the customer on this key brand differentiator and prepare him or her for the fitting process.

The focal points of the store are unique individual “fit stations” separated by dividers shaped like giant “iconic” arch supports. These semi-private niches help customers feel less exposed during the consultation and arch-support fitting—in strong contrast to the open living room look of the existing stores. To incorporate a warm, comfortable look, enlarged handwritten customer testimonial graphics cover the entire contoured surface. The elegance and simplicity of the graphic imagery and tailored fit-stations send out subliminal messages to the customers to come and be seated.

To reinforce the importance of the 3-Step Solution and to instill a bit of ceremony (and increased perceived value), STEIN designed a three-compartment selling tray which positions each of the three arch supports in their own little slot and enables the fit associate to ‘present' the solution to the customer with the proper theatrics. “We wanted to avoid the casual manner in which fit associates handled the arch supports,” said Stein. The goal was for each “touch point” of the new branded environment to properly position and reinforce brand value so that price resistance was diminished if not mitigated entirely.

“One of the most gratifying comments that we received from the Good Feet representatives after the Mission Valley store was redesigned was the remarkable behavior change seen in the customers the first week the store opened. Customers used to come in, mill around a bit and often just walk out. Now they come in, absorb the information and sit down ready for a fitting,” said Good Feet’s Tracy Handt, project manager. “It’s like they get it, right away.”

Good Feet - Retail Design

Bottom line IS the bottom line

“Good Feet dealers who have redesigned their stores are experiencing greater conversions, higher average ticket and increased sales, with no additional advertising or incentives. Once we got people to sit down, conversions went up,” said Woeller. “People know how to behave and what to expect. Our sales message hasn’t changed, but now people feel comfortable enough to sit down and take it in.”
Following the success of the Mission Valley store, Good Feet will require its new franchisees to follow the new design. Existing franchisees may voluntarily choose to retrofit their stores with the new design, and according to Woeller, there are many volunteers. Eventually, all existing stores will be asked to retrofit as their contracts come up for renewal. This solution puts Good Feet many steps ahead on the road towards achieving its goal of increased conversions through delivery of a specific message.

Building on more than 25 years of experience, Stein LLC assists clients in developing successful strategies for retailing and brand marketing. Stein has created over 300 retail design projects, ranging from regional and national prototypes to niche and retail service concepts. For more information call Stein at 612-338-3339.

June 10, 2008

STEIN president named retail consultant to Vantage Marketplace; will share industry expertise with investors

Sanford (Sandy) Stein, president and design principal of STEIN LLC, a retail brand and design company, has been named a consultant to Vantage Marketplace LLC, New York, NY, a consulting service and wholly owned subsidiary of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., a full-service global investment banking and securities firm.

Vantage Marketplace connects investors directly with leaders in industries including retail, energy and technology. As a consultant, Stein will share his knowledge and experience of the retail industry with individual investors to help increase their awareness of retail issues.

Stein founded STEIN LLC in 1981 to focus on the challenging and ever-changing field of retail planning and design. “As a consultant for Vantage Marketplace, I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned about trends in retail and consumer culture,” said Stein. “It’s a fascinating and ever-evolving field that combines demographic and psychographic changes that influence our attitudes, behaviors and buying habits.” Stein has presented lectures and seminars throughout the world on retail branding and is the author of over 60 articles appearing in a variety of publications.

Building on more than 25 years of experience, STEIN LLC assists clients in developing successful strategies for retailing and brand marketing. STEIN has created over 300 retail design projects ranging from regional and national prototypes to niche and retail service concepts.