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Friday, November 02, 2007

Bathroom Blogfest Brings It Home to Retail

Day 5 of the Bathroom Blogfest and it's time to bring it home. In this instance, home to retail.

To address that with expert perspective, I'm delighted to welcome back to the Bathroom Blogfest my friend Lisa A. Contreras, Senior Associate, Retail Group Resource Director at MANCINI DUFFY ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN, located in New York City.

Lisa specializes in retail design. She contributed
Bloomingdales Bathroom Makeover to the 2006 Bathroom Blogfest. Here she focuses on bathrooms from the design perspective.

Bathrooms are the most intimate of spaces.

We feel that bathrooms are an important part of the selling experience for all retailers. These often viewed as "back of the house" areas should always be considered an opportunity for the retailer to reinforce the brand and identity of the store.

This can be accomplished by creating an environment that reflects the beliefs of the retailer. It goes without saying that all toilets should be clean, functional, well lit and safe, but if retailers don't take the opportunity to go beyond function, the customer will be disappointed. The overall look of the bathrooms should reflect that of the retailer.

As an example, our Bloomingdales client reinforces brand identity by carrying their signature black elements and level of style into the restrooms. Bloomingdales also understands what their customer needs and offers seating lounge areas for easy waiting, baby changing areas and, most recently, family restrooms with easy chairs for nursing mothers.

Beyond the obvious decisions that reflect the environment -- like is it marble or ceramic tile? painted or wallcovered? -- I believe that how the customer views the experience guides the choices of amenities and toilet functions.

There are many schools of thought regarding amenities of all toilets. Just consider the sink area...... Are there paper towels or just airdry? Are the towels in plain view or retrieved from a dispenser? Is the garbage visible or is it a simple cut out in the counter top? Are the faucets automatic or do they need a personal touch? What type of soap dispenser is used? Is it visible? Are the sinks undermounted or top mounted? Is the counter granite, plastic laminate, or something else? How is the lighting? Does it highlight the person as they stand at each sink or is it general lighting? The questions are endless, but each decision represents how the the retailer has viewed the customer and in turn how the customer has viewed the retailer, even sub-consciously.

What about the toilet stalls? Are the toilets separated by laminated partitions that you can see feet under? Are the toilets individual compartments with floor to ceiling drywall partitions? Are there hooks for shopping bags and purses? Are the toilets self-flush or automatic? Is there a seat guard dispenser or automatic or none at all? What does the toilet paper dispenser look like? Is it positioned comfortably? Is the door hardware polished metal or satin? Are the doors louvered, or solid...full height or shorter to view feet?

What about the men's room? Are the urinals separated by a partition or is it open? Are the urinals automatic flush or self flush? Most men's rooms stalls have doors which stop short of the floor to help ensure the safety of all customers....has the consumer ever thought about that?

Is there a lounge area? Is there a make-up area? Is there baby change? Is there a family toilet room?

There are many decisions that a designer must assess when continuing the client's brand identity and how the retailer reflects the needs of the customer and of the brand. The customer comes in contact with each element and their expectations should be matched.

In my experience, "Stalls of Shame" are typically ones that are not clean and not functional. Every retailer should keep whatever environment that they have created in the most "tiptop" clean shape. If extra staff is required, then that is the attention to detail that the retailer should be reminded of. No matter how beautiful the space, if it's not kept clean, then the retailer has wasted money!!!

Participating in the 2007 Bathroom Blogfest are:

Kate Rutter—Adaptive Path
Laurence Helene Borel—Blog Till You Drop
Iris Shreve Garrott—checking out and checking in
Susan Abbott—Customer Experience Crossroads
Maria Palma—Customers Are Always
Becky Carroll—Customers Rock!
Toby Bloomberg—Diva Marketing
Stephanie Weaver—Experienceology
Linda Tischler—Fast Company Now
C.B. Whittemore—Flooring the Consumer
Ed Pell—K+B DeltaVee
Helene Blowers—Library Bytes
Claudia Schiepers—Life and its little pleasures
Katie Clark—Practical Katie
Sandra Renshaw—Purple Wren
Reshma Anand—Qualitative Research
Marianna Hayes—Results Revolution
Carolyn Townes—Spirit Women
Sara Cantor—The Curious Shopper
Anna Farmery—The Engaging Brand
Dee McCrorey—The Ultimate Corporate Entrepreneur
Katia S. Adams—Transcultural
Katie Konrath-Get Fresh Minds
Jennifer Brite-Kitchen and Bath Business

Don't forget to check the Bathroom Blogfest group site.

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