design:retail | The New Old Navy

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The New Old Navy
Gap Inc.'s affordable brand rolls out a retooled, redesigned store presence across the country

By Jenny Rebholz Schrank
June 27, 2011

Photo courtesy of David Fenton, San Francisco
Founded in 1994, Old Navy has been a stalwart of the San Francisco-based Gap Inc. family, selling men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and accessories at an approachable price point. Possibly most known for its kitschy advertising campaigns with various celebrities and talking mannequins, Old Navy built a reputation with teens and families as an accessible place for affordable clothing (and even a few outfits for the dog).

Despite suffering from sales declines in recent years, the brand is back on track and innovating again, extending the brand to include maternity and women’s plus-size apparel, and now rolling out a bright, energetic remodel program to its stores across the United States and Canada. The new format has already debuted in more than 270 stores, and the company is slated to have one-third of its 1,100-store chain done this fall. Easy, friendly and fun from start to finish, “The New Old Navy”—as the company has tagged the rollout effort—is bringing the “happy” back into its fleet of stores.

“The New Old Navy was developed to improve the overall shopping experience for our customers and bring the fun back to Old Navy,” says Tery R. Young, senior director of store design, Old Navy. Beginning from the street presence, branded, colorful stripes across the building façade and incorporated in exterior signage signals to Old Navy customers that something new is inside. And from the moment customers walk through the doors, the changes are clear.

The scene is set by a staged mannequin family right at the store entrance—a welcoming moment for customers that it is flanked by key product messages. This creates a fashion statement while providing clear sightlines to the back of the store, showing customers the depth of the shopping experience that awaits. A raceway design makes shopping quick and easy, and the new wider aisles provide plenty of space to maneuver a stroller or several members of the family.

Functionality is at the core of the new space plan. Fitting rooms were relocated from the back corner of the store and brought to the center, along with the cashwrap, to create improved operational efficiencies and customer service. Distinct shops for each member of the family radiate from this central core. This orientation allows staff to service customers quickly with easy access to merchandise adjacent to the fitting area.

The central location of the cashwrap supports easy checkout. “Fast Lanes,” the redesigned register lanes, feature grab-and-go consumables and non-apparel items to enhance the customer experience.

When it comes to merchandising, it is all about fun. From surplus-style, sky-high displays of items—think flip-flops and T-shirts—in every color imaginable to intimate moments featuring a style trend or specific look, Old Navy has the ability to combine a multitude of product messages in the new store design.

The New Old Navy offers customers fresh surprises, while providing the merchandise the shoppers depend on. Customers can clearly find their way to the store’s famous jeans and “Fundamentals,” and now can try them on in a jiff as well. New “Quick Change” pods are placed within specific shops, where shoppers can quickly try on a single item, versus heading all the way to the fitting rooms—a luxury for shoppers on the go.

A crisp, bright color-and-finish palette energizes the product. Polished concrete, matte and white-gloss finishes, signature striping and “happy” blues with accents of green and yellow set the scene at The New Old Navy.

“At the foundation of Old Navy, our product is the hero,” Young says. “By substituting the white finishes for the previous MDF look, we were able to make everything look fresher and more interesting. We have received a lot of positive feedback from our customers after a remodel saying our products look better and the store seems larger.”

In addition to the bright and happy aesthetic, The New Old Navy makes a deeper, sustainable statement. While some of the stores are actually pursuing certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (the South Hulen store in Fort Worth, Texas, has achieved LEED Silver), the overall sustainability goal for the rollout is internally summarized as “Doing what’s right.” “We took the opportunity to incorporate sustainable practices into our standard operating model,” describes Kristy Poole Schmidt, Old Navy’s senior manager of store design.

Low-wattage fluorescent lighting throughout the store, low-VOC paints, low-water-consumption plumbing fixtures, Energy Star refrigerators, materials with recycled content, and reuse of existing shelving units and lighting in 50 percent of the store remodels are key components in the sustainability program. Old Navy also donates fixtures to the Red Cross and other local charities, and is piloting a construction waste program this year that will be standard in most stores by 2012.

“For any new initiative or opportunity, we ask ourselves ‘what can we apply to make a difference in over 1,000 stores?’” Schmidt says. “We are always evaluating lighting and examining ways to bring energy consumption down. It is an evolving process, and we are doing the best we can.”

While The New Old Navy is easy, friendly and fun, it is also environmentally responsible—and for Old Navy, “it just feels good to do the right thing.” The brand that has built its reputation on its playful, kitschy nature, now has a store design to match. Says Young: “What’s great about being Old Navy is that we can infuse fun in everything we do.”