Kids are always on the lookout for what’s new and engaging, a fact not lost on MS Retail KSC. The Kuwaiti retailer launched its groundbreaking concept store, Baroue, knowing that children can be every bit as discerning as their parents when it comes to shopping.
A year since its opening, the interactive shopping format is garnering global attention and proving that if play’s the thing, Baroue’s experience is king.
The innovative idea behind Baroue originated from old-fashioned entrepreneurial insight. Seeing the Middle East’s lack of a destination children’s toy store, MS Retail hired international consultants Roland Berger and Gensler, as strategic designer, to study the market prospects. Research revealed that Baroue could stand out by offering a wide selection of competitively priced, quality products in an environment that integrated entertainment and education in the customer experience.
“We realized that children want a dynamic and interactive place where they can shop, play, learn and meet friends,” said MS Retail Chairman and CEO Fahad A Al-Mutawa. “Kids want you to engage their imagination.”
Translating the Baroue vision to a design strategy meant commissioning Gensler to provide a full-service design package, incorporating concept design, design development, implementation and rollout of the first 69,000-square-foot store in The Avenues shopping mall, Kuwait.
“We challenged Gensler to help us create an indigenous Kuwaiti brand that’s firmly rooted in the local preferences and needs of our children and their families,” Al-Mutawa said. “At the same time, we wanted Baroue's design to meet international standards of excellence in merchandising, retail technology and customer service. In this regard, Gensler’s branding and retail expertise proved essential.”
The theme of “role play” characterizes every aspect of the store environment. With a 40-foot-tall sea serpent as its core element, Baroue houses such interactive zones as a jungle gym, sand pit and string-less magical harp — all with access to private party rooms. The space also provides a supervised environment for play, while parents shop or relax in the adjacent café.
“Baroue is a complete departure from retail outlets found in shopping malls throughout the world,” said Jon Tollit, Gensler principal and retail practice leader in London. “The store creates an emotional connection with its audience. More than a shop; it’s a series of experiences.”
Shopping in Kuwait is a decidedly family-oriented affair, so while Baroue targets children’s needs, the store also aims to make older kids and adults feel welcome.
“We worked very closely with the client to create a different kind of environment for children’s retail, one where the shopping experience appeals to all ages,” said Lance Boge, Gensler principal and retail practice leader in New York. “To do so, we took the design brief apart and re-analyzed it first from a child’s perspective. From there, we looked at how the Baroue brand values of play, discovery and learning applied to the different stages of development, as well as the appeal to parents.”
Despite its relatively brief time in the marketplace, Baroue has earned high-profile notoriety. In addition to the “Superbrand” status accorded by the Kuwaiti Council of Superbrands, the store claimed the prestigious “Innovative Format of the Year” prize at the 2008 World Retail Awards.
“Baroue’s success and the high footfalls and sales conversion enjoyed since its launch are a credit to our partnership with Gensler,” Al-Mutawa said. “Together we’ve proven that retailing is much more than having a wide range of products; it’s the overall experience that enlivens the products and sets a backdrop for children to explore toys, clothes and the limits of their imaginations.”
Virginia Pettit with Aaron Smith—Gensler Firmwide Communications
Anna Robinson (Gensler—London) and Monica Schaffer (Gensler Firmwide Media Relations)
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Gensler Retail and Brand Design Contact
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