Grand & Toy targets small business

Strategy talks to the retailer about its shift from office supply store to small business centre, and the redesign that came with it.

Last year, Grand & Toy began a transformation from office supply store to small business centre, with a redesign at the centre of the shift. Although retail is only about 9% of Grand & Toy’s business, “it’s a very important part because it’s been the most visible part of our brand for 125 years,” says Kevin Edwards, VP marketing at Grand & Toy.
After having closed many locations over the last five years, the retailer underwent a fundamental shift to target an underserved market – small business owners with companies of about five to 25-plus employees.
“Grand & Toy was much like the competitors, offering some of everything,” says Richard Dirstein, VP at Shikatani Lacroix, the firm behind the new design.
With 20% reduction of stock, the new centres are less about office supplies and more about services to help small business owners design and function in their space. It started with three prototype centres in Vancouver, and recently opened five in Toronto.

From store to centre
Like Longo’s, the new Grand & Toy concept is full of features to keep customers in the store, utilizing the space instead of just shopping in it.
The new stores boast copy centres with chairs and tables to lay work out, and a graphic designer on-hand to help. At a tech bar, customers can test out products like printers or scanners. The catalogue has been moved online and internet search stations allow customers to browse in-store. An “architectural display” showcases furniture pieces, set up with accessories and technology so small business owners can see how pieces could function in their space.
And borrowing a design element from the banking industry, support offices with full-height glass walls – also equipped with furniture and accessories available for purchase – allow for consultations with personal business advisors to customize office equipment. Lounge seating serves as a waiting area for the support offices, where customers can also read about and check out the products.

From bleak to chic
While the former stores were essentially colourless, Dirstein explains that they took cues from the recently updated logo to add warmth to the interior. Splashes of orange and shades of green were used throughout, along with wood laminate, glass tiles and columns.
A front window display features aspirational words, and screens with changing images give a sense of constant movement.
While the cash areas were previously unnoticeable against a wall, now large bulkheads above them – also above the customer service area and copy centre – make the store easier to navigate.

Into the future
Edwards says that the Vancouver locations allowed them to test out various aspects of the centres, and they came away with key insights about everything from staffing to store hours to product offering, to apply to the new Toronto locations. 
The new stores have already seen success within the design community – G&T won a Retail Council of Canada award for retail store design in 2010.
The plan is to create 50 or 60 centres in the next few years. “Our intent over the next few years is to elevate our brand back within our retail network, so we’re really excited,” says Edwards.

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