Lawtons puts its people first

The East Coast drugstore chain explains the strategy behind its latest refresh.

Owned by Sobey’s, Lawtons is a drugstore chain with over 65 locations in Atlantic Canada. In 2004, it underwent a rebranding to bring it up-to-date and stay competitive in the increasingly tough category. In 2009, Lawtons entered the next phase of its evolution and the retailer hired Halifax-based design firm Breakhouse to update its look in six new locations.

Leveraging East Coast culture
After speaking with Lawtons and learning that its employees were its pride and joy, Breakhouse set its own secret shoppers loose in the stores to experience it for themselves.
“We found that their employees were fantastic [but they] were not as highly visible as they should be,” says Glen McMinn, CD and partner at Breakhouse, explaining that the East Coast culture of friendliness and conversation helped dictate the design.
This resulted in the creation of contact stations in the three main areas of the store (cosmetics and giftware, pharmacy and home health care), where an employee would always be within eyeshot. To make that possible, they had to eschew the typical rows of high shelving in some areas in favour of sections with higher shelving around the perimeters, and shorter shelving on the inside.
Messaging became a key component of the design, centred around the “Feel good, look good” tagline. Larger headings on walls such as “something for you” indicate smaller sections below like “giftware.” The high ceilings mean that anywhere a customer stands in the space they can identify the different areas.

Old-school design
Lighting also played an important role in the new design, using front and back lighting strategically to highlight signage and products, and to give the feeling of natural light despite the fact that there are actually offices overhead.
“Part of their brand strategy was marrying an outdoor market [feel] with the culture of an old-school department store,” says McMinn. “I think with any designer, you have to look at what makes a company great and help them come to terms with that.”

Into the future
Janane Chater, senior director of marketing and corporate communications at Lawtons, says that Lawtons’ market share has grown, and the chain continues to evolve. They plan to open a few new stores in the coming year, and will incorporate the new elements into any renovations going forward.

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