Thrifting has become a staple for young people in urban enclaves. The appeal of putting a unique stamp on an outfit, finding a vintage treasure or recycling a perfectly good outfit are just a few reasons why these young people are shopping at thrift and second-hand stores for clothes and other fashion accessories.
Goodwill has developed a reputation with this demographic for offering stylish products at prices primary retail outlets just can’t compete with. Goodwill also promotes sustainable living by ensuring clothes don’t end up in landfills while they are still in good condition and endorses efforts to improve local communities — two causes that resonate with young people today. To capitalize on this newfound popularity, many Goodwill locations are doing even more to elevate the retail experience and connect with discerning customers.
When the design team at Gensler’s Washington, D.C. office was approached by Goodwill of Greater Washington to help them transform their image and storefronts, they immediately saw the potential of a unique partnership. They welcomed the opportunity to use their multi-disciplinary knowledge base to leverage their skills in a powerful way to benefit the local community.
As a way of reaching out to younger customers, Goodwill had been conducting trunk shows in the area, usually involving three or four racks of selected clothing. The trunk shows were well attended, but Goodwill was looking for a way to attract even more traffic. Expanding their outreach would require significantly more resources than a trunk show, however. So Brendan Hurley, the senior vice president of marketing and communications for Goodwill of Greater Washington, decided to go to the experts.
“We needed Gensler to design a space for us that would accommodate our budget and properly leverage our resources,” says Hurley. Gensler responded by offering the nonprofit organization pro bon services.
Goodwill has strong brand recognition, but not necessarily the brand they want. “The problem with Goodwill is that too many people stereotype us as dirty old thrift stores,” explains Hurley. The team of graphic designers, brand strategists, architects and interior designers at Gensler recognized the challenges Goodwill faced: Inconsistent branding, amateur visual merchandising, underutilized merchandise and a chaotic shopping experience. They were ready to go to work.
To resolve some of the challenges, the team decided to create a pop-up shop that is mobile, employs consistent branding and visual merchandising, and makes shoppers feel like they are at a high-end boutique. Transforming a raw gallery space in an urban setting, the team created an experiential retail venue that exposed Goodwill and its brand to an entirely different audience over a three-day blitz. By borrowing elements from popular stores like Anthropologie and the rise of the do-it-yourself (DIY) culture, they produced a design that allows shoppers to approach the pop-up store with a sense of discovery as they find the items that meet their fashion needs.
Having decided on a retail strategy, the team turned their talents to creating a fresh brand image for the new space. The name “Edited for Goodwill” was chosen because of its double meaning: 1) to embrace Goodwill’s mission to help people “edit” their lives by offering education and employment training, and 2) to indicate the Pop-Up Shop would not be as large and overwhelming as its typical stores. They then set about developing a colorful, engaging graphic identity that would attract younger consumers.
Building on the concept, the team curated merchandise and altered key pieces to present a fresh design-savvy concept while highlighting the potential of repurposed, found items. They also created avant-garde displays to build excitement and entice shoppers.
The design team challenged Goodwill’s typical retail process of organizing merchandise. To provide uniformity to the temporary space, the designers used branded boxes to create eye-catching displays. The team also organized the store by color, to create a clean visual palate for the mismatched merchandise.
The end result was a store that broke sales records when it opened for three days in August 2012. One-fifth the size of a typical Goodwill site, the Pop-Up Store was 12 times more profitable. Goodwill couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.
“The pop-up store was only open for three days, but it proved to be far more popular than we ever could have anticipated,” says Hurley. “Over those three days it generated $17,000 in revenue. A typical brick-and-mortar store only generates around $14,000 over a three-day period. That’s a significant increase, especially considering the pop-up store was open two hours per less per day than our traditional stores, and it only required 2,000 square feet of selling space, as opposed to the 8,000-12,000 square feet a brick-and-mortar store uses.”
Goodwill used the Pop-Up shop again in December in time for holiday shopping and is exploring ways to duplicate the concept in other locations. “As we continue to reposition our image within various communities, we hope to continue to engage with local fashionistas and young people that care about shopping but also care about making a difference,” says Hurley. “And the pop-up store is a great way to start those conversations.”
Text and photos courtesy of Gensler’s Washington, D.C. office.