design:retail - February 2014 - (Page 38)

shopping with paco 038 Clean Slate PACO UNDERHILL CEO AND FOUNDER ENVIROSELL G ROWING UP IN Southeast Asia, our Sunday lunch treat was a trip to my father's favorite Indian restaurant, a roadside dive about 10 minutes by car from our home. No tables and chairs, just 40-gallon barrels with low stools around them. You selected your barrel, and the waiter covered the top with clean banana leaves and slopped mounds of food out from his trolley. A stack of flat bread and a cool bottled beverage, and that was it. No silverware, no napkins, no problem. We never got sick, and we came back every week. It was Asia in the early '60s. Today in Shanghai, you still have the back-alley butcher's push cart, where you can have a chicken, duck or baby pig slaughtered in front of you, de-feathered or skinned, cleaned and handed to you fresh in a way that A&P or even your farmers' markets can't duplicate. As a Chinese history major in college, I was shown aerial maps of the green belts around Chinese villages that marked the limits of the distribution of night soil. There is a reason why all Chinese cuisine well into the '90s had no such thing as a salad or raw vegetables in any form. Across so much of the emerging market, we are watching the leap from the 19th to the 22nd century. My Chinese colleagues visiting New York for the first time are amazed at the Old World flair of our pre-war infrastructure, and they are downright flabbergasted at our office building's manual elevator and live elevator man. Having an office like mine with a working fireplace is unthinkable in a Chinese city. Paris, Barcelona and Prague are filled with Asian tourists marveling at architectural history. While there are still vestiges of old Beijing and Shanghai, you FEBRUARY 2014 DESIGNRETAILONLINE.COM have to walk well off the modern grid to find them. Hygiene issues survived modernization, not unlike Keith Richards and cockroaches that you'd have thought might have been consigned to the dust heap of history. For anyone in the commercial design business, factoring in how you keep it clean has become more of a priority. It is not just that women have become more important customers and their radar for clean is much better calibrated, but also the recognition that cleaning is an operating cost that can and should be controllable. Some of it is the chambermaid factor, where maintenance has been consigned to the worst paid staff member with the least direct contact with the end-user and the least incentive to care. Typically, a store has some places that slip between the cracks. Dressing rooms, customer bathrooms and employee break rooms are subject to what might be the most neglect and disorder, mainly because they're only as tidy as their last users. The issue of "clean" stretches beyond daily maintenance and cuts deeper into design choices, because the question is twofold: is it clean, or does it simply look clean? We have to ask not how good does it look the day the new store opens, but how long can we expect the new and clean-looking appearance to last? Not long ago, we had a conversation with a well-known manufacturer of inexpensive but stylish watches that are sold in their own brand stores and at major retailers. Several years ago, they adopted a fixture style made of white plastic; it looked great the first year, but that bright white, fresh appearance turned ugly and dated, fast. But, that 40-gallon barrel table at the dive Indian restaurant was designed to last. Only when subject to years of environmental exposure and hard use does it degrade, which in this case, may even add to its rustic sensibility. Just like the shipping container is now a popular home for pop-ups across the country, as it can be cleaned with a high-pressure hose or a steam gun in an hour. Could they do the same in a modern five-star kitchen or showroom? Whether it's watches, meat or Indonesian-inspired Indian, clean at retail will never go out of style. PACO UNDERHILL IS THE FOUNDER OF ENVIROSELL AND AUTHOR OF THE BOOKS "WHY WE BUY" AND "WHAT WOMEN WANT." HE SHARES HIS RETAIL AND CONSUMER INSIGHTS WITH DESIGN:RETAIL IN THIS BI-ISSUE COLUMN. Photo by PHOTOOBJECTS.NET/©GETTY IMAGES/THINKSTOCK http://www.DESIGNRETAILONLINE.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of design:retail - February 2014

design:retail - February 2014
Editor's Note
Show Talk
On Trend
We Love This!
Design Picks
How'd They Do That?
Have You Heard?
Shopper Insights
Shopping with Paco
Food Fabulous Food
Galeries Lafayette
GlobalShop Show Preview
POP Supplier Listing

design:retail - February 2014