Karl’s Japan Photo of the Day: Graphics

Japan has a rich and varied history of decorative art. For centuries, life was recorded through the creation of delicate murals and illuminated pages. Here, pastel soft images of immaculate Geishas in minimalist Bonsai gardens immediately spring to mind. Subtle, delicate and created with restraint, in a style that uses only a few carefully applied visual elements with great care and attention to detail.

With a striking contrast, the more recent, similarly iconic and instantly recognisable style of Japanese ‘Manga’ comic books and cartoons has an eerily stylised, commanding and futuristic tone.

Today, this strong graphic tradition continues with a wide range of contemporary examples developed for use within retailers. Whether as applied, large format, digitally produced graphics or hand painted murals, dramatic graphic design (retail art) makes a bold statement in Japanese stores.

Unlike many stores where imagery like this has been largely replaced with cheaper and more ‘brand relevant’ photographic media, they make a pleasant change and create a strong presence instore.

The following examples were from a selection of stores seen in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe, taken on a recent client project.

Click here to see more images of Japanese graphics used in retail, on the Visual Thinking Facebook page. 

Retail Focus: Independents need to go the extra mile for the Olympics

Since it was announced that the UK was to hold the 2012 Olympics, much has been made of the potential benefits to retailers, by myself and just about everyone else in the industry.

That said, to my knowledge there isn’t a great deal being done in any tangible way by the government or any trade bodies to help retailers prepare for this marathon (sorry!) one-off sales opportunity. Most retailers have the potential to benefit hugely from the Games, but for UK sporting goods retailers, this should be the World Cup times 10.

The Olympics shouldn’t just be the playground of the uberbrands with their multi million sponsorships. Like during World Cups, there are lots of things that small retailers can do to ensure that they enjoy success too.

Simply Sports is an example of one retailer determined to make the Olympics work hard for it. It’s a small chain of two independent sportshops trading from Oxted and Reigate and owned by Adrian Pointer. We were invited to take a look at Adrian’s offer, as he wanted to see what benefit good visual and retail standards could have on his sales in the run up to the Olympics – and crucially for his business, the effect it could have on his team’s motivation and focus during what will be an extremely busy and high pressure time.

In his words: “I knew that my team was as professional as it could be, and I wanted Karl’s team to help us create the space, layout, store presentation and marketing strategy that would reflect our expertise and relevance at this important time for us.”

Adrian had a lot of reasons to make his offer as good as it could be. The Olympic torch will be going through Reigate, and Adidas UK was offering POS and window graphic support, and was happy to work alongside Simply Sports to make their product range look as good as it could instore.

To begin with, we ran a series of Simply Sports coaching and merchandising visits to show the store team some good practice VM skills and teach them how to implement them.

The visits saw us working on the store windows, the space and layout and looking at the selections of product available. We also coached the team to show them how to implement and maintain the above, and helped with the use of graphics and POS and general retail standards.

We then worked with Adrian and Adidas UK representatives to make the most of the space, display and the soft and hard launches of the Team GB Replica Kit range instore.

Adidas won’t be alone in this type of support, with all major sports brands offering POS materials and extra support for their products, and independent retailers need to take advantage and ask their suppliers what they can do for them.

At times like the Olympics, retailers will guarantee increased footfall, but it isn’t time for them to take their foot off the gas, as, in this market, this increase could be the injection that many businesses need to survive. Increased traffic also brings with it the need to maintain standards doubly hard, as disheveled displays won’t show products at their best and consumers won’t be willing to pay that bit more, which means less profit for the retailers.

Adrian is instrumental in communicating the benefits of VM and ‘leading the way’ with his peers. It’s not that Adrian works with us that makes him the type of retailer that others need to try to be, it’s that he looks for help in becoming better at what he does to make the most of opportune sales periods like the Olympics.