London, the bustling capital of the United Kingdom, is renowned for its vibrant energy, rich history, and as a global hub of culture, commerce, and innovation. The city’s relentless pursuit of growth and development has earned it the reputation of being the “city that never stands still.” From its iconic landmarks to its ever-evolving skyline, London serves as a captivating metropolis in a perpetual state of transformation, and logistical issues when building are ever present. This is due to limited space, complex underground infrastructure, historical preservation requirements, and congested traffic.
These factors pose challenges for finding suitable building sites, navigating existing infrastructure, obtaining permissions, and transporting materials. Efficient planning and coordination are essential to overcome these obstacles and ensure successful construction projects in the city.
In this case study, we will delve deep into one of Waitrose & Partner’s most ambitious projects, as they collaborated with developers and landlords to not only revitalise their store in the prestigious King’s Road but pave the way to allow new apartments and services take shape around them.
King’s Road is a famous street located in the Chelsea neighbourhood of London with a rich history dating back to the 17th century when it was constructed as a private road for King Charles II. Over the years, it has transformed into a vibrant and fashionable hub, known for its trendy boutiques, high-end shops, restaurants, and cafes.
Today, King’s Road continues to be a popular destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. It features a mix of established luxury brands, independent retailers, and flagship stores. Beyond its retail offerings, King’s Road is surrounded by elegant Georgian architecture, charming residential streets, and beautiful gardens. With its blend of history, culture, and contemporary style, King’s Road remains an iconic destination in London, attracting both locals and tourists alike.
This regeneration project began back in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the UK and rest of the world, when the existing store was halved in size with the help of Blaze Signs to allow space for a redevelopment project undertaken by UC Build which promised new apartments, retail offerings and services to the area. After two years of operating with half a store, developments were at a point where they could hand over and Waitrose could look at kicking off with their own regeneration project to their store.
DESIGN & PLANNING
The work did not begin there however, the Blaze Team were working closely with the design and implementation teams at Waitrose & Partners over a period of months to finalise the new stores design, using a variety of software packages including 2D and 3D visualisation and in-depth technical design.
The front of the store was reimagined with an authentic black tiled façade, which brought a level of elegance to the entrance, but also introduced challenges. Fixing methods were restricted because there was an elevated risk of tile damage during installation, and as such our design teams produced several proposals for the most important sign in the entire project. The options included both versions of the Waitrose & Partners logo set-up (stacked and linear) at varied sizes, there were multiple stakeholders to appease with this part of the signage suite, including the customer themselves, the developers and architects, and our own technical design team in-house. After producing 2D visuals and a CGI mock-up of the proposed, the rail mounted stacked lettering design was approved for manufacture and install by the customer.
A 3D CGI render offers several advantages over a 2D visual when it comes to highlighting a signage design. Firstly, a render provides a highly realistic representation of the sign. It captures details such as materials, textures, lighting, and shadows, resulting in a lifelike visualization that closely resembles the final product. This level of realism helps stakeholders and clients better understand how the sign will look in the real world, allowing them to make more informed decisions.
Secondly, a 3D CGI render offers enhanced spatial awareness. By creating a three-dimensional model, the render accurately showcases the sign’s placement and its relationship with the surrounding environment. It provides insights into how the sign interacts with architectural features, landscapes, or other elements nearby. This spatial awareness is crucial for assessing visibility, scale, and overall aesthetic impact; especially in the context of London Kings Road, where the planning requirements are strict!
Our designs continued throughout the internals of the store too, including perimeter lettering signifying where certain items and sections are located, aisle signs and cabinet headers which can tell customers where exact items are, wall graphics and features to highlight offers and the benefits of shopping at Waitrose & Partners.
All of them were designed and placed with intention, to maximise their impact on the customer as they make their journey through the store and provide a fun and efficient shopping experience for all types of consumers. With Waitrose & Partners, the developers, and architects happy with the proposed signage designs, as well as our own teams in-house confident that our designs can be transformed to reality, work towards manufacturing and subsequently installation could begin.
NEW SERVICES & INITIATIVES
It was not just a store design update in terms of look and feel, but a much more involved effort that aimed to improve the customer experience too, with new services introduced to elevate the customers journey through the store and increase customer loyalty.
Waitrose & Partners introduced more self-checkout technology to this store during this project, allowing customers to take advantage of the efficiency and freedom in one of their most famous stores. In more recent years, there has been a shift towards self-service by both customers and supermarkets, primarily driven by several factors:
Customer Convenience: Self-checkouts provide a faster and more convenient shopping experience for customers who prefer a quick and efficient checkout process. They can scan and pay for their items without waiting in line for a cashier, which appeals to time-conscious shoppers, especially in London!
- Cost Efficiency: Implementing self-checkouts can be cost-effective for supermarkets as it reduces the need for manned tills and cashiers, which will assume more space in the store. It allows supermarkets to optimize their staff and allocate resources more efficiently.
- Technology Advancements: Improvements in technology, such as barcode scanning and payment processing, have made self-checkout systems more dependable and user-friendly, contributing to their wider adoption in the retail industry.
- Changing Consumer Behaviour: With the rise of online shopping and digital payment methods, consumers have become more comfortable with using technology to complete transactions. Self-checkouts align with this changing behaviour and cater to tech-savvy shoppers – today, even the older generation of customers are more likely to use this technology than they would have a decade ago.
- Pandemic Impact: The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the adoption of self-checkouts as it minimized physical contact between customers and staff, reducing the potential transmission of the virus. Following the pandemic, these changed behaviours have stuck around.
Sushi Daily was also added as a concession to the store, which offers “the finest handmade sushi using whole fish and beautiful ingredients to craft every dish.” They are now a familiar sight in Waitrose & Partners stores across their estate, as more supermarkets increasingly add branded concessions.
There are a multitude of reasons for this, including the desire to diversify product offerings, enhance the shopping experience, attract new customers loyal to specific brands, increase foot traffic, generate additional revenue through partnerships, gain a competitive advantage, and utilise unused space efficiently. Along with Sushi Daily, a section of the store dedicated to offerings from John Lewis & Partners was also added, further increasing the customers options, and strengthening the brand.
One of the King’s Road stores most interesting features is the hand painted mosaic wall found along the checkout area of the store. A completely unique art feature which set this store apart from any other like it, it was paramount that it was protected and maintained while the rest of the store was uplifted and transformed.
The mosaic was made by a company called Reptile Tiles over 25 years ago and is based on the area of Chelsea and depicts some of the wonderful buildings and noteworthy people of the area, it is a large-scale design which also features seven landscapes and a multitude of pictures for the surrounding border.
The Blaze Team along with the main contractor and others working on site were careful not to damage or affect the mosaic in any way and were successful in our efforts.
THE FINISHED STORE
After undergoing a comprehensive update and transformation, the supermarket has been completely revitalized to offer a modern and enhanced shopping experience. Upon entering, customers are greeted by a fresh and inviting ambiance, with high-quality and bright signage found from the get-go. The supermarket’s product range has been expanded and diversified with the additions of the Sushi Daily and John Lewis & Partners as well as a new “Dry Aged Beef” counter.
Throughout the space, beautiful store signage has been strategically placed to provide shoppers with helpful information, such as product details, offers, and store navigation. The usage of perimeter lettering married with painted walls in their brand colours provides an engaging atmosphere throughout the store, complimented by the additional signage found in the checkouts, kiosk, customer service and entrance areas of the supermarket.
The utilisation of graphics and imagery across the store helps it fall in line with Waitrose & Partners store standards that you will see in stores across their estate, showcasing their enticing product offerings and messaging that encourages customers to try new things.
Overall, the updated and transformed supermarket has created a more enjoyable, efficient, and customer-centric shopping environment, catering to diverse needs and preferences while embracing modern technology and great signage design.
LAUNCHING KING’S ROAD
Upon project completion, it was evident that this store deserved a proper re-launch event for a number of reasons, one being that the transformation was simply incredible, uplifting the customer experience to new levels, and secondly the stores’ location, the prestigious King’s Road, makes it one of the most important stores to the business.
On March 17th, 2023, the store was relaunched by Chairperson of the John Lewis Partnership, Sharon White, who used the supermarket as the backdrop to their financial report as well as the release of their goals and aspirations for the future of the organisation. It is an incredibly humbling feeling to have a site that the Blaze Team worked so diligently on over a prolonged period of time be used in such a public fashion, shining a light on the incredible signage we produced and the part we played in the supermarkets reignition!
We are delighted to have played a crucial role in bringing this vision to life. Our commitment to delivering high-quality, innovative, and customized signage solutions has contributed significantly to the overall success of the supermarket’s modernization. Throughout the project, we collaborated closely with the supermarket management and design team to understand their specific requirements and goals. Our expertise in signage design, fabrication, and installation allowed us to create eye-catching and functional displays that seamlessly blended with the store’s updated aesthetics.
The successful implementation of our signage solutions not only amplified the supermarket’s visual appeal but also helped in guiding customers through the store efficiently, ensuring a seamless shopping journey and an excellent customer experience that makes them want to keep coming back repeatedly!
Seeing the positive impact of our signage solutions on the supermarket’s transformation fills us with pride and satisfaction. We are grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to this forward-thinking project, which sets a new standard for modern supermarkets in the retail industry.
As we reflect on this project’s success, we are more determined than ever to continue pushing the boundaries of signage innovation and design. Our commitment to providing innovative solutions remains unwavering, and we look forward to further collaborating with forward-looking businesses like Waitrose & Partners that share our passion for creating exceptional retail experiences.
In conclusion, this project has been an inspiring journey for us, we are honoured to have been part of this transformation, and we are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead in reimagining the future of retail through innovative and impactful signage solutions.