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Mandee Takes a Dramatic Leap


Mandee isn’t letting the economic downturn get in its way. The junior apparel retailer, known for its contemporary, value-priced fashions, is celebrating its 60th year in business with a new prototype designed to offer a more dynamic shopping experience.

“Our customers already expect to see amazing values at our stores. We wanted to add further excitement to that experience and create an environment where the merchandise looks fabulous and the customer looks great,” said Ken Mandelbaum, chairman and CEO, Mandee, Totowa, N.J., which operates 114 stores in eight states.

Mandee is a division of Big M, a privately held, family owned company that also operates 42 Annie Sez stores.

“Strategically, we have positioned our stores to be successful in most environments,” Mandelbaum said. “Our pricing and product allows the customer to walk in and feel she is being well taken care of, in good times and bad.”

In its quest to upgrade its store experience, Mandee looked at every detail, from the music to the fixturing. The lighting, for example, was completely re-engineered to focus more attention on the product and provide a more dramatic experience.

The new prototype, designed by Tricarico Architecture and Design, opened in May, in Clifton, N.J.

“Customers have responded so favorably, it’s remarkable,” Mandelbaum added. “It’s reflected in the sales the store is generating.”

The design aims to make customers feel as if they stepped into their own fashion show. The centerpiece of the 8,000-sq.-ft. store is a full-sized runway that can be used for special in-store events, such as a fashion show, as well as for display purposes. It has seating at one end, where people can wait while their friends shop.

The store has a fun, sexy and upbeat attitude. Pulsating music and videos, color-changing LEDs and bold, oversized graphics combine for a high-energy and stylish environment that creates an ideal backdrop for the vibrant clothing on display. A black and white palette is enlivened with yellow and purple accents.

“We kept the main color palette fairly neutral so as not to distract from the merchandise, which is very colorful,” Tricarico said. “The clothes really tell the story.”

Notable new additions to the Mandee format include brightly colored accent tables and an attention-getting jewelry wall.

“We created casework bordered with a silver-leafed molding for the jewelry wall,” said Nicole Tricarico, interior designer, Tricarico Architecture and Design, Wayne, N.J. “The display is lit from inside.”

Decals of butterflies and other patterns, all done in a whimsical motif, were applied to the black wall directly above the casework and also to some of the store’s columns.

In the shoe department, the cabinets were lowered slightly to make them more accessible. Damask-covered ottomans, mannequins, decorative lighting pendants and a wall display of the latest shoes enhance the fashion quotient.

The fitting-room area boasts a lavender and black color theme, back-lit mirrors and ottomans. A crystal chandelier adds an upscale, feminine touch.

The cashwrap is sleek, with a sculpted panel creating a wavy look. The halo-like sign is highlighted with color-changing LEDs.

Billowing, stretched fabric, lit from within with more color-changing LEDs, is wrapped around the top of six of the store’s columns.

“The color-changing effects are coordinated so that when the light in back of the cashwrap changes color, the rest of the store does too,” Tricarico noted.

Apart from the LEDs and T5s in the jewelry cases, the bulk of the lighting is provided by 70-watt metal-halide lamps. The industrial feel of the high bay fixtures is broken up by the pendants and chandelier.

“We did a truss system at the runway and cashwrap with some track heads,” Tricarico said, “but it’s all metal halide. We brought the light levels down for general lighting and punched things up, adding drama at some of the special interest areas. During the day, the store is infused with light from the arched windows. At night, it has a nice glow to it.”

Bold lifestyle photos of current Mandee fashions are prominent throughout the store. The oversized graphics, which cascade down the columns and are also featured around the upper half of the perimeter, tell a strong fashion story.

“Mandee does photo shoots of their fashions,” Tricarico said. “The company does a great job of showing their customer what they are selling.”

Mandee plans to roll out the prototype in new locations.

“It is very much the future of our company,” Mandelbaum said. “In March, we will open a store in Chicago that will be a replica of the Clifton location. We also plan to incorporate elements of the prototype as we renovate our existing locations. Some, in fact, will get complete facelifts.”

As to expanding, the company is “looking at deals all the time,” according to Mandelbaum.

“One of the reasons we survived 60 years is that we’re careful about how we expand,” he continued. “We’ve taken a thoughtful approach to growing, concentrating on markets where we are well known and accepted by customers.”

To see more photos of Mandee, go to .

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