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Michaels Aims to Inspire Customers


Michaels Stores has created a new store experience that brings its brand and tagline—Where Creativity Happens—to life. The design, which includes a new layout, wayfinding program and more logical adjacencies, showcases Michaels’ arts-and-crafts expertise.

“Our new design truly is a great expression of our brand. It has made our stores a place where creativity is happening at the very moment,” said Stuart Aitken, chief marketing officer, Michaels Stores, Irving, Texas, which operates more than 1,000 namesake stores and some 150 Aaron Brothers outlets.

Extensive consumer research helped the retailer and Interbrand Design Forum better understand how customers shop the various categories in Michaels and what they expect from the store.

“We needed to make the store a lot more creative and more shoppable,” said Aitken.


Design: Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, OhioArchitect: CMA, Fort Worth, TexasGeneral contractor: Lane Valente, Bohemia, N.Y.Flooring: EarthWerks, Corpus Christi, Texas (wood); Interface, Atlanta (carpet)Lighting: City Lighting, St. LouisGraphics: Miramar Designs, Fort Worth, Texas; Blanks, DallasFixtures: Syndicate Systems, Millbury, Ky.Checkout counters and woodwork: Acme Millworks, San Angelo, Texas

The new design (seen here in West Chester, Ohio) is open and modern, with wider aisles, warmer colors, updated graphics, better sight lines and brighter lighting. Space was allocated with an eye to maximizing the brand and the return on investment.

In a key change, sightlines were improved by removing the top stock shelf from the fixtures. Most of the overstock is now kept above the perimeter fixtures with a system that keeps the boxes out of sight. The move not only opened up sight lines but also helped brighten up the store.

“We decluttered all the aisles and shelves to allow the customer to better see the full product offering,” Aitken added. “We have a phenomenal amount of product—some 40,000 SKUs—and this design showcases it better.”

Tear sheets with project ideas and project shopping lists are strategically placed on the side of endcaps.

“One of the things this store does is give customers ideas,” said Scott Jeffrey, chief creative officer, Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio. We tried to leverage educating the customer at shelf level at every opportunity.”

Using the concept of “the art of inspiration” as a design filter, the design team sought to communicate creativity by using the products in the store to highlight key departments and tell the story. The approach not only provides intuitive navigation, it also communicates a more distinctive branded personality, one that provides a sense of fun and inspiration throughout.

An entry focal area creates a gathering place for seasonal and trend items with the products pulled from key departments.

“All the categories come together to create a seasonal story upfront,” Jeffrey said.

By optimizing the use of space, Michaels was able to expand and celebrate its five key departments: jewelry-making, custom framing, scrapbooking, art supply and the new kids area. The categories are called out with store-within-a-store treatments.

“These are the drivers that get people in the door,” Jeffrey said, “and the growth opportunities for the future.”

The scrapbooking department, defined by a soffit with a paper lantern-styled graphic, has been moved to the center of the store. It features a workspace where customers can lay out their page ideas before purchasing product. In custom framing, a center island encourages a hands-on design experience.

The jewelry department has more than 5,600 different styles of beads, all of which are clearly sorted. The space allocated to the category has been expanded.

“Jewelry-making is just on fire for us right now—people are making it for themselves and as gifts,” Michaels’ Aitken said. “We did a lot of consumer research to see how our customer shops this category, and we found that shopping is part of the creative experience and we need to make sure the customer can be creative in the store. So we created little trays for the customer where she can lay out all of the different pieces that go into a jewelry piece.”

Michaels plans to feature the updated design going forward. To date, it has been rolled out in 32 stores, including new locations and remodels.

“Customers told us they wanted freshness and inspiration from our stores, and those qualities shine through from the moment the customer walks in the front door,” Aitken said.

To see more pictures of Michaels, go to

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