Q&A with Senior Designer, Claudia Kiessling

Claudia Kiessling

Senior Designer


Claudia Kiessling, our resident Senior Designer, has been working with Sportscene – one of South Africa’s most exciting retail brands – for 2 ½ years. We caught up with her when she got back from her recent trip to London and Amsterdam to find out how Sportscene stays current with trends and continues to innovate South Africa’s retail landscape.


How has the Sportscene brand evolved over the years?

A lot! TFG acquired Sportscene in 1996, so they used to be quite grungy. To adapt to the market, we’ve kept the street look, but we’ve cleaned it up completely. The signage is cleaner, there’s less graffiti, fewer layers…we’ve simplified it to lighten up the store more. The result is that customers can navigate the store much easier now, there’s less clutter and there’s a sharper focus – buy sneakers!

Sportscene, Menlyn Park


In the past, their go-to store size was around 250 m sq, but since 2015, a lot of their stores are more in the region of 600 m sq. The flagship stores, of course – West Street (Durban), Menlyn Park (Pretoria) and Canal Walk (Cape Town) – are huge, about 1,500 m sq.


They’ve also got bigger product ranges now and we’ve started introducing chill areas where customers have access to Playstation consoles and can charge their phones. We’re trying to break away from the dominant buy-and-go culture. By inviting customers to hang out in the store, we keep them there longer, which is better for business. Basically, we’re establishing a culture through the experiences we create.


But I feel like the biggest change the brand has undergone has been in how they use media. As little as two years ago, there wasn’t even a TV screen in the store. Now, they’re embracing many platforms. Their customers don’t want to be bored.


How do you keep up to date with trends in retail design?


There’s a lot of online research that goes into store design, obviously. But for Sportscene, I also get to go overseas once a year, which is nice. London is like the sneaker capital of the world – very cutting edge – so that’s always a pitstop. But with the last trip, we also went to Amsterdam.

ETQ, Amsterdam


It’s important not to get tunnel vision, though, so we don’t only look at sneaker stores. Selfridges and Liberty, for instance, are like haute couture in the retail design world. So, we always look at what they’re doing. In most cases, if we see something we like, we’ll pull it back into the mainstream when adapting it for our needs. And even though they’re nothing like Sportscene, boutiques often have some great ideas too.


What were some of the highlights of your last trip?

In London, we went to Lululemon’s flagship store – an athletic apparel brand. The customer experience was amazing. They really thought of everything, from olfactory branding (the scents in the store) to media. There was a screen, for instance, that recorded your movements and then projected an abstract graphic of them. It’s hard to explain, but it was just awesome. It looked so good. And it’s a fantastic product.


Lululemon, London


In Amsterdam, there was this really cool store called Solebox – a sneaker store. When you go inside, it looks like a lab. There’s mist rolling out from under the products and everything. There was theatre to it – a proper experience. All I wanted to do was buy sneakers!



Solebox, Amsterdam


How is the online space impacting store design?


Online retail hasn’t really impacted store design in South Africa yet. Although Yuppiechef are now building their first brick-and-mortar store – similar to what Amazon did in the US. On the other hand, there are companies like Quelle in Germany (a catalogue-based retailer) who said the internet was a fad, stuck to their business model and took a huge dive.


In my opinion, people still want to go out. They’re still chasing real-world experiences. So, our challenge in retail design is to create omnichannel experiences that put the customer first and operations second.


We’re doing something really cool at Sportscene’s flagship store in Canal Walk. We’re prototyping an Instagram booth programmed with 360° photos of landmark locations from all over the world. Customers can then go there and take pictures of themselves in those locations and tag themselves. Those pictures then go through Sportscene’s Instagram platform and their customers can have their five seconds of fame.


Virtual Reality (VR) is also definitely a thing. Samsung is sponsoring an in-store VR experience that we’re also testing at Sportscene’s Canal Walk store. The first experience will be a rollercoaster chair and bicycle, for instance, but then we’ll change it up every few months.


So, what can we take from all of this?


To stay relevant in the retail space, you have to focus on creating experiences your customers love. When creating an omnichannel experience, it’s vital that brands speak the same language across all channels. Brands have to be very clear about who their customers are and what they stand for. That’s one of the distinguishing factors of the Millennial generation – they know exactly who they are and what they want. But above all, brands shouldn’t lose sight of their product. In my opinion, experience seals the deal, but can’t do anything without a good product.


We’d love to hear from you. Do you agree with Claudia or is there something you’d like to add? If you’d like to talk to us to see how you can transform your retail experience, contact Tanya at TDC&Co on 0711341146


1 Comment

  1. Amy Hayward on 9th Oct 2017 at 9:28 am

    Go Claudia! Awesome work.

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