“Effortless style” is a term often bandied about in the fashion world, and it’s something that most of us would like to think we could pull off. It is about having a unique style that shines through everything you do and something that others would like to emulate. Francfranc certainly has an effortless style and edge, and a confident stride to boot – always remaining chic and in touch with the latest trends as it moves with the times. At Francfranc, it’s all about the appeal of a product and the appeal of the setting that surrounds it.
The retailer offers its customers a casual, stylish selection of lifestyle products and the inspiration to beautifully present them. The furniture, décor and homewares products are presented the same way that fashion is presented in top fashion boutiques – always with a philosophy – products that will bring fun, innovation, color and style to a person’s life.
Scott Kohno, a retail expert and juror for the gia Global Innovation Awards in Chicago and president of Los Angeles-based The Retail Element, is a big fan of Francfranc, often citing it as a great example of innovative retailing.
“Francfranc is all about fashion. It is all about emotion,” says Kohno. “From the visual displays to their photography, they are selling a vision. No different from top brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, Francfranc promotes the fashion image, the customer aspiration. This fashion, this emotion, is packaged into their brand and is projected through their stores, catalogs and websites worldwide,” he says.
The trend-setting brand gathers more fans by the day, continuing to expand its operations from Japan to now being firmly established in China, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. But always at the core of its success is pulling together the right products in beautiful spaces and selling those products at affordable prices. When it comes to merchandising at Francfranc, space management is key – offering customers home furnishing products that accentuate a particular space, through the coordination of stylish, practical items.
“Francfranc has always been fearless in investing a great deal of money on their branding, design, merchandising and lighting,” says Kohno. “Although Francfranc keeps the store fairly neutral, the big color statements, the oversized chandeliers, the change up of textures helps create a visual frame for the exciting merchandise.”
It’s been more than 20 years since the company first opened its doors and a lot has changed on the retail scene since then.
“I think people’s awareness of lifestyle has increased in the last two decades,” says Ai Kanzaki. “Back then, it was more about having a fun and rich lifestyle – about prices representing feelings or the quality of oneself. But the interior market has matured – and now the request for functionality is also strong, and there is more competition, from both domestic and foreign markets.”
Francfranc continues to target an audience with youthful minds who believe that fashion, trends and design can elevate their lives. And the company enchants this audience with elaborate stages for visual merchandising and regular updating of funky displays – doing anything to create a unique shopping experience.
“The store always maintains its wow factor,” says Kohno. “Between the oversized visual displays and oversized light fixtures, the entire store seems quite exceptional. Francfranc makes bold design statements that make people feel as though they should go through the store to see what this design leader has collected for them to buy.”
Because Francfranc prides itself on maintaining affordable pricing, one obvious question is how do they manage their up-market, fashionable image without being slotted into the “bargain” sector of the market?
“We will never become the cheap looking shop to match the affordable prices we offer,” says Kanzaki. “I think that by increasing the power of our website, and not just looking at the prices of single products, we will continue to keep our brand up-market – whether that is through the display of goods, the service of staff or working on the interior of the store – it’s all important.”
The concept of form meeting function is also crucial when it comes to the selection of products. The Francfranc products are not meant to just look pretty – they are meant to serve a purpose and enhance the buyer’s lifestyle, so that affordable prices also lead to a sense of pride and usefulness in the home. Today, with many consumers believing that it’s about buying products that look great but that also serve a purpose, Francfranc is right on the mark.
“The fact is, there is more of an awareness of lifestyle so people want different products to make their life easier,” says Kanzaki.
It’s true that there is a desire in the market for so many different products, but Francfranc is very discerning when it comes to the choice of products stocked.
“Francfranc’s merchandising strategy closely matches their brand identity. Their innovation is a daily progression of branding, design and merchandising carefully orchestrated like very few can do,” explains Kohno. “They have a specific design fashion sense and will stay focused to say no to design and merchandise that does not meet this tight and narrow criteria.”
And although design and its integration into fashion is very important to Francfranc, the store does not stock products that cannot be touched for fear of being broken. “It’s more important that there is a sense of fun for customers and that they become more mentally involved with the products,” says Kanzaki.
The company acknowledges that as a brand pivoted upon fashion and its ever-changing whims, often dictated by its customers and their love of social media, they have to move fast to stay ahead of the game. And so, the turnover rate of product is faster than at the normal retail store – as is the introduction of new products. Floor staff also change displays at a fast rate.
Martin M. Pegler, one of four gia experts who offers advice and feedback to gia winners in Chicago every year, was incredibly impressed by the merchandise presentation at Francfranc as well as the spacious feeling of the store’s architecture.
“If ever a space said ‘theater,’ Francfranc definitely spelled it out in capital letters,” Pegler says. “With the stages for displays set out prominently throughout the vast main floor, there is excitement and a sense of discovery that fills the space and the presentations. It’s both promotional and aesthetic, and this adds greatly to the shopping experience. When I think of Francfranc, I think of scale and drama. I think of harmonious arrangements of merchandise and of color featured in clever ways.”
For more information on Francfranc, visit www.francfranc.com.
Launched in Japan in 1992 by the BALS Corporation, Francfranc won a Global Honoree award in the 2011 gia Global Innovation Awards.