by Michelle Hespe
Becoming one of five Global Honorees in the 2018 IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) in Chicago is another step along what is sure to be a long and prosperous road for Tugó — a retail store with a mantra ‘Great design is for Everyone.’
Adriana Cano, Visual Merchandising Manager from Tugó, and Christian Morales, the store’s Marketing Manager, are nothing short of ecstatic about Tugó’s win this year at the IHA Global Innovation Awards in Chicago. They are still celebrating having become one of the world’s top retailers, and their loyal customers are as excited as they are.
“We knew we were up against huge competitors at gia,” says Adriana. “With countries such as Japan, the USA and the UK in the competition, which we know do retail so well, it was daunting. But we’ve worked so hard over the last 15 years, and now, with 350 staff, we have risen up, and we are redefining retail in South America. This win means so much to so many of us.”
The store’s manifesto is humble, yet its concept is far-reaching and even life changing, because Tugó’s aim is to ensure that good design is available to everyone. “Design should be for everyone,” says Christian with conviction, and with pride, because that’s exactly what Tugó’s staff have achieved in their home country, Colombia. “You shouldn’t have to be rich to buy designer pieces,” he says. “We place our product offering in the middle of the market, but all pieces revolve around great design, so anyone can improve their home.”
Tugó’s business started from a premise — the democratization of good design — and from there, the values behind the business took form and have continued to develop. Today, the store’s values shine through in all aspects of the business, whether that be in the form of staff training, product choice, customer service, or administration.
“At Tugó, we understand the true meaning of transparency and strive to apply it constantly, which is why integrity — in thinking, feeling and acting — is relevant for all the members of the team. It gives us all firm ground for the development of these values that form the basis of our culture,” says President of Tugó, Rodrigo Quintero Laverde. “Innovation is not only the domain of designers. Our staff in-store and those in administration are also committed to anticipating and changing their ways of seeing and doing things. They are aware that knowledge is the best tool to surprise others, and thus they understand and fulfill the expectations of our customers. Acting with agility, quickly and efficiently helps us to detect opportunities and to be unique, original and provocative.”
Two entrepreneurs, Santigo de Angulo and Daniel Levy, created Tugó with the assistance of Rodrigo, in 2002 in Bogota. Essentially, Tugó’s goal was to give customers an exceptional sensory experience, and access to quality products according to global trends, at a fair price. And best of all, with immediate availability. There is no waiting for a product to arrive at Tugó — you simply have it fetched after purchase from the warehouse.
From there, another facet of Tugó developed alongside a business boom in South America — products and great affordable design for offices, in the home and in commercial spaces.
“All products are obtained after much research and traveling the world, finding products tailored to our business, and what we want to show the customer in terms of novelty and differentiation, taking into account what the trends are, and then being pioneers in positioning them in the Colombian market,” explains Rodrigo.
The gia judges were impressed by how tech-savvy Tugó is and loved the fact that an ‘online store within the store’ has been created in one of the stores – and will soon be available in all of the 12 locations. Customers can access iPads in the aisles and find and watch demonstrations with products, there are TVs running videos related to Tugó and the many brands it stocks, and in some stores, there are touchscreens from which customers can visit Tugo’s website.
At first glance, particularly taking in its furniture displays, polished marketing brochures, online presence and social media, Tugó stores have a similar feel to IKEA. In a good way. Like IKEA, there’s an in-store cafe selling refreshments, coffee and freshly baked goods, and there’s also clearly defined, stylized rooms or environments where customers can touch, try, sit and lie down on the products. Each of the environments is presented as a proposal of style with trends that invite people to ‘live’ the products before they buy, and these display areas are continually updated.
However, there is so much about Tugó that clearly differentiates it. It offers customers more of a personalized, sensory experience, and Tugó also strives to support local communities and to give back to the world. For example, Tugó works with the Best Buddies foundation, which is an international non-profit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Tugó also works with Soy Doy, a non-profit enterprise that develops sustainable projects to improve nutritional wellbeing of boys and girls in Colombia.
The Tugó stores are big, and this is largely due to the promise of availability of products. Most stores are around 2,300 m2 (24,800 ft2), with an average of 1400 m2 (15,070 ft2), as exhibition areas, and the rest is warehouse, to house products that customers can purchase on the spot. But again, don’t be mistaken, as ‘big’ doesn’t mean a lack of emotion. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. “Due to the fact that we sell dreams, and thus the idea that quality of life is inherently connected to products for which people carry feelings and emotions, the store design is based on the idea that we have to offer our customers an exceptional experience during their visit, that manages to connect them with those feelings,” says Rodrigo.
Tugó does this by displaying products in realistic environments based upon the store’s main categories: Living and dining rooms, studios, home office, and bedrooms. The stores’ layouts are also in a U-shape, so that customers can see the breadth of the store, and follow a route, or return from where they came, without getting lost.
One thing is for sure, no one is lost when it comes to Tugó’s direction — the only way is forward for this gia Global Honoree that is revolutionizing retail in South America.
“We want to win more awards, and travel to seek out new things happening around the world. We enjoy going to lectures and talks about new concepts in retail, and the changes in technology and everything else related to retail and business, and this helps us to grow and adapt,” says Adriana. “We are hungry to learn and to know more. We will survive in this tough market because we will evolve. There will always be IKEA, or Amazon or some other giant, but we will evolve, while staying in touch with our market, and continue to grow and innovate alongside it.”
To learn more about Tugó, visit www.tugo.co.
For more information about the gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2018-2019, contact Piritta Törrö. Additional information on the gia program is also available online.
For more information about the International Home + Housewares Show and to pre-register for the 2019 Show, taking place in Chicago on March 2-5, 2019, please visit IHA’s website.