Beth Karlin / Shopping Centers Today – Anyone wanting to slip into the mellowed bliss of la-la land should probably avoid the La La Land store, on Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Street, in Los Angeles, its name notwithstanding. On the other hand, if one seeks immersion into the sensory-overload excitement of multimedia interactivity, then this new retail concept could be the very first place to go.
When brothers Gill and Ofer Zahavi first envisioned this video-centric Hollywood -experience, which opened in June, they were following this formula: Entertainment plus Hollywood flash equals retail traffic. Their calculations could hardly have been better: Gill Zahavi says he estimates that upwards of 10,000 awed visitors cross the threshold of this all-things Hollywood memorabilia store daily. “It’s exceeding our expectations,” he said.
The Zahavis have a 25-year history in Los Angeles retailing. It seems they understand Hollywood retail sensation well, having owned the Hollywoodland Experience, a smaller, milder version of La La Land — which may perhaps show that these things are best worked up to gradually. In any case, this new concept is drawing locals and tourists by the millions each year. For tourists, the visit may be a strictly once-in-a-lifetime proposition, but as for the locals, keeping them excited and coming back will take work, says retail expert Paco Underhill.
“What gets ‘hot’ fast can cool fast if there’s no innovation,” Underhill said, pointing to some Niketown stores, where sales have dropped, and to the failed Warner Bros. store in New York City’s Times Square. No worries, Zahavi says — fast-paced innovation is built into the DNA of the store’s programmable multimedia systems. “We have mountains of programming and can change content often,” he said. “But even without changes, the store will feel like a new experience every time. No one will get bored.”
The name La La Land is visible from some distance away, spelled out in eight-foot-high letters from just inside wraparound glass walls. Videos are projected across those letters, and videos are also playing continuously on 14 floor-to-ceiling columns throughout the 30,000-square-feet emporium, and on a 20-by-12-foot screen at the back of the store. During shopping hours the glass walls slide open, making the store one with the street outside. “It’s a carnival atmosphere,” said Richard Altuna, an independent designer and retail strategist in Los Angeles, who worked with the -Zahavis on the store’s design. “People stop and stare, and most find their way into the store.” Altuna has devised new concepts for the likes of Estée Lauder, Microsoft and Taco Bell.
Inside, a suspended globe divided into 49 square components has an engine behind each square, powering them to pop out at varying times with displays of video programming and photos of customers, taken in the store. The photo backgrounds change, which helps keep things fresh for repeat customers. The store shelves teem with movie memorabilia, trophies fashioned like Oscar statuettes and bearing such inscriptions as “Best Dad,” sports paraphernalia, T-shirts and the like, most of it California-themed. “The idea is to catch and keep the customer as long as possible, to encourage and maximize the visit,” said retail consultant Jeff Green, who heads an eponymous firm in Phoenix. “The longer they stay and the more involved they are, the more they will spend.”
Increasingly, the retailers are adding to the festive electricity with interactive features of their own. Marilyn Monroe Spas, a fast-growing chain of nail and beauty spas, has video monitors throughout store that promote the glitz and glamour of traditional Hollywood. And the Urban Decay cosmetics chain is planning a video display wall and an interactive photo booth. Some of the clothing stores provide adjustable lighting in the fitting rooms for effect.
Interactivity of this type is no prerequisite for successful retail, according to Altuna, but even retailers that do not incorporate multimedia in their concepts are making smarter design choices these days, he says. “They recognize the importance of design in capturing sales,” Altuna said. They are using more-elegant materials and other appealing motifs to attract attention, he says.
La La Land, though, is unique, Altuna says. “It’s pretty much over-the-top,” he said. But then, this degree of theatrical razzmatazz is hardly out of place in this legendary Los Angeles neighborhood where La La Land sits, he says. After all, the site is less than a block from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where the Academy Awards take place year after year, and it is also near the Hollywood Wax Museum.