Have you found yourself loitering longer in shops such as Levi's or Principles this year? If so, there's a fair chance that Checkland Kindleysides had something to do with it.
As a specialist in retail design, the agency is at the forefront of a growing recognition that store environments present the ideal opportunity to showcase brand identity. Previously the domain of FMCG goods, branding has come to retail this year as never before.
In the past, retailers have relied on a generic style to fit out stores, but Checkland Kindleysides has made the most of the square-footage available to develop its clients' brands, right down to the last detail.
According to Kenny Wilson, president of Levi's in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, working with Checkland Kindleysides is a highly collaborative process. "It doesn't just respond to our brief; it comes back with additional ideas, additional solutions. It's about teamwork," he says.
The agency's managing director, Jeff Kindleysides, is renowned for his belief in research, although Wilson points out that he and his agency can be stubborn when it comes to sticking to ideas they really believe in.
It is fair to say that 2002 was not a great year for Checkland Kindleysides, but 2003 has seen the agency win back much of the revenue it had lost.
It has secured business from KFC, to roll out its 'Soul Food' positioning across its retail outlets; Marks & Spencer; Thorntons, Christy Towels; and Henri Lloyd, whose Carnaby Street store it has already refitted.
This year has also seen the agency deliver some impressive results for clients and add some major brands to its books.
The agency created the first Girls concept store for Levi's, in Paris. The jeans giant's store environments have been at the leading edge of retail design since the first Checkland Kindleysides-designed store opened in Leamington Spa in 1987, but this is the first time Levi's has developed a female-specific environment, with all the clothes on sale solely for women.
Traditionally a brand with a masculine feel, Levi's asked Checkland Kindleysides to give it a feminine edge, while remaining true to its core values.
Initial indications are positive. As well as doubling the time many customers spend in-store, compared with other Levi's stores studied over the past three years, the Girls store has overcome the challenge of having a two-floor space. Nearly half of all shoppers make their way upstairs, thus increasing the likelihood that they will make a purchase and maximising the time spent in the brand environment.
Levi's now looks likely to roll out the format across Europe and Asia over the next year.
The work has also inspired the Pink Strand project, which will see elements of the Girls store incorporated in various unisex and multi-brand store environments over the coming year.
Wilson highlights the agency's commitment to building profits for its clients, an area many design experts believe is neglected by agencies. "Checkland Kindleysides is not focused on design for design's sake. It is interested in gain-ing a thorough understanding of what we do and maximising profitability per square foot," says Wilson.
Checkland Kindleysides developed a scalable in-store concept for Principles, which has been rolled out across 19 of the clothes retailer's stand-alone stores and 18 concessions. November saw the opening of Principles' flagship store on London's Regent Street, which showcases the concept.
The agency's work on the relaunched Birmingham Bullring shopping mall has had a big impact. Built at a cost of £500m, it houses shops and restaurants on a town centre site the size of 26 football pitches.
Checkland Kindleysides' task was to establish the Bullring brand through an inspirational 'Design Guide' and share this with retailers and designers to stimulate creativity. The end result is a 'streetscape', which retains the individuality of the retailers' brands while maintaining overall objectives for the development.
The success of the project is evident in the fact that 60% of floor space has been let 15 months ahead of completion.
Checkland Kindleysides has also pulled in business on the back of its work in Birmingham, having been appointed as retail consultant for the proposed Cardinal Place office and retail development project in London's Victoria.
Design Business Association (DBA) president John Mathers says: "This year's rebirth of Birmingham's city centre - including the Bullring and Selfridges - is phenomenal. Birmingham is justifiably proud of itself, and this regeneration really helps to position it as the UK's second city."
This year Checkland Kindleysides has also gained significant incremental business following work carried out for Boots, George at Asda and Kohler Mira bathrooms. It is testament to the agency's ability to work with clients on a long-term, rather than project, basis.
Emily Rogers edits Marketing's Branding section. 020 8267 4163, firstname.lastname@example.org.