From the Design Desk: Retail Design

The notion of publisher-as-bookseller is not new. The Beaux Arts Scribner Book Store on Fifth Avenue in New York operated continuously from 1913 until 1988. Through its doors passed 20th century literary lights Hemingway and Fitzgerald and their legendary editor, Maxwell Perkins (an aside: from 1967 to 1972 Patti Smith worked at Scribner’s as a retail clerk).

Doubleday Book Shop, also on Fifth Avenue, closed in 1997 after 36 years of business. And Italian publisher Rizzoli established its mid-town New York store in 1964. It is the sole survivor of what might be called the old guard, venerable oases where writers, editors, and literary agents browsed in elegant surroundings.

While the old guard stores succumbed to rising rents and changing reading habits, younger publishing houses have taken up the cause to establish purpose-designed environments dedicated wholly to their books and products. German publisher Taschen, the British Phaidon Press, and Chronicle Books maintain retail stores in the U.S., U.K., Europe, and Asia.

Chronicle’s foray into retail sales began modestly in 2001 with a 500-square foot kiosk in San Francisco’s retail-entertainment Metreon complex.

In 2007, with Chronicle’s move to its own building, we transformed the building lobby into a retail shop with two-story windows onto the street and in-house designed moveable display fixtures. On those occasions when we stage literary events or design shows, the fixtures can be moved aside.

Chronicle Books Building, San Francisco.

Lobby store, Chronicle Books Building.

Later in 2007, Chronicle opened its first freestanding store, designed by Macy Architecture, on San Francisco’s trendy Union Street. Our reason for venturing into selling our own wares was in part a fulfillment of a wish many of us had to become closer to our growing fan base. In contrast to books of prose and poetry that are meant only to be read—increasingly on a screen—our books are intended to be held and appreciated for the tactile qualities of the printing, papers and bindings. What better way to showcase our books—and gift products—than in an environment we had a hand in designing?

Union Street store exterior.

Union Street store interior.

Also, and this is no doubt true for marketers such as Nike, Apple, and Patagonia, direct-to-consumer retail is a brand-building exercise: an occasion to immerse consumers in all things Chronicle, an opportunity to show all our lines in a concentrated environment.

In March 2012, in conjunction with renovations to the Metreon, Chronicle debuted an expanded, newly designed space in the retail-entertainment complex. Conceived by San Francisco’s Aidlin Darling Design, the 2,000-square foot store looks out on Fourth Street across from bustling Moscone Center.

Metreon store exterior.

Metreon store interior.

Metreon store interior.

And in fall 2012, Chronicle launched its first international store built within the LOFT department store in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district. Taking cues from our new Metreon store, in-house industrial designer Ben Laramie fashioned an installation that features display modules consisting of cabinets and shelves that can be adapted to a variety of future potential retail spaces. With that in mind, an additional store in Japan is in the offing.

LOFT store-in-store, Tokyo.

LOFT store-in-store, Tokyo.

One of my objectives as creative director is to generate an engaging atmosphere wherever our books are on view, whether at a tradeshow or in a retail setting, that complements our products with the same level of design intention that we put into our goods. You are invited to experience this for yourself: if you are in San Francisco or Tokyo, pay us a visit, browse and enjoy the space at one of our stores.

Michael Carabetta
Creative Director

Chronicle Books Tokyo
1F, Yurakucho Infoss, 3-8-3,
Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo, 100-0005 JAPAN
Tel: 03-5223-6210
Hours: 10:00 – 21:30

Visit our San Francisco stores here.

Michael Carabetta

Michael Carabetta

Creative Director
Michael Carabetta

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