Located in a rapidly developing area of West Cairo, Designopolis is a 60,000 m2 retail centre specializing in home furnishing and home accessories. The project is single use retail, but located within a larger high end master planned community. The developers of Designopolis, Bonyan, focused on the importance of good design as a central guiding principle and invested heavily on the projects planning and architecture. Phase 1 of Designopolis launched in mid-2010 and all three phases will be open by 2012.
Home Furnishing Centre Concept
Designopolis is not the first home furnishing themed centre to be developed. Similar concept projects have been completed in North America, Asia and Europe. Home furnishing clusters are naturally occurring in organically developed urban areas due to the comparison nature of related retail merchandise. Major home furnishing shopping trips typically occurs sporadically, often in conjunction with a move of residence. As a result, home furnishing retailers generate less foot traffic than the average retailer but can generate comparatively high sales as customers have long dwell times and spend large amounts each.
The ultimate home furnishings model is IKEA which generates both high sales per visitor and high foot traffic (hence why the store is such an unparallel success). A home furnishing centre is essentially an IKEA but split into individual store brands. IKEA leads customers through a logical pathway which matches customers shopping patterns → Living Room → Kitchen → Dining Room → Bedrooms → Bathrooms. The concept starts with the most public part of one’s home and finishes at the most private with the intention that customer’s will spend the most in the areas which are visible to visitors. Major purchases are followed up by a cafe / restaurant where visitors can relax, then a whole plethora of home furnishing accessories. Although the concept cannot be directly implanted in a home furnishing retail centre, the overriding concept of a logical shopping flow is important.
IKEA Typical Floorplan
Designopolis’ creators looked to a project called Villa Arena near Amsterdam when developing the project. Both Villa Arena and Designopolis function on the principle that good interior and exterior design is inspirational to home furnishing consumers. The buildings and public spaces themselves become marketing tools which motivate customers to really consider their home furnishing choices just as they would their fashion choices. Inspiring design is also the most important strategy developers can use to differentiate a middle-upper end home furnishing project from a middle to lower-middle IKEA.
Designopolis After Opening
I had the opportunity to recently revisit Designopolis several months after its opening. After a soft start the project is picking up steam after a very successful Christmas promotion (yes even in predominately Muslim Egypt). Designopolis had prominent designers from across Cairo create their own Christmas tree out of various materials and presented them throughout the project. A Christmas fair was held and an award was handed out to the best designed tree. The project received 8,000 cars in one day despite only having approximately 1,000 parking spaces!
Since this festival foot traffic has increased significantly and with new residential completions in coming months, sales are expected to pick up. However even before the festival, retailers were not complaining about low sales volume. Even though foot traffic was low, those customers who did come spent large heavily.