As store design has shifted its focus dramatically from "static space" to "dynamic environment" over the past several years, designers and planners for commercial spaces are required to have not only professional expertise in architecture and interior design but also a broad perspective covering the programming of information and images as well as environmental protection. JAPAN SHOP 2008, Asia's largest comprehensive exhibition for stores held at TOKYO BIG SIGHT from March 4 to 7, was an ideal opportunity to experience such change and evolution. With the participation of 246 exhibitors occupying 723 booths, the event, together with the other trade fairs held at the same time and venue, attracted a total of 260,588 visitors.
JAPAN SHOP 2008
JAPAN SHOP has gained much attention not only as a place to present new products but also as a showcase of innovative concepts for store design and display in the future. This article explores the future of store development through three perspectives, citing examples from new products and systems showcased at JAPAN SHOP 2008.
Environments That Change to Meet Customer Needs
Possibilities for Dynamic Store Spaces
Visitors to JAPAH SHOP 2008 were greeted by a pair of "PALETTE" (tentative name) mannequin robots and some mannequins with LC display heads, "ACTOR" and "ACTRESS", in the entrance area called the Welcome Zone. The "PALETTE" mannequin robots, developed by FLOWER ROBOTICS and SGI JAPAN, detected human movements and reacted accordingly. This presentation in the Welcome Zone was an interesting example of new storefront promotions that could turn conventional store spaces into dynamic spaces.
"PALETTE" from Flower Robotics and SGI Japan
"ACTOR" and "ACTRESS" from ROSA
ROSA, a time-honored provider of mannequins and store displays, showcased some pairs of mannequins with LC display heads, "FRA" (female mannequins) and "FRI" (male mannequins). These mannequins, incorporating store fixtures and LC displays, could make customers more informed about individual products and allow store owners to enhance each product by showing effective images. Rosa's "ELEXY", a transparent inorganic EL display to show illuminating messages also attracted much attention as a new information displaying system. When combined with sensor technology and/or interactive systems, either of them could enable more effective storefront promotions and the provision of personalized information for individual customers.
"FRA" and "FRI" from ROSA
Digital signage has dramatically evolved thanks to increasingly sophisticated information displaying systems. I was very delighted to keep myself updated about this emerging industry at JAPAN SHOP 2008. Digital signage is not a simple tool to replace conventional posters, banners and signs with digital images. It is a sales promotion tool that could effectively change the mood of customers by offering them right information in the right way on time. Several exhibitors, including ROSA, presented innovative information displaying systems whose display monitors were designed to blend in with store spaces.
For example, KIMOTO showcased "DILAD Banner System" that could generate various different images on a rear projection screen in any size, anywhere in your store. It is notable that the system generates very clear images with high contrast and brightness. As they look very like photos printed on banners, they fit in well with store space just like background music.
"DILAD Banner System" from KIMOTO
HUMAN INTERFACE SYSTEM released "AD-CAN", a movable information stand comprised of a backlight display stand using a LED panel, a 22 inch LC display panel and a pair of speakers, at a low price. It looked a little more compact than an ordinary backlight sign stand (W580xD450xH1400). It can be used with an original system to distribute images through the Internet.
"AD-CAN" from HUMAN INTERFACE SYSTEM
Among various exhibits in the effect light category including LED color lighting systems, LECIP's cold cathode lighting (CCL) series was particularly impressive. CCL is a stable light source with high luminous efficiency based on neon light technology. The other attractive features of CCL include a long life (equivalent to that of LED) and low control cost. LECIP's CCL series comes in several types including: one with a color temperature control and another with a color control. These controls allow you to change the atmosphere of your store as you like according to the time, season and marketing plan. In this sense, it is one of those systems that can change store spaces dynamically.
Energy Saving and Waste Reduction
As the reduction of greenhouse gas has become a global issue, not only governmental agencies and major firms but also store designers, planner and owners need to make utmost efforts to achieve the Kyoto Protocol emission target. Under these circumstances, LED has recently attracted considerable attention as an energy-saving, long-life light source. Continuous technological development has dramatically improved the brightness and illuminance of LED. JAPAN SHOP 2008 also featured a number of new solutions using LED lighting.
The LED lighting products exhibited by SUGATSUNE KOGYO were characterized by a wide variation and user-friendly designs. Among them, "SLIM LIGHT", a space-saving LED lighting system with high efficiency achieves a brightness equivalent to that of fluorescent lighting while reducing power consumption by 50%. The series also has a very long life. In theory, you do not have to replace the bulbs until you use the system 8 hours a day for about 20 years. The other impressive products presented by the exhibitor included the "FLUQS" wall display series, a line of extremely compact universal down lights with marble-sized LED lighting systems, and lighting fixtures for extremely thin display units using small fluorescent lights. Each of these energy saving systems achieves both high color rendition and low power consumption.
A German-made LED-embedded transparent glass panel system distributed by SCHOTT NIPPON was another impressive example of display systems using LED. Comprised of LED devices sandwiched between an ordinary transparent glass panel and another glass panel with extremely fine metal wires printed on its surface, the system illuminates when the metal wires are electrified. The technology used for this system was not very new. However, this lighting system of an acrobatic structure, with LED spotlights were directly mounted on the transparent glass panel on whose surface copper wires were printed, seemed quite useful in building original display units. SCHOTT NIPPON also exhibited some display materials of wide application such as German-made translucent precast concrete panels.
MIYACHI presented the "i seil" series, a line of outdoor lighting systems combining photovoltaic and LED technologies. The series covers a range of freestanding outdoor lighting systems including wall brackets, street lights and foot lights. Since they do not need to be connected to any power source, they can be placed anywhere in the sun. They store solar power during daylight hours and automatically light up when their sensors are activated at dark. They take advantage of the high efficiency of LED lighting. They keep lighting up for a period of 3 or 5 days even under insufficient sunlight conditions.
"i seil" from MIYACHI
New environmentally-friendly products were also exhibited at JAPAN SHOP 2008. They included alternative and recycled display materials focusing on the reduction of waste. For example, polystyrene boards have been widely used as base materials for store displays. However they are usually disposed of as industrial waste because it is quite difficult to separate the paper coating from the polystyrene base. JETGRAPH's "X-Board", a highly-durable honeycomb paper board system, gathered considerable attention as a lightweight alternative material with workability. It comes in three types of thickness: 10mm, 12mm and 16mm. Made up from used paper, byproduct fiber and regenerated pulp without using wax or polyethylene, "X-Board" is 100% recyclable and does not emit any hazardous substances when burned. Featured with high durability, it is also suitable to build makeshift furniture and display units.
"X-Board" from JETGRAPH
ASWAN showed "Neoflex", a floor covering series made from waste tire rubber. It comes in two types: one in solid black made solely from recycled tire rubber, and the other made from recycled tire rubber and colorful synthetic rubber tips to create a terrazzo pattern. Either type is available in tiles and rolls.
"Neoflex" from ASWAN
The appeal of JAPAN SHOP also lies in the chance it offers of catching up with the latest trends in energy-saving technology and environmentally-friendly materials. The exhibitors showcasing wide format inkjet printers also seemed to be more concerned about environmental protection, rather than being keen on developing something new. For example, SEIKO I INFOTECH emphasized the use of virtually odorless solvent inks for improved working conditions and reduced health risk.
SEIKO I INFOTECH
Materials and Technology That Open up
New Possibilities for Stores and Allow More Beautiful Store Spaces
Among a wide spectrum of building and interior finishing materials and systems for stores exhibited at JAPAN SHOP, new technologies and systems to add color to store spaces have recently increased their presence. In particular, new products presented by suppliers of interior finishing materials and furniture have been very worth seeing. At JAPAN SHOP 2008, the presentation by SANGETSU, a major manufacturer of interior fabrics, was particularly impressive. It featured a new technology combining laser cutting and thermo compression bonding for interior decoration using fabrics. With this technology, you can cut out any pattern you like from a fabric, and fix it on the surface of another fabric using thermo compression bonding and PVC. SANGETSU's stand was surrounded by a black lightproof curtain from which numerous "cherry petal" patterns had been cut out. Through these cherry-petal-shaped holes, the light inside the stand was seen. The interior of the stand was beautifully done with cherry petals cut out from pastel fabrics. A beautiful fabric chandelier created by the same technology was also a highlight of the stand and added a delicate touch to the interior space. The technology, I believe, has a lot of potential to open up new possibilities for textile design to evolve into a three-dimensional art.
Last year, TAMATOSHI, a supplier of designer furniture and display units, presented the "HANGLINE" series, a line of display units in minimal designs, and attracted much attention. At the 2008 show, the company exhibited four different series of modular display units developed by Italian GRUPPO GIBAM. The simple yet original display units characterized by bright Italian colors and beautiful details seemed to have wide application.
SHUKOH presented a very long glass table developed and manufactured by Italian "Unifor". Comprised of a 4-meter-long glass table top and four metal legs, the table seemed to impress many designers with its architectural form and beautiful yet somewhat acrobatic design. Designed originally for office use, it could be used in a store as well. The company also showcased a set of office chairs by Danish Fritz Hansen to match this table. The chairs were resized for Japanese people.
Wide format printers have now become one of the essential tools to create attractive store spaces. JAPAN SHOP 2008 was an ideal place to update ourselves with the latest information on them. Some exhibitors demonstrated their UV printers that could print messages and images directly on various materials. Among them were FUJI FILM GRAPHIC SYSTEMS and ROLAND D.G. The latter showed how their wide format printer was useful to print logos and messages on different objects including storefront signs, mugs, aprons, menus and posters. It was apparent that the exhibitors were not interested in attracting visitors by simply emphasizing the new features of their products. Instead, they emphasized the user-friendliness of their printers, and showed how their printers could beautifully print logos and messages on various objects. It seems that their presentations at JAPAN SHOP will become more diverse and original in the future.
FUJI FILM GRAPHIC SYSTEMS
As a number of new systems and materials were showcased at JAPAN SHOP 2008, I am very interested in seeing how they will be sophisticated and improved. JAPAN SHOP 2009 is promised to be a more successful event to showcase the future of store design. JAPAN SHOP 2009 is scheduled to be held at TOKYO BIG SIGHT from March 3 to 6, 2009.
Kazuo Hashiba (editor)