Where does a company start when faced with the opportunity to expand their retail locations, finding themselves bursting at the seams? With two Alberta locations under their belt, Homes Alive Pets knew that it was time to set up shop in a big way. Opening a flagship location is not only an enormous venture to take on as a business, but it also entails many important moves in a physical sense.

Cutler did a preliminary deep dive into what a flagship location “looked like” to Homes Alive Pets. This practice allowed the client to do a high-level check in with us, making sure that as their designers, we were able to maximize the company’s growth plan goals into their physical space. Our first step was to look at what they were outgrowing, and what high level essentials they needed more of. Three things came to mind immediately for Homes Alive Pets.

We asked – what are your challenges for the spaces you are operating in now and how can we respond to these?

“We need an office space.”
The idea of having a head office gives the client a centralized hub that allows for all communications and operations to function out of one place. This gives them a place to entertain suppliers, expand on their fast-growing marketing department, and maximize operations on an even larger scale than before.
“We’ve outgrown the back of house square footage that we currently use, we need a lot of warehouse space for handling the high volumes we put out, as well as a distribution center to our other locations.”
This challenge came in the form of finding the right space in Edmonton. Logistically, location is everything, however what they needed was a space with high ceilings, durable warehouse conditions and the requirements to accommodate shipping and receiving. A Mercedes dealership that was going out of business with an existing large service department was the perfect place for operations of this type.
“We’re a retail store at the end of the day, the more space we have to offer to shoppers the better.”
Homes Alive Pets focuses on large volume grocery for pets. We wanted to take what was working from their previous spaces and elevate that. In large spaces like this linear square footage is highly important. We layered in multi-level wayfinding, clearly communicated zoning, and branded storytelling to help keep customers moving, with the willingness to shop around the entire space.

Once clearly identifying the three main objectives with the client, we were able to commit to a space that worked best for their needs. Our next step was to define who Homes Alive Pets was as a brand and create the experience best suited for the customers who frequent the space.

“We’re different than your average pet commercial, big-box pet store. We want to create and uphold a distinct identity. We’re creative, and part of that is being quirky. Being quirky isn’t about being weird, it’s being confident in going against the grain. We are not afraid to try something different. Part of being approachable is being relaxed. We’re not pushy and we want each customer to come to conclusions by themselves. Our products speak for themselves. We pay attention to what aspects of products matter to customers and point them out. We need to be light in our dialogue. Pet owners can deal with some pretty tough and aggravating issues. By taking a lighter approach, our customers can laugh about those problems, as well as find community in us.”

Home Alive Pets, Our Mission

Often times the most valuable thing to a company is their brand voice and presence. Homes Alive Pets came to us with valuable information about who they were and what their mission was in the pet industry. Homes Alive Pets came to us knowing that with their rapid growth they were unable to clearly communicate their story into their spaces. In cases like this Cutler can take all these bits and pieces and define them into a Brand Guidelines Package.

We worked with the client to develop these guidelines to ensure that their brand would be accurately implemented into their retail environments across multiple locations. By creating a consistent look and feel, starting with their Flagship location, it was easy to build a strong community and a more recognizable brand. The goal for the design of the stores was that they align with their brand mission and that the design was simplified enough to align with their fresh look and feel. In a Brand Guidelines Package, we compile information such as strategic principles like spatial zoning and customer flow, key design elements, and detailed information about specifications. By having these elements in one quick reference package the client is then able to confidently aid in store implementation or roll outs. It is important that these guidelines are designed to easily adapt to any Homes Alive Pets store, whether new or existing. (example pages referenced below)

Following a strict definition, and because of size alone, this store qualifies for “flagship” status, but that isn’t all they have in their wheelhouse. There are a few things that sets Homes Alive Pets apart from other branded pet stores locally. It’s these three things that we believe give this location it’s unique “Flagship” designation.

  1. Homes Alive Pets is independently owned, they are not a franchise. This means that they are not limited by where they can source awesome pet products and they can have a curated design that meets the likes of their community.
  2. Their team has a lot of youth behind the leadership of their company, but also extensive experience too. This is translated into the language of the materiality, the informational wayfinding applications and how the custom millwork is designed. You’ll find a lot of curved metal and plywood forms, unique colored paneling and bold color blocking through brand colors.
  3. The stores are high volume and regionally located – Rather than situate themselves in smaller communities, they are located along major arteries where guests will conveniently be able to “whip in and whip out” to get their pet’s food. This all manifests in a guest experience where they can find the best selection of the best quality brands at better prices (we are a value proposition) in locations where we are very convenient for them at least once a month.

As we suggested in the introduction, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when faced with the opportunity to expand your retail locations. By focusing on the core makeup of your branded environment and your operational needs, a flagship can then come together in a physical sense. Whether you’re considering rolling out 10 stores across Canada, maybe honing in on your brand uniformity, or it’s time to open your flagship location we’re here to help make that happen for you.

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