In several redesigned Teavana specialty retail stores, loose-leaf teas are boldly displayed in large glass cylinders for customers to see and smell as partners (employees) help them create custom blends.
“We’re bringing tea closer to our customers, immersing them in a hands-on tea experience,” said Bill Sleeth, vice president, Starbucks Store Design. “Making tea completely accessible by putting it at customers’ fingertips makes it less intimidating and more intriguing.”
By the end of the calendar year, customers will encounter this modern tea experience at nearly a dozen Teavana stores across the country, including Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California; Water Tower Place in Chicago; and Galleria in Dallas. Additional stores are scheduled for renovation in the coming months and next year. The new design concept is intended to guide customers through the store to discover their personal preferences in flavors and tea varieties.
“We’ve learned that customers crave multi-sensorial experiences and are intrigued by exploration when shopping,” said Sleeth. “Through our design, we are unleashing Teavana teas and delivering a contemporary approach to tea culture.”
Creating the Atmosphere
Working alongside Sleeth, Starbucks design manager Katie Perkins selected materials to make the stores warm and inviting.
“When customers enter these stores, they will see beautiful wood wrapping loose-leaf tea containers and on tabletops,” she said. “We created layers with different tones of gray to provide a more elegant shopping experience.”
A tea wet bar is placed near the entry of each store and is where partners begin to learn about customers’ tea tastes. Each day, different varieties of iced and hot teas are available for sampling.
Customization is also a key highlight with a blending table that sits at the center of each location. Concrete bowls with stainless steel inserts are attached to the tables that invite customers to experiment with the nearly 100 premium loose leaf teas that Teavana offers. “The concrete bowls and table base are handmade, just like tea is handmade,” said Sleeth. “The craft of tea is reflected through the details of the design. We’ve dialed up the elegance particularly in the areas where interaction takes place.”
“As the visual focal point of the store, the blending table is where partners can spend more concentrated time with customers talking about tea,” Perkins said. “This helps customers find the perfect tea and how to best brew it at home.”
Subtle cues throughout the store represent the tradition and heritage of tea.
“When tea is dried, it’s placed in these really gorgeous baskets,” said Perkins. With this in mind, we created a wooden structure with a cross-hatch design that hangs from the ceiling in these locations.
In addition, tables used to display colorful merchandise were constructed with a raised edge, fashioned after baskets used to collect tea.
“Our aim was to draw inspiration from the way tea is handled at origin including the way it’s picked and dried,” said Sleeth. “It’s a subtle way that we help tell the tea story.”
Sleeth and Perkins consulted with store managers and other partners to ensure a functional space, conducive to tea education.
“It’s really hard to determine the design of the stores without learning about the tea and the customer experience, particularly from the partner perspective,” said Sleeth.
“Together we were a small, but mighty team,” said Perkins. “The integrated design of the stores is the result of a truly collaborative effort.”