Jarob Directs The Retail Experience

January 11, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Jarob Design has carved itself a niche in the national retail industry by telling people where to go, and indirectly, what to buy.

“You want to communicate with customers as many ways as possible,” said Jarob’s president and CEO, Doug VanPortfleet. “You want to put them in an environment that makes them as comfortable as possible.

“And you want to help them get around the store, but also to get them where the retailer wants them to be, like sales and points of purchase.”

Jarob Design started out 34 years ago designing and fabricating displays for trade shows and points of purchase. VanPortfleet said that the firm struggled in that realm, where the market was then extremely competitive but not very innovative.

A natural extension of that market, he reasoned, was the design of interior signage systems. Knowing that “way finding” signs and graphics help elongate the retail procession — and knowing 90 percent of retail sales are impulse — Jarob put its expertise to work for retailers.

Its first work was at D&W’s Grandville store. Now, Jarob averages $8 million to $10 million in annual revenue and is one of the nation’s top 10 providers of commercial graphics and interior signs and graphics. It counts Spartan Stores, Meijer and Safeway among its client base.

“Way finding is a process, a journey through a retail space,” VanPortfleet said. “It’s an overall marketing of the interior package. You’re making sure that the brand is carried out through the entire store and that the graphics impact the actual message.”

Working with interior designers, architects and merchandisers, Jarob works from concept to installation to help influence shoppers according to its clients’ wishes.

VanPortfleet said visitors must find their way simply and easily along the natural flow of the store’s layout. Way finding can also influence the visitor to go where the retailer wants, such as to sales items, the electronics section or the cash register.

Interior graphics — say a large orange bakery sign on the wall — also influence the consumer. Orange implies fresh, whereas red might invoke thoughts of meat and blue of fish.

“How are you going to make a customer think your product is fresh if the store doesn’t look fresh?” VanPortfleet asked. “The first thing Kmart did when they were trying to pull out of bankruptcy was redo their internal infrastructure.”

The signage itself must also represent the brand. A zoo, for instance, might have wooden signs made to appear like those pointing toward a primitive jungle village.

Jarob has also found great success outside of the retail space with these concepts. The firm was responsible for sign systems in most of the region’s parking ramps, as well as Spectrum Health, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel,

DeVos Place
and the Regis Philbin Studio Theatre.    

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