Information Design – Public Design

On a recent visit to the local mall I encountered a scenario that is likely occurring more frequently these days, and I’m certain all can relate.  Without any “hoopla” or farewell wishes, a local department store closed its doors, and went out of business seemingly quietly and discreetly.  BonTon (http://www.bonton.com/) a steadfast staple of the three local malls in the area, maintained a niche location in each, and catered to a niche patron who was interested in a “middle of the road” product priced at a discounted price point. 

Similar to Target’ (pronounced tar-zjay), BonTon carried most name brand products, and provided an exemplary customer service experience, while at the same time wallowing in the challenges of maintaining an “everything store” within a medium of shopping specific stores that exists in a local mall setting.  Think in terms of the stores within your local mall, a department store will simply maintain in this format, while product specific stores seemingly flourish.  The times of JC Penny, Kmart and the like able to coexists with product specific stores has waned and will continue to diminish in the wake of the Wal-Mart explosion.  So in this instance not only have the “mom and pop” small business owners been inundated with an inevitable overthrowing by mega giant (Wal-Mart), larger stores as well have found it to be an insurmountable endeavor to compete.

            Consider your last visit to the local mall; were there intentional purchases or impulse buys?  More likely than not, these purchases were made impulsively and most may not have intended to shop initially.  In the case of BonTon or other department stores visits most visited these stores under clear, intentional requirements.  “I need socks”, “I’m running low on my favorite scented lotion”, “I need laundry detergent”, are all likely viable scenarios for your department store visit.

            When considering information design, one can presume at some point there was signage or notice of some sort, pertaining to BonTon’s pending closure; however in this instance just a small posted printout taped to a window pane could be seen.  The large BonTon moniker was removed from the outside of the building, leaving the remnant  of a weathered outline against the building brick.  The BonTon logo was not removed from the “you are here” map near the now closed BonTon entrance, so as it pertains to information design this map was incredibly flawed in its delivery.  Considering the Wayfinding factor, without prior knowledge of BonTon’s existence one would presume the dark empty space, may have been vacant for many years.  While in actuality BonTon’s commercials in 2011 were a part of the onslaught of early December advertising inviting the public to visit the store to Christmas shop.

            Why the air of secrecy?  Visiting the corporate website there is no mention of the closing.  In fact the store hours are still shown:

Bon-Ton Greece Ridge

Greece Ridge
98 Greece Ridge Center
Rochester, NY  14626
585-227-1040

 Sun: 11am  – 6pm
Mon: 10am  – 9:30pm
Tue: 10am  – 9:30pm
Wed: 10am  – 9:30pm
Thu: 10am  – 9:30pm
Fri: 10am  – 10pm
Sat: 10am  – 10pm

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