Attractive males with surfboard abs wearing nothing but red drawstring shorts and a red whistle around their necks stand in front of a well known store, Hollister Company, smiling and posing for pictures. Are they models? Are they lifeguards? Are they lifeguards who model? Nobody knows, but these guys sure do bring a lot of attention and customers to the store wherever and whenever they show up. When I was in high school, actually even now too, I was one of the girls who were excited to see these models without ever questioning the logic behind having models who barely wear anything from the store to advertise Hollister Co. clothing. Sadly, these male models were not there when I went to the Short Pump Town Center last weekend to observe and analyze Hollister Co. and its design and branding strategy.
Upon arrival, the first thing I saw was the store logo. Hollister Co.’s logo is made up of a maroon bolded typeface, Alternate Gothic, spelling out the store name “Hollister” in all capital letters. Above the store name is a silhouette of a seagull with its wings spread out which signal that the bird is flying above the sea or along the coast. Underneath the store name is the word “California” which is also spelled out in all capital letters as well. The store logo is simple yet I was able to see this logo from across the mall. In addition to the logo, customers are able to see a big TV screen that filled up almost the entire wall right behind the clear glass door. The TV is screening a “live” footage of people playing and surfing at the Huntington beach. By doing this, no matter what Hollister Co. store the customers are in or what state the store is located, the customers will have this sense that they are in California enjoying the same beach view as other Hollister Co. customers without even having to go inside the store. However, I would like to point out that Hollister is an actual city in California. Anyone who has been to Hollister, California can tell you that your chance of finding sexy surfer boy is extremely low. Hollister, California is an agricultural town surrounded by mountains and has a lot of open fields. The more appropriate theme for Hollister, California is probably farming instead than surfing. Hollister Co. made it believable that Hollister, California is a beach city by using signifiers like the seagull, which is usually found only at the beach, and the Alternate Gothic typeface, which is widely use for signage at the beach because of its big and easy to read characteristic.
After observing the logo and the front of the store for a couple of minutes, I finally went inside. The layout of Hollister Co. is fairly simple, and they’ve kept it consistent in every Hollister Co. store I’ve been to so far. The store is divided into two sections. On my left is the men section which Hollister Co. called the Dude’s section, and on my right is the women section which Hollister Co. called the Betty’s section. I believe they are using slangs to keep the local surf theme going. The entrance of both sections have green wooden shutter doors. The entire store is made of wood grain tile floor painted the same color as the doors with a little bit of rugged texture. The ceiling of the interior is also made with tiled. Hollister Co. uses dark brown vintage tables and cabinet to showcase some of their clothes. These cabinets are also made to look like vintage closets. The interior of the store is very dim with the spotlight only focusing on the products they are selling. The music is played loudly, and the cologne and perfume Hollister Co. workers sprayed around the store are very overwhelming, but still smell good. In almost every room, Hollister Co. had placed big picture frames with models wearing their clothes. These frames consists of pictures of male models who are usually carrying a surfboard relaxing at the beach or girls wearing very loose fitted clothes at the swimming pool or having a picnic. All the rooms also have potted palm trees integrated somewhere near the clothing. In the middle of the store, where the Dude’s section and the Betty’s section meet, is where the cash register is located. Here, the cashier is wearing loose fitted clothes by Hollister Co. herself. She looked very relax and informal. She’s acting as another beach goer, when in reality she is there to take your money. Hollister Co. designed the cash register so that the front would be similar to a fridge or a bar. I took a closer look at the cash register, and those bottles are actually fake. They are not real products that customers can buy from Hollister Co., but they are there to make the cash register looks like a place where customers can grab a few drinks. The floor of this room is also different from the rest of the store. This room has black and white tile floor which is usually seen in kitchen. In addition, there is a sofa in front of the cash register where I was sitting when I took the photo. This room gives out a more homey atmosphere than the rest of the store. I believe Hollister Co. is trying to replicate a living room where beach goer would come back to relax after a long day at the beach. They want customers to feel comfortable and not reluctant about spending money there. The last thing I noticed about the interior design is there is no window, or at least no real window because all the windows inside of the store are shut, and customers cannot see anything through the window as there is no window matching it from the outside. By keeping the customers closed off from the outside, the customers will not be distracted and will not be reminded that they are not at a beach house, but they are just at another store at Short Pump. The overall design and their choice of flooring, furnitures, music, and smell of the store is mimicking the appearance of an old beach house as Hollister Co. is trying to create an immersive environment, so customers feel like they are on vacation somewhere in southern California. This type of environment, casual vintage beach theme, is usually appealing to teenage boys and girls, which I believe is their targeted customers.
The last thing I want to point out is the number “1922” which are in most of the design. Customers are made to believe that Hollister Co. was found in the year 1922. This is not true. The store was created with a fictional backstory with a guy name John Hollister who traveled to Laguna Beach, California, in 1922 and started the Hollister company. His love for traveling became the brand identity as a clothing store designed for those who love adventure, which I find ironic because Hollister clothes are very casual and are not made for heavy traveling. The real Hollister company was established in early 2000, but not many people know about this because Hollister Co. wants people to think that the store has a long and historical legacy.