Redefining retail: The Armoury, Arsenal
What defines a retail experience? This is the question that formed the basis of the redesigned, immersive experience at The Armoury, the official Arsenal FC store at the club’s home ground, the Emirates Stadium in London. Reece Webb reports.
In a world of convenient online shopping, retailers fight back with the power of in-store experiences to get consumers off the sofa and into the store.
At The Armoury in London, integrator Knektd, manufacturer DynamoLED Displays and AR company Inde combined for immersive sound, display and VR to provide a one-of-a-kind, immersive experience that turns the retail space into its own brand of attraction.
Stewart Maynard, director, Knektd explained: “The store has to be a destination in itself, not just a place where visitors go in to pick up items. There has to be enough in the store that you want to take photos of things, you want to say what an amazing experience that was.”
The project involved design company 442, who recommended Dynamo for the project with Knektd becoming involved with the project through Open Ear, a commercial music streaming company that handled the music and audio files on the project.
Maynard: “The Armoury was going through a full redecoration and partial refit because the official kit supply was changing from Puma to Adidas. The retail store can’t just be a shop anymore: It has to be ‘Instagrammable’, something to drive you to be there than just buying the football shirt.”
When Knektd and Dynamo became involved with the project, work was already underway with the deadline fast approaching. Maynard had two weeks on site to complete the install to the specification that The Armoury required.
The redesigned store was to be divided into four distinctive zones to enhance the consumer experience, with a unique entrance tunnel leading to the store, a main store area, VR zone and three distinctive changing rooms.
The retail experience begins with six external high brightness window displays installed by Dynamo, enticing visitors into an immersive entry tunnel, designed to mimic a player tunnel.
Immersive audio was used to allow visitors to lose themselves in the football experience as Maynard clarified: “As you walk into the store space through the tunnel, you don’t get to see the store, you can only see straight ahead of you and as you walkthrough, you are then in the store.
“We were tasked with putting in discreet sound where visitors couldn’t identify the source; We’re running the sound of a crowd recorded by Open Ear on match days. The Armoury wanted to play that, so it sounds like it’s coming from a higher level, tying in the sound of football boots walking along the ground, so as you walk in, it sounds like you’re walking with the players onto the pitch.”
Knektd opted to use Sonance plaster-In IS4C Invisible series speakers in co-ordination with a Crestron PIR sensor to trigger the sound of football boots when visitors enter the tunnel, discreetly disguising the small sensor and grille-covered speakers to create the illusion of walking on to the pitch on match day.
To accomplish the illusion, Maynard turned to EASE sound mapping software to fine-tune the effect. Maynard: “We used EASE to work out how that sound would then disappear into the store. We came to the conclusion that if you were standing in the tunnel on match day, you could hear the crowd and you would also hear the PA system for the stadium playing music, so the store background music mashes together with the tunnel sound to add to that effect.”
“The retail store can’t just be a shop anymore: It has to be ‘Instagrammable’, something to drive you to be there than just buying the football shirt.” – Stewart Maynard, KnektdThe audio system is controllable via a Crestron RMC3 control processer in conjunction with a Yamaha four-channel amplifier, allowing staff to adjust the audio levels to ensure sound isn’t lost or overpowering as Maynard said: “They have a match day and a normal store audio level because on a match day there’s so many people in there, they don’t want the sound to be lost so they have two settings for that tunnel.
“They also have the option to turn the boots sounds off or if they want it to play it constantly. They can also adjust the timeouts, how quickly or how slowly it plays.”
Moving into the store area, visitors are greeted by Dynamo’s bespoke ‘magic mirrors’, as Yvonne Mcdonald, operations director, Dynamo explained: “The magic mirrors serve a dual purpose. They are a great way to utilise space within the store, serving its purpose as a full-length mirror for customers to try on garments and play attract content when the mirrors are not being interacted with. Our engineers built that product to order.”
The Armoury required the mirrors to be the same as the store’s light boxes, with Dynamo cutting the mirrors to 640mmin size and using PIR sensors to create the smart mirror experience.
The main store area is brightly lit with Dynamo’s custom displays, using three digital wallpaper displays throughout the store.
Two 2.5 x 4.5m LED displays, featuring 2.5mm pixel pitch were installed to guide visitors to areas of interest around the store, secured to the wall via Dynamo’s own mounts which mount the displays directly.
Mcdonald: “There’s a digital wallpaper that’s 4m x 1.5m,2.5mm pitch. 80% of the high level has been done in a vinyl high resolution print and the videowall mimics the rest of the vinyl print and then changes to show Arsenal’s greatest moments, so it’s a good way of having the mural wrap around the whole store and then change to digital content.”
Knektd were tasked with providing audio for LED displays in the main store area. Maynard said: “The client said ‘We want to be able to spark curiosity, to drive people into the store, to get people out of the main entrance area, to get them looking at the content and to engage them more within the space.
“My biggest worry was I didn’t want to end up with some sort of Disney Store experience where you’ve got content playing on the big screen at the back of the store really loudly with music playing in front of the store, all the sound would get mushed together.”
Maynard looked at how sound dissipates through the space and how it works with other sound, making sure sound was clear when standing in front of the screen. He explained: “When you were in that ‘Goldilocks’ zone, it’s enough to spark interest, not enough that it’s too much playing together at the same time. You’ve got a whole range of people in that store, you don’t want it to be too jarring or too much for them. That’s the whole point of using those speakers.
Two Sonance PS-P43T pendant speakers were also installed which blended in with the store décor as Maynard clarified: “We used pendants because we could adjust the height of them and they worked with the aesthetic of the store, given the ceiling’s industrial looking space. It also helped us position those speakers so that we have the right sound dissipation around those screens.
Visitors will discover three changing rooms, each with their own unique look and feel themed around iconic Arsenal locations, including the Arsenal tube station, Emirates Stadium pitch and the Arsenal players’ changing room with audio provided by discreet SonancePS-C43RT commercial in-ceiling speakers in each booth.
Maynard elaborated: “Each of the changing rooms has a different sound experience with sounds related to its location, the tube station room plays sound from the station like trains running and PA announcements, the pitch room plays the matchday cheering and even has the smell of freshly cut grass so you get a completely different experience in there. In the players’ changing room you have a bit of match day play and a little bit of crowd sound.
“Two people can go in to the changing rooms and have completely different experiences. The changing rooms are an experience unto themselves, trying on the kit is an experience without it needing to be just a boring changing room with whitewalls and a hanger in it.”
The store also features its own VR experience area created by Inde. The experience, called ‘The Cage’, required an audio system to drive direct, high powered audio without the sound leaking into other areas of the store.
Maynard: “We only wanted people in the cage to be able to hear that player reaction to them engaging with the VR system.The whole experience revolves around people going in and choosing a team player who reacts to how you play, we provided the audio for that to add to the immersive experience.
“They had their VR product, but they didn’t have an audio solution for their set up and they had a higher demand for audio volume levels in that space.”
Inde requested a Yamaha commercial PA system to drive sound through the system, bringing in immersive sound only to visitors in the cage environment. To accomplish this, Knektd had to mount the speakers in an unconventional way as Maynard explained: “We had to mount the speakers almost facing backwards rather than facing out towards the screen because those are potentially very loud speakers and we don’t want that being audible in the store.”
The project was completed on time and on budget without a technical hiccup.
Maynard closes: “It was a great project to be involved in and it was nice to be given something you don’t get every day. It gives you the option to be creative, which sometimes this role doesn’t always let you.”
Crestron RMC3 control processor
Dynamo LED1.8mm pitch LEDtiles, digital mirrors, LED ticker
SonancePS-C43RT, PS-C63RT ceiling speakers, PS-43T pendant speakers,IS4C in-wall speakers
Yamaha Stagepas 400BT PA, XMV4140 amp