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Custom Store Fixtures

An Inside Look at the Pioneering Feat to Create Wayfair’s First Large-Format Store


Wilmette, Illinois, June 25, 2024 (Rich Ltd.) On the morning of August 7th, 1974, French highwire artist Philippe Petit drew worldwide attention when he walked back and forth for 45 minutes on a thin wire connecting the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the same towers that were destroyed by terrorists on September 11th, 2001. As a large crowd gathered on the streets 1,312 feet beneath him, Petit made 8 passes during which he walked, danced, laid down on the wire, and saluted his audience below from a kneeling position. It was an incredible act of acrobatic skill, highwire artistry, and showmanship.

Perhaps even more remarkable was the 6 years of planning and flawless execution that enabled Petit and his 7-person team to pull off this unauthorized feat, which he referred to as “le coup,” without the knowledge of city officials or the police department. He and his team figured out how to bypass security to build an outdoor scale model on the rooftops of both buildings. They found a way to sneak hundreds of pounds of equipment, including a 30-foot-long balancing pole, to the 110th floor of the World Trade Center and rig the 450 lb. cable between buildings without anyone’s knowledge. His detailed research, preparation, and engineering mastery, along with his incredible performance, became the subject of a 2009 Academy Award-winning documentary called Man on Wire.

With the same level of rigorous preparation and attention to detail, but with our feet firmly planted on the ground, DGS Retail’s team had the opportunity to work closely with Wayfair in opening its first large-format store at Edens Plaza in Wilmette, Illinois in May, 2024. Our behind-the-scenes work to help make the store become a reality is the subject of today’s blog.
At a time when many big-time retailers are increasingly rolling out small-format stores, Wayfair, which built its $12 billion business as an online retailer, bucked the trend and decided to open its first large-format store- a 2-story, 19-department, 150,000 square foot shopping mecca, the size of 2 ½ football fields. Wayfair’s vision for the store was to create a destination store focused on the home, including a mix of furniture, home décor, housewares, and home improvement products. In addition to meeting a wide range of styles and budgets, Wayfair’s objective was to create an extraordinary and immersive shopping experience through its breadth of product offerings and curated collections, grandiose décor, convenient merchandising, in-store design advisors, and onsite attractions like an in-store restaurant called “The Porch.”

The store’s grand opening marked the culmination of a 3-year project for Wayfair, which included a significant investment in building a mock store similar to the way Philippe Petit built an outdoor scale model on the rooftops of both buildings prior to his feat. For nearly 21 months, DGS had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Wayfair’s phenomenal retail team and its outside project management and architectural firm partners.

The store’s grand opening marked the culmination of a 3-year project for Wayfair, which included a significant investment in building a mock store similar to the way Philippe Petit built an outdoor scale model on the rooftops of both buildings prior to his feat. For nearly 21 months, DGS had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Wayfair’s phenomenal retail team and its outside project management and architectural firm partners.

The DGS team produced over 90% of Wayfair’s custom store fixtures, which included 215 unique SKUs and over 3,000 fixtures. In addition to installing all of these fixtures, DGS provided the wayfinders, trellises, and many of the 3D décor elements. DGS’s design and engineering team designed most of the specialty fixtures and produced hundreds of pages of engineering drawings that were used by its global fabrication team. Never in its 46-year history had DGS ever attempted a retail project of this scale. The project required the collaboration and involvement of all 5 of the company’s divisions in addition to the company’s domestic and overseas production capabilities.
The store’s overall aesthetic was designed to create a clean, modern, inviting, easy-to-navigate, and overall impressive shopping experience.

In addition to being an important part of the store’s aesthetic, our custom fixture work was foundational in creating positive shopper engagement. We fabricated the large fixture below to accommodate a wide range of furniture fabrics. The fixture featured hangers for hundreds of fabric samples, pull-out drawers, storage cabinets, and a center-mounted digital media player. The primary material used on the fixture below and all of the fixtures is “Wayfair Oak,” a waterproof, 100% post-consumer recyclable particle board core panel with a textured white oak laminate finish manufactured in Italy.

The samples fixture provided a tasteful backdrop for Wayfair’s Design Studio. With easy access to a broad selection of fabrics, Wayfair’s interior design experts are able to meet with customers who can be seated comfortably at the large tables we produced.

In addition, we produced a mix of wood shelf units, solid surface tables, and risers to merchandise a variety of Wayfair’s houseware items. We created the set of cabinets to merchandise Wayfair’s extensive selection of pillows and cushions. The cabinetry also served as a barrier to create a separate section within the store as a way of making the shopping experience more intimate.

In continuing with all things large, we built the expansive overhead open canopy structure out of solid wood beams. The structure was designed to demarcate and draw attention to a kids’ furniture area. Wayfinding and large format framed graphics were an important part of the store’s messaging and store décor. Our work entailed the design and fabrication of many mixed material custom store fixtures, including the wood and metal fixtures. The room vignette is just one example of the ways Wayfair used the wide variety of fixtures we produced to help customers envision their own customized living spaces.
And now, back to the beginning story. Following his extraordinary feat, Phillipe Petit and his co-conspirators were arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct. While the charges were subsequently dropped, his high-wire walk earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest wire-crossing without the use of a net or safety tether. Unlike Petit, our work with Wayfair was completely authorized by the company and sanctioned by the local authorities. Although we set no world records, we were tempted to produce our own documentary about the value of teamwork, client partnership, creativity, and execution. Rather than Man on Wire, our documentary would be called Hair on Fire. Instead, however, we are busy working on the sequel. Be sure to look for our blogumentary Hair on Fire- Part II in 2025.


PRESS CONTACT: Tom Vogt, Corporate President  / 508-726-7114 / tomvogt@dgsretail.com

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