KidScreen Retail: Discovery under the microscope: New Discovery Channel store to serve as a laboratory for the company’s retail future

It's time to reach out and touch the Discovery Channel....
February 1, 1998

It’s time to reach out and touch the Discovery Channel.

Discovery Retail makes a bold leap into the consumer arena when it opens its flagship store in Washington, D.C., on February 14.

The 30,000-square-foot store, located in the Federal District, will be a physical representation of everything that takes place on Discovery Channel, its sister networks Animal Planet and The Learning Channel, Discovery Online and Discovery Multimedia. The store will be called Discovery Channel Store: Destination Washington, D.C.

‘We’ve tried to come up with a product mix and architectural mix in this flagship store that speaks to the entire breadth of what our brand represents from a content point of view, while keeping a commitment to high-quality merchandising,’ says Greg Moyer, president and chief editorial officer and creative officer for Discovery Communications, Inc.

Comprising four stories of the MCI Center, a new sports and entertainment facility in downtown Washington, D.C., the interior space is designed for customers, as Discovery’s motto goes, to explore their world. Floor space is organized to take store traffic on a journey starting beneath the earth (the first floor); upwards to the world of the ocean (the mezzanine level); the natural world and human culture (the second floor); space, aviation, science and the future (the third floor); to a screening room (the fourth floor). Customers travel from one floor to another on elaborate elevators and across sky bridges. ‘This is not a theme park ride, but it does have the feel of moving you through a progression of environments,’ says Moyer.

The flagship store represents the company’s first fully realized possibility of the Discovery Channel brand in the retail environment and will serve as a blueprint for its smaller outlets. Discovery Retail owns 130 stores, consisting of 109 The Nature Company stores, 18 Discovery Channel stores (formerly Discovery Stores) and three Scientific Revolution stores. In the second quarter of 1998, it will begin a three-year process of retrofitting all The Nature Company stores as Discovery Channel stores. ‘The flagship is the laboratory where we’ll be testing a lot of ideas and concepts,’ says Moyer.

The company looks at the retail environment as a programming medium that will tell stories that are consistent with the Discovery brand. The Washington, D.C., store features 15 interactive terminals, video outlets, audio and text panel information. ‘We have to look at what people enjoy using and what we can afford to replicate within a smaller mall store’s economics,’ says Moyer. ‘Those experiments will start in the flagship store and trickle down.’

The product mix will feature tools for exploration, like guides, actual tools of exploration and ‘souvenirs of experience,’ like photographs and indigenous art. About 60 percent of the merchandise will be exclusive. Product will be organized according to content or theme as opposed to demographics such as kids. However, certain areas of the store that naturally lend themselves to kids, such as the Wild Discovery section, will contain a greater inventory of juvenile products.

The company is aggressively promoting the store on both domestic and international channels, and hopes to tap into the 20 million tourists who visit Washington annually. ‘We want to become a stop on people’s tours of the nation’s capital,’ says Moyer. ‘The store is like a public headquarters for us.’

The company plans to open a 15,000-square-foot destination store in San Francisco in late 1998. Future expansion rests upon assessing the success of the D.C. store, which the company will ascertain after the summer tourist season concludes.

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