‘t Was 1951 when Gerard Paagman Senior opened up his first little bookstore in the Netherlands, probably unaware that he was starting a family business that would soon flourish into a rich and much-loved brand. Skip ahead a few generational chapters and you’ll find yourself at the gates of the all-new, 700 m2 Paagman store in the Westfield Mall of the Netherlands in Leidschendam.
We boiled down all of our most valuable findings into three key learnings: the perfect bookstore should be a social space, have a strong visual focus and create a sensorial experience. It’s not (just) about selling paperbacks and hardcovers. Customer experience is more important than transaction. Customers should develop an emotional connection with the store, its design and its products. Bookstores are becoming more like a canvas to display books as artefacts in all their aesthetic glory. And now that life is becoming more and more digitised, people are looking for real-world experiences that engage all of their senses.
First, we read up on the reasons why today’s generation(s) like to go to a bookstore in the first place. After all, the Internet is everywhere and the library even has books for free. Why take the trouble to take a trip to the mall and actually visit a real-life bookstore? Besides, are millennials even reading these days? Uhm… Spoiler alert: they are. A lot! Our extensive research dossier turned out to be full of plot twists. Did you know Millennials read more than any other age group? Yup. And that they prefer print books to e-books? True story!
The visual and sensory impact of the space is heightened with an anthology of surprising ideas, details and design choices. (We could fill a whole book with them!)
The entrance functions as a window into another world, inviting you in to start exploring. Inside, you’ll be instantly drawn towards two ‘Wunderkammer’ – cabinets of curiosities. When entering these two worlds-within-the-world-of-Paagman, you’ll be wowed by the mirror ceiling, the life-size purple giraffe and the overwhelmingly pleasant feeling of stepping inside a different kind of reality. A smaller detail can be found in the thriller section, where a cleverly concealed sensor sets off an urgently ringing phone. Will you answer the call of mystery and suspense?
The entire space is designed to create immersive storytelling. Customers venturing inside are encouraged to explore and discover instead of being channelled from A to B. We call it ‘serendipity by design’. It feels like a lucky shot, a blessing from the gods of chance that you’re picking up just the book you didn’t even know you were looking for. But actually, the store is designed that way.
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