In front of the children

Early Learning Centre has had more than its fair share of design concepts over the years, as it has tried to weather poor sales and changing tastes in the fickle world of children.

With the chain’s national portfolio of more than 200 stores wearing its age on its sleeve, parent company John Menzies commissioned designs from New York retail design guru James Mansour in late 1996, to replace the long-serving previous format. Mansour’s proposals were never rolled out with any conviction.

Checkland Kindleysides was appointed to cast its spell over the group earlier this year, as the press predicted that Menzies would attempt to sell the beleaguered chain as soon as it was back on its feet. The first new format store is due to open tomorrow in Oxford.

The interpretation of ‘magical learning’ was Checkland Kindleysides’ starting point for the project. ELC has a long-standing reputation for selling educational, non-violent toys, leading Checkland Kindleysides to divide the store and product groupings into six zones – Early Years, Imagine, Discover, Arts and Crafts, Sports and Activities and Brain Power.

Colour is used to aid navigation through the zones, which are subdivided into relevant age groups. A landmark ‘pod’, with play table covered in a relevant texture at its base, forms the centre of each zone.

These are designed to encourage children to interact with the toys on display. This has the dual benefit of getting children to use the educational toys, and to encourage their parents to pay for them. The same principle will, it is hoped, lead to repeat store visits.

Design: Checkland Kindleysides

Client: Early Learning Centre

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