Case study: The Fixer - Creature Company

Featuring in the third consecutive series of BBC2's The Fixer, presented by Alex Polizzi, Visual Thinking’s managing director Karl McKeever and his dedicated project team worked their magic on family businesses in need of guidance to improve the customer experience and increase retail performance.

Creature Company is a pet store located on a busy street in Wimbledon. Its current owner, Sebastien, bought the shop three years ago and since then efforts had been focused on rescuing it from almost crippling debt. But he knew they needed to find ways to reinvigorate the store and customer experience, in order to realise their long-term ambitions for the business.

Before the redesign

Inside the 5m x 15m shop, the retail environment was in a sorry state and in desperate need of upgrade – indeed nothing short of transformation. It had old and broken fixtures, failing decoration with an oppressive dark green ceiling and defective lighting. Overall, it had a dingy, claustrophobic, decrepit look and feel, and was something the owner was very keen to change, but a lack of funds and experience was holding the business back.

The store layout was confusing for customers, with products scattered around the space, whilst the customer journey was illogical and disorganised. Even though there were plans for a lucrative specialist pet grooming service, the owners’ lack of funds had prevented them from completing or launching it.

Before the redesign

Sebastien and his partner Carl were nervous and lacked confidence about making changes but, with some big brand pet superstores nearby, they understood the shop needed to create a better point of difference and give customers more reasons to visit. 

Karl was invited to conduct a store visit review, before returning to discuss his suggestions for improvement with Sebastien, Carl, and Alex. Karl’s recommendation was to create a unique, fusion retail environment that combined the products of a pet shop with the appeal of a fashion boutique with the services of a salon and hotel for pet-loving Londoners that focused on its unique service abilities as an independent retailer.

Karl suggested upcycling many of the original fittings

As part of the makeover, Visual Thinking’s in-house design team created an exciting new creative concept and brand identity, incorporating attractive animal illustrations and imagery that would eventually be included in the window displays and interior. A bright and uplifting colour palette was conceived, which would be used throughout. Karl also suggested upcycling many of the original fittings as a great way to improve the visual impact of interior design, merchandising and displays whilst keeping renovation costs to a minimum.

The store features a kitsch 1950s design theme

Responsible for implementing the makeover with the help of specialist contractors, the Visual Thinking team redecorated the store and introduced new, brighter light fittings. A new service desk was made out of reclaimed furniture to complement the kitsch 1950s design theme, whilst smaller display tables were used to create impactful focal points for featured products.

Live animals and fish were relocated to new areas instore

The customer journey itself was redefined and made much clearer. Live animals and fish were relocated to new areas instore – an unexpectedly big undertaking in itself!

Effective VM techniques were applied to present products by species category

Meanwhile, effective VM techniques were applied to present products by species category, with stronger performing product lines given greater visibility and space allocated according to its profit potential.

Finally, more cohesive brand delivery and improved signage helped to bring the whole concept together, with new, clear messaging promoting the specialist in-store grooming and pet hotel services that set Creature Company apart as a unique retail proposition amongst local pet shops, large and small.

Creature Company’s owner Sebastien said of the makeover: 'The makeover is truly amazing. It has made such a difference in both how it looks and how people shop.'

Watch Visual Thinking's behind the scenes video here:

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