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  • Writer's pictureHeather Petrone

Apollo Takes On Space-Planning Expert Shawn Gaddy For Its Professional Service Division

Growing up, Shawn Gaddy killed it at a popular Nintendo game called Tetris, a puzzle-type video game where players quickly rotate, organize, and fit shapes together to eliminate spacing. Little did he know, that one day, he’d use those same skills to make a career in the world of retail space planning.

Space planning wasn’t something Shawn had his sights on, however. He actually sort of fell into thanks to a career at Walgreens. In 1988, Shawn become a corporate merchandiser for the drug chain, and later, in 2001 Walgreens asked Shawn to be an area merchandiser for special projects such as Hispanic-store conversions. It’s interesting to note, this was the first time Walgreens had hired a third-party merchandising company like Apollo Retail for their solutions.

A couple years later, Southern California saw a rapid expansion with Walgreen stores and Gaddy managed to handle the new store openings for all of them in the area. It was here where he ended up rewriting the store opening calendar - making it much shorter than Walgreens was ever used to. Shawn said it typically took about 63 days for Walgreens to open a new store, when the rest of the country would typically open stores in an average of 28 days. Six months after Gaddy came in, he had stores opening in an average of 21 days.

After a couple of years, Shawn was promoted to manage all new store openings throughout the whole state of California, and later managed openings in Hawaii and Alaska. Walgreens President, Jeff Rein, took notice and Gaddy was promoted yet again. Soon, Shawn would handle 600 store openings a year for the retail drugstore giant. It wasn’t until about 2011 however, when Shawn would start his move into conversion planning. This is where Shawn looked at the overall impact of construction, the change overall, and the operational effect of the store. He and his team evaluated how the budget was missed and decided to come up with tools for better efficiency. This started by building a visual phase plan so that people in the field could actually see the changes that were supposed to happen. Next, came time and labor studies to create a move plan. This would show how many hours it would take to do a reset, how long it would take to rework shelving, give labor estimates for third-party help, and also figure out how much third-party labor would actually be needed in the first place – it was all very progressive.

Gaddy’s breakthrough moment, however, came in 2011 with Walgreens’ “Well Experience” remodels which he states were, “…quite expensive running at 1.5 million per location.” It was here that Gaddy learned how the retailer’s divisions would compete for square footage space. The project needed a temporary pharmacy in the middle of the sales floor for 17 weeks during the remodel. Gaddy would go to construction meetings with the VPs of Walgreens and hear one department needing 900 square feet and the temp pharmacy needing 3,000 square feet, but Gaddy knew it wouldn’t work. After eight months of talking about it, he finally showed them why it wouldn’t be a success. Gaddy built three-dimensional boxes out of foam core to show at scale how there would be no room in the store left for merchandising. He said, additionally, with that plan, shoppers would be sardined into a box with practically no room to shop. They were talking in circles about it for eight months, but it wasn’t until Shawn actually built it out to scale that others could actually see and understand what he was talking about. From that point on, Walgreens let the operational team take over. “To say that a picture is worth a thousand words is really true when it comes to planning,” Gaddy said.

Later in 2013, he would be asked to do a Duane Reade conversion in New York where the store needed to be completely remerchandised. Gaddy had no idea what was going on in the store since there was no physical plan. What was the height of the ceiling? How tall are the fixtures? What brand of fixtures are they using? What’s currently out on the sales floor? And what about the back room? Data needed to be collected with a store survey, and that store survey needed to be accurate. “The last thing you want to do is get to a store and have people come in thinking there are 19” base decks on the fixture and realize they’re not. Or, hey, we have to order metal and not realize oh this is a Madix fixture not Lozier,” Gaddy said. “New York is very difficult to convert in, so we looked at the 3D technology to reduce expense and delays during the conversion.”

Gaddy gave several companies the opportunity to use cutting-edge 3D technology to survey the space because his team really needed a viable and continual look into the store. They tested three different 3D virtual companies. It was later, though, when he would be the first to take the now-popular technology Matterport to Walgreens.

Then in 2015, Gaddy would move on to become VP of Space Planning for Fred’s Pharmacy. “Space planning taught me the importance of adjacencies inside of a shopper’s zone of interest,” he said, “and you really need technology for that continual look into your store.” Luckily, since Matterport can now tie into Revit, Gaddy thinks it’s a big game changer for retail because you can now create 3D models for all stores. “You’re able to consistently go back and understand the condition of the store if you’re planning a space change,” Gaddy said.

He explains how the store-with-in-a-store concept really helped some big box formats keep up with giants like Amazon and Walmart. “Best Buy survived the Walmart and Amazon challenge because they took a look at their store and changed it to how shoppers want to shop today. They changed their entire footprint by leasing some of that space. They own prime real estate, and to get that foot traffic back into their store, they’re constantly having to add new content to attract shoppers.”

“Every retailer that has space today, what are they doing to actually entice people to come back in and shop after we come out of this pandemic? Because we’ve gotten use to shopping online. How do you pay for that square footage if you don’t have the foot traffic? I think every company is going to be looking for the ability to know and understand what their store base looks like and understand how they can make continual changes to that space to create more foot traffic.”

Gaddy knows you can’t make a change without having a plan. “I believe a phase plan and move plan can save about 10-15% of your labor leakage,” he said. Shawn’s visual playbooks and move plans are imperative when it comes to development and implementation of a project, and he knows his system for project implementation works. He once had a project with Walgreens that they estimated would take 1300 hours per store, but with his visual playbooks and move plans, he got each store down to less than 1,000 hours. “We reset an entire store in one week with a small team and based on the move plan and good scheduling we were able to significantly reduce the time and the budget,” he said. “We can help make the changes, protect sales, determine the cost, field the labor, give detailed reporting, overall, we give you the best bang for your buck.”

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