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Tomorrow’s tobacconist

#business services #postgraduate studies #projects

// Florentina Carrier, Qingyuan Lyu et Juliette Mary

The cigarettes are presented in a tobacco carrousel, creating a sleek and pared-down space

The students came up with the idea of a modular central unit paired with an application: the twister.

With their “Le récréatif" concept, the students propose a new layout for the retail space

The retail sector is among the sectors affected by the economic crisis, and is still struggling to get by. As one can witness by deserted city centers and ever-growing market share being conquered by e-commerce. There is one business in particular which is suffering from this crisis. The tobacconist’s shop, a veritable institution in any community, is getting some bad press. This was the backdrop against which first year Urban Design master’s students were asked by the French Tobacconists Confederation to reflect on the theme of “tomorrow’s tobacconist”. Besides presenting projects for a profession and a type of trade, the students encourage us to rethink our relationship to local services and to use local resources and digital technology wisely. The design proposals were supervised by designers Giulia Sola and Benjamin Walsh and presented at Losangexpo, the trade event for tobacconists.

Before the project: the observation phase

In order to avoid coming up with impractical projects that are totally disconnected from reality, designers must begin by observing the users, in this case in the tobacconist’s shop. It is not just a question of studying customer behavior, they must also examine the layout, materials, lighting, the way customers move around the shop, the tobacconist’s own limitations (way of working, which spaces are essential or optional, etc.).

To achieve this, the students decided to visit three types of site: the city center tobacconist’s shop, the shopping center tobacconist’s shop and the tobacconist’s shop in a tourist area (for example on the coast), analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of each of them. The issues raised concerned mostly the cluttered, monotonous and impractical presentation (we’ve all experienced the struggle of bending to pick up a copy of our favorite newspaper in a hard-to-reach place), the total lack of functionality in the majority of cases, and the need to strengthen relationships with the local ecosystem to help boost the image of local businesses.

“Le récréatif”: new operational and consumer modes

The project designed by Florentina Carrier, Qingyuan Lyu and Juliette Mary is entitled “Le récréatif”. The students wanted their project to “provide a new consumer experience for customers and new ways of working for tobacconists”.

They took their inspiration from the theme of childhood and fairground rides to come up with attractive and flowing shapes and lighting. Cigarette packs are now presented in a tobacco carrousel, a storage tower which connects the storeroom with the shop. Using a system of rotating shelves, the stock can be replenished continuously, which also makes it easier to organize and locate specific packs which will soon have neutral packaging.

But the project’s key idea lies in the creation of a modular central unit paired with an application: the twister. The girls wanted to create “a central module which would be unique to every tobacconist’s shop in France. Consisting of several different sized wooden panels, it can be adapted to suit whichever functions or promotions the tobacconist wishes to showcase. Each month there is a different themed promotion chosen by the tobacconist. An application is linked to the twister to inform customers of the themes and promotions currently available”. In addition, the twister lets tobacconists choose how they use their space. To put it simply: “as designers, we give tobacconists the building blocks to create and run their business – after that, it’s up to them to make their move!".


Florentina Carrier, Qingyuan Lyu and Juliette Mary, students in the Urban Design master’s program, wanted their project to “provide a new consumer experience for customers and new ways of working for tobacconists”.

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