Callie van der Merwe: If he designs it they will come

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

When it’s time to bring your business into the physical space, you need someone to make that space echo your brand. Callie van der Merwe is that someone.

At a time when most businesses are going online, Darren Hosioski decided it was time to go offline. As Managing Director of the highly successful online furniture and furnishings retailer April & Oak, he reached the conclusion that some customers only become comfortable about purchasing certain items of furniture when they can touch or sit on them.

In addition, he found customers were keen for the opportunity to ask him why he called his business April & Oak. In a store environment it’s easier to explain that both the month and the material were landmark factors in its orientation.

Darren viewed it as absolutely essential that the quality brand values he had embedded in his online business should be sustained through his retail stores.

He first dipped his toe into offline retail through temporary “pop-up” stores. Encouraged by the results, he took the decision to open his first show store and, based on the “pop-up” experience, he opted to locate it in the Rhodes Shopping Centre in Western Sydney.

He selected Callie van der Merwe, assisted by his colleague Calvin van Vuuren, as the designer to imbue the new store with unique April & Oak brand values and create it as an environment both to intrigue customers and encourage them to purchase.

Designing the store exterior presented Callie with an obvious challenge. The natural flow of shopper traffic was on the opposite side of the shopping centre to the store. Special measures were needed to attract shoppers.

Callie opted for the store name to be in a larger more imposing format than the surrounding stores. He designed the overall exterior image to be sophisticated yet approachable with a wide welcoming door.

On approaching the store from the side you will find that some of the window displays are angled so as to give you an arresting full-on view of the merchandise on display.

Callie inserted mirror panels into the store’s front window as a technique to slow people down as they approach the entrance. It’s a natural reaction for people to stop and look at their own reflection, so the panels are an intriguing way to secure interest in the store.

At the entrance, Callie created a rack for promotional material which is proving a powerful store traffic builder. This is a far cry from cheap flyers hanging out of a rack. It is a very attractive presentation of quality promotional material available outside the store that provides a strong incentive to go and take a look inside.

Once in the store, you will almost certainly follow the clockwise flow that Callie’s layout is designed to take you on. People tend to walk the same way they drive which means they flow clockwise round stores in countries with left-hand drive and anti-clockwise in countries that drive on the right-hand side. So Callie’s layout is meticulously designed to encourage people’s natural instincts.

The presentation of furniture on raised stands seems to have an elevating effect on its value perceptions and you will be taken by how co-operative initiatives between Callie and Darren have created striking theme displays incorporating both furniture and furnishings.

Callie has that rare talent of being able to design stores, bars and restaurants that not only attract customers but also induce them to spend. He is an authority on Behavioural Design, the art of creating designs that harmonise with natural human behaviour.

Darren is delighted with his first April & Oak show store. It is doing over twice the business produced by his pop-up in the same centre. Callie succeeded beyond expectations in recreating the brand’s essential online values in a retail store.

Darren reports that he and Callie worked very productively together and when it came to building the store he was very impressed with Callie’s attention to detail. “He really had my back when it came to supervising store construction,” said Darren. “I’d recommend him to anybody.”

Give Callie a call on 0404 328 828 or email him at and invite him to come and take a look at your place.

The thing about Callie is that wherever he goes, customers always seem to follow.

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