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title. party city

description. retail refresh

my role. store visits\ primary research: interviews & surveys\ consumer research\ strategy development\ comp design\ service design\ customer journey

team. sally zhang (cbm), andrew allen (st), dakota ward (ad), lars johnson (cw), megan reilly (xd), matt yakob (xd)



Discount party superstore, Party City, is the world's largest designer, manufacturer and distributor of party goods. Founded in 1986 by Steve Mandell, when he realized that the market for party goods was highly fragmented with limited offerings from small mom-and-pop shops and big box retailers. Today, Party City has over 900 retail and franchise locations throughout the country.


Despite their domination of the party goods category, Party City’s reputation among customers leaves plenty to be desired. The brand promotes a promise “to make any moment extraordinary,” but ironically, the experience consumers have in the store is anything but. While parties make us feel alive, the store feels lifeless.


Differentiate Party City by delivering an extraordinary in-store experience worthy of its brand promise. Develop a new strategy, creative campaign, store layout and experience that will refresh Party City's retail presence.

"Party city should feel like the party, not the day after the party."

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Not only is Party City the industry leader in its category but it does not have a direct competitor. Yet, despite its business success and lack of brick and mortar competition, Party City does not inspire loyalty or the excitement of a party. 

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"Oh, is Party City still a thing?"

"It's like, where do I start?"

With an underwhelming reputation and an overwhelming in-store experience, Party City makes the party planning process even more stressful.



Today’s party hosts are feeling the pressure to put on the best event possible.

Functional worries

 - Will I have enough cups?

 - Were the directions clear?

 - Did I send invites too late?

Emotional worries

 - Will my son enjoy his party?

 - Will people show up?

 - What will my friends think?

We asked survey participants and interviewees...

“In one word, how does planning or attending a party make you feel?"


While there is excitement around hosting a party, the resounding feelings were stress and anxiety. Party City can create an oasis from the worries of party planning and make it easier for people to have more memorable moments.

Setting the stage –
speaks to the products and services Party City offers that makes parties better and more unforgettable

Party people in the spotlight – speaks to the focus on the customer and their needs


Party City sets the stage and puts party people in the spotlight.


The people are what make the party, and the rest is just details.

Parties are meaningful in our lives because of the people there. They signify our network of friends and family, and how they have grown and changed throughout our lives.


Don’t stress a good time.

Planning a party can be stressful. It shouldn’t be. Party City can help you prepare so that things go off without a hitch. We’ll focus on the party, you focus on the good time!

print & OOH.


shopping experience.

From overwhelming to inspiring.

Designed with the customer in mind to alleviate stress points from the shopping experience.

The Entrance

The storefront announces the tone for the entire experience. Party City should welcome customers to the party.


Each journey is different. Each journey has an opportunity.

In Store

An audit of the customer experience, identified three main areas for in-store improvements and the design process.

Lack of Expertise/ Inspiration

Last-Minute Leslie



Eager Edward


& Wait Times

Mom-of-2 Melissa

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new design.

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lack of expertise/ inspiration.

Good Time Central

We created a centrally-located hub where customers can approach staff experts for party-planning advice and to get help finding specific items. 

In-store Party Vignettes

Hosts and Hostesses stage featured in-store party vignettes — helping them become experts in staging parties and in turn providing better assistance to customers. For guests, the vignette provides on-the-spot inspiration to help contextualize products.

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product offering.


Product Rentals

Party City will provide a new suite of rental services to help guests take their party to the next level while removing the burden of ownership.


wayfinding & wait times.

Wayfinding App

For customers who are trying to find highly specific items or who’d rather not interact with customer service, we designed a wayfinding app that helps guests quickly search by keyword and locate items in specific aisles and bins.

Layout Optimization

Better product grouping for all generic party essentials along Color Wall in the back of the store. Kiosks will help with the balloon-ordering process, as well as quick-checkout lanes to cut down on waits. Hosts and Hostesses would also be able to help with purchases at Good Time Central.

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cultivating loyal.

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Party City Rewards

Party City’s current customers have little reason to visit regularly– but with the addition of a member loyalty program including special offers and benefits, customers are incentivized to stop by and see what’s new.

Stress-free Hotline

When new members sign up, they’ll receive a stress-free party favor bag. Contents include a candle, noise-free noisemakers, and a calling card for the stress-free party hotline– which provides customers the same expert service once they leave the store.

What happens after the party? Another party. We want to make sure customers think of Party City for not just the next party but for every party. 

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