FUTURE OF RETAIL DESIGN

Where to from here?…

What is the face of future retail, and what does the existing audience now demand of it?

The retail experience has always been about the relationship between the brand and its audience. Shoppers will always want to touch, taste, see and feel products and stores will continue to be one of the most visceral ways for brands to engage with their customers in the future. The biggest challenge is to understand the ever-changing rules of the retail design game and adapt accordingly.

On a trip to Shanghai last year to research retail spaces and how technology is merging with the built environment to enhance user experience, we were blown away by the numerous examples of future tech which is being rolled out as standard in retail environments.

Here are some key design factors which are beginning to appear in the design of retail spaces globally.

Viktor & Rolf, Paris

#1 – Sustainability

We all understand the dire conditions the earth is facing. Many of us are already taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint by recycling, minimising our use of fossil fuels and relying on sustainable energy whenever possible. This way of thinking is being implemented in the way we design architecture and our surroundings. So what exactly does sustainability look like when it comes to designing high-street retail stores?

NikeLAb, New York

NikeLAb, New York

Sustainable design is not limited to new builds but can be incorporated into existing buildings to increase their energy efficiency. Nike’s NikeLab Store concept has been built with innovation and sustainability in mind, but to the average Joe, it just looks like a cool sportswear store you want to shop in. What was once a dilapidated building has been stripped of its old school gym bleachers in favour of clean lines, minimal fixture footprints, and a focus on innovation. The bleachers have been repurposed or transformed into thin, interlocking shelving units, modular checkout counters, and stand-alone shelving units that can be assembled into any size or shape.

Ace & Tate, Antwerp

Another brand eager to achieve company-wide carbon neutrality by 2030 with their products and the design of their stores is the popular eyewear company, Ace & Tate. In one of their Antwerp stores, they have partnered with Plasticiet to create sheet material to mimic the look of traditional terrazzo made out of recycled plastics to decorate the walls.

#2 – Technology

“Phygital is a concept of blending digital experiences with physical experiences taking the best aspects from each space to create the optimal customer experience.”

With digital sales rapidly starting to overtake those from bricks & mortar – brands will increasingly need to provide a credible reason to make a physical purchase. Digital will never replace a great in-store retail experience, but it will greatly influence customers’ perceptions of what a great experience is.

HiPanda, Tokyo

In the Curiosity-designed store, located in Tokyo, visitors can use augmented reality (AR) to find and follow the ‘invisible’ host: a panda bear. The overall shopping experience has been enhanced with moving virtual statues and a monochromatic design scheme.

HiPanda, Tokyo

HiPanda, Tokyo

#2 – Post – Pandemic

Flexibility is key in a world where rules and expectations always change. You may ask, is there a need to go through all the trouble when it seems like there’s a chance that things may go back to normal. The obvious answer is, yes. There has been a lot of limitations and back-falls that have come to light that forced stores to close for example, tight walkways. Several issues will need to be addressed to reassure the hygiene-conscious shoppers that stores can continue to operate should another pandemic occur.

Magic Mirror in-store layout

Tommy Hilfiger, Amsterdam

We’ve already spoken about the “phygital” and it’s becoming more apparent that this is the present and future of retail in any shape or form. Digital can offer convenience through rapid delivery and immersion through VR so retail spaces will become both the place to go for a physical face to face interaction or virtual shopping experience.

Tommy Hilfiger, Amsterdam

Retail optimisation focuses on maximising foot traffic and dwell time. The current method of limiting the number of shoppers that can enter or stay at any one time is not ideal.

Acne Studios, Nagoya, Japan

Spatial design with an emphasis on light, air, simplicity of form and material will become key design principles for future retail spaces in order to address the occupation levels of a retail store at any point in time.

Acne Studios, Nagoya, Japan

There’s no shortage in space in the Acne Studios Store in Nagoya, Japan. The use of mostly aluminium as the primary design material adds a clinical look. Pair that with large circulation space, it can comfort hyper – hygiene – conscious shoppers and encourage physical visitation to the store.

#4 – Multi-brand Retail

We are starting to see multibrand stores go for conceptual space design that prioritises awe and experience over product. In many cases, retail stores have become a meeting place, a cultural event or a coming-together of garment sales and hospitality to win over consumers.

TGY Concept Store, Shenyang, China

TGY Concept Store, Shenyang, China

TGY store in China wields an impressive list of functional titles: curated retail environment, flexible event area, temporary exhibition gallery, beauty centre, photo-shoot location, café and flower shop. The design concept, to embrace these needs, was for a dynamic store based on the idea of movement.

Slowear 18, Milan

Concept store Slowear18 leads a double life. The shop caters as men’s and women’s fashion, complete with a café and bar by day and once the clock strikes 7, the place turns into a hip aperitivo-inspired mixology bar. The store was designed to have transforming fixtures to make the functional duality possible.

Slowear 18, Milan

The future of retail design cannot be prescribed, but it is clear that a contemporary retail store is no longer just a space with product rails and shelves. It is a living and evolving space that breathes vitality and activity into its stores’ community and communicates beyond its walls.