The most contemporary products available to the retail trade, from all over the world, were exhibited at the tri-annual Euroshop Trade Fair in Dusseldorf last week. The sheer scale of the event always amazes me with 15 halls, each the size of London’s Earl’s Court, displaying everything for the retail environment from cash registers to merchandise systems.
So what were the trends and directions on show that are going to influence the retail design scene for the next three years? Did I find any products which would set the world on fire with their originality and verve?
Well, no actually. Manufacturers in the shopfitting industry are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The trends were influenced by what has been done before – manufacturers supplying the retail industry are followers rather than leaders.
There were a few exceptions, however.
The specification of timber and stone floors in so many recent new retail concepts must have been causing a nightmare for carpet manufacturers. Milliken Carpets has responded by coming up with Retail Perspective, a startling range of designs by James Mansour called Signature. The 40 different carpets demonstrate what can be achieved through a floor covering when colour and pattern are used imaginatively. It could just about influence retail designers to think again about soft versus hard flooring.
Contemporary furniture design has undoubtedly influenced the combination of square tube construction and dark timbers in many recent store design schemes. Vitrashop shone through in Dusseldorf with its response to this trend. Its outstanding Kado and Nittygritty accessory system, designed by Dieter Blocher, uses a square knuckle attachment to ensure maximum flexibility.
My constant struggle to specify a merchandise system which does not visually overpower the product was solved to a certain extent by Basic System’s 4mm milled bracket, which fits neatly on to the side of timber panels. The slot design is clever and the hanging rails and shelving were effective.
Signs at the fair were not particularly startling apart from a product produced by Asigna. Its Edge lit Universal and Wayfinder range was extremely versatile and gave a perfectly even lighting effect on a 29mm thick panel. This is the slimmest example of lit signs I have come across and surprisingly effective.
The lighting companies were out in force at the fair and DeltaLight previewed a new range of fittings under its Conceptual Lighting banner. The best of the range was the curiously named Space Reactor light, which could be described as a 21st century version of the Anglepoise. Designed to cantilever from a wall, the spun steel fitting is unusual and eye catching.
My vote for “best of the show” goes to the LightLight range of lamps from Buschfeld. The track system, which combines minimal low voltage fittings with a hanging system for artwork, is one of the neatest designs I have seen for a long time. This German designer/manufacturer has produced a range which is so elegant that I am surprised it has not been specified in the UK yet. The winner of many lighting design awards from all over the world, it seems that no one in the UK has come forward to distribute it.
As well as the PENDplus system, there was also a ceiling light module called LightLight SKY which can be programmed to provide a variable daylight feel. An extremely simple suspended tablet of light, it comes in various sizes and has lots of potential uses on the retail scene.
These manufacturers stood out from the crowd and it was a pity that there were not more examples to really get the imagination ticking over. It is interesting that all of the companies I have mentioned have worked closely with really good designers or are owned by the designers themselves.
With the amount of exhibitors showing it was not possible to take a close look at everything, but there was an abundance of predictable products with little sign of innovation. The encouraging thing about the fair was the direction many of the manufacturers are taking: products which are not shouting for attention but are capable of being specified to enhance the merchandise they are displaying. Maybe the 2002 show will be more challenging.