Conrad J. Rowland, Director, Retail Directions

The role of, and investment in, design in retail is changing. Design has become an integral part of strategic direction. It must communicate market positioning; it has to be flexible to incorporate tactical initiatives which may be driven by price, quality, value or product. It must express the personality of the retailer; it must communicate corporate values, and, above all, it must justify investment. Simply because ‘it looks good’ is no longer adequate. This has led to clearly identifiable trends and developments.

The key is to target customer orientation and get the lifestyle message across. Consumers no longer buy televisions and radios, cookers and clothes; they buy home leisure and cooking solutions, adornment that expresses their mood and personality.

In providing solutions for the customer, retailers increasingly express the product as the hero and this has become the new paradigm for shop design and communications. Retail design which worships the product, not the fixture, the flooring or the lighting, will drive the future.

Customers claim to worship at the temple of the branded product; they also demand a friendly, hassle free, easy shopping environment. No longer will the customer walk through hell over hot coals to find the right product; it, or an acceptable substitute, is too readily available elsewhere.

At the same time ‘interactive design environments’ can stimulate and excite the customer – generating customer loyalty and repeat visits.

Demand for sustainable profit growth and attractive gross profit return per square metre has led to greater flexibility in the use of space utilisation and modular concepts. Segmentation, themes, destinations and the use of icons are all, increasingly, being demanded by retailers as flexible design responses.

Survival depends upon the creation of clear points of difference, identifiable and sustainable points of view. Homogeneity of product demands that retailers create points of view which reinforce the character and personality of the shop.

It is essential to understand the levels of service required by the customer. The right environment must be created and communicated. For example, cosmetics sales counters are now becoming ‘assisted self-serve’, selling cosmetics, not visible collateral.

It is no longer black and white, served or self-service.

Stores that hit it off with their target customer, that use marketing aggressively, and that are able to really connect with their customers in a truly relevant way are those which will be successful. Retail design is an integral part of achieving these objectives, working with the retailers and ‘knowing’ the customer.

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