Design in 2017 – what will retail design look like?

As part of our series on the future of design in 2017, Fitch executive creative director Alasdair Lennox looks at what will happen in retail design over the next 12 months.


What do you think 2017 will hold for retail design?

After a tumultuous 2016, where the Brexit vote was widely reported as a “power to the people” moment, we are also starting to observe a significant power shift in retail design. Specifically, regarding who dictates the in-store experience?

Historically it has always been the brand owner that has directed and curated the content and activities that happened inside their stores. However, we are increasingly seeing spaces where the consumer is actively involved in directing both the agenda and content of the space.


A great example in the UK is the Sonos Studios in Shoreditch, London. It describes itself as an “acoustically designed, social and collaborative space”. Yes the end game is to sell more smart music speakers, but this space also has an events programme that connects artist and audience communities through listenings, artist talks, workshops, performances and exhibitions. The volume switch is clearly in the consumer’s hand.

What was your favourite retail design project by another consultancy in 2016?

In July 2016 Sonos opened its first flagship store on 101 Greene Street in Soho, New York. It is extremely different to the aforementioned Sonos Studios and is clearly more of a commercial, shiny store experience full of their products.

However, the six house-shaped “listening rooms” let visitors experience their own music, in their own space and in their own time. The key take-away here is selling by not selling, selling by experiencing.

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  • David Hepburn February 8, 2017 at 11:42 am

    The Sonos Studios are also an example of giving products context within a carefully designed environment that sells a particular lifestyle. I think retailers, particularly multi-brand retailers could do well to think of what kind of experience their customers might be looking for, then attach desirable products to the experience.

    Bookshops for example are a fantastic opportunity that could offer so many types of upselling from experiences in-store. Chefs launching a cookbook could run in-store demos, through which kitchen tools and ingredients could be sold alongside the book. Ideas like this are already happening in stores in East Asia like Eslite and Tsutaya, and are well overdue here.

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