Partnership with shopfitters will benefit design

Lynda Relph-Knight rightly suggests that designers would be well advised to forge partnerships with good shopfitters (Comment, DW 13 November).

The lack of realistic lead-in periods is a constant gripe shared by shopfitters and the more conscientious designers. However, the fact that unworkable schemes are being pursued beyond the outline development stage indicates that there are still designers who do not recognise or understand the proactive part that can be played by the shopfitting contractor.

Some designers, often under client pressure, are inclined to look towards the general construction industry for their contractors and then select using the lowest price. The result, as many experienced designers know, is a plethora of subcontractors working to a badly co-ordinated programme under the control of the contractor with little specialist knowledge.

Even worse are the other repercussions of exclusively high final accounts – caused by the inability of the contractor to understand the project in the first place, and by a contract that is handed over far too late.

Partnership between designers and shopfitters need not be a formal business relationship, although, of course, such relationships are to be encouraged. Most shopfitters have considerable technical expertise that is frequently untapped. This expertise, together with a general understanding between shopfitter and designer, and, indeed, frequently the client, can make life more profitable for all concerned.

The National Association of Shopfitters has been working closely with designers to develop such relationships, and is keen to continue this trend. It is no accident that our annual competition for designers is now called the NAS Design Partnership Award.

Colin Kemp


National Association of Shopfitters

London N20

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