Shop show points to bright future for retail in the capital

The growth in on-line shopping and the move towards specialist stores is changing the face of retail in London, with a knock-on effect for high street retailers and interior design consultancies.

Therefore, an exhibition and a series of talks at New London Architecture called Shop – which examine the future of shopping and show that retail developments in the capital are, in fact, prospering – is very timely.

With exhibition and graphic design by Manha and its creative director Nick Freeman, Shop, using case studies, examines successful commercial formulas, exploring how different approaches to retail in the capital can sit alongside each other and make London one of the major shopping destinations in the world. It looks at the way different shopping environments affect consumer behaviour through a time-lapse film – visitors are transported to the contrasting experiences of mall shopping at Jubilee Place in Canary Wharf and a leisurely stroll down Marylebone High Street.

The exhibition poses questions – what sort of shops do Londoners want? Can boutiques sit alongside bargain outlets? Is the high street being threatened by out-of-town?

Major new developments are planned, which are showcased at the exhibition, such as Westfield London in White City and the upcoming transformation of Oxford Street.

According to Steve Collis, managing director of retail design specialist JHP, retail design is booming. ‘We have been observing the sector with interest and I believe there is no shortage of [demand for] retail design. The recent closure of various retail specialists has, I believe, absolutely nothing to do with on-line shopping. The last time I remember it being this frantic was in 1988 in the big boom. Part of the reason is the international work. The bottom line is people like shopping, they like the whole experience. Look at Westfield London – this will have a big impact, especially with its incredible mix of luxury brands.’

The West End is soon to be transformed with a new £40m action plan for Oxford, Regent, Old and New Bond streets, led by Westminster City Council, the New West End Company and Transport for London. Westfield London will deliver 149 000m2 of new space to be filled with well-known retail names, while the City of London can boast a revamp of Cheapside with developments such as Jean Nouvel’s One New Change and Foster & Partners’ Walbrook Square.

Marylebone is another case study at Shop, emphasising its ‘well-managed’ high street and the Brunswick Centre, which combines bigger high street operators with slightly smaller, niche traders.

The latest retail experiment by Comme des Garçons founder and designer Rei Kawakubo – Dover Street Market in Mayfair, which acts as an indoor ‘fashion bazaar’ with space given over to young designers – is also featured.

NLA assistant director Debbie Whitfield says, ‘I think designers have started to take retail seriously. The new developments are really making a difference to how London is looking. The mixed-use element is really interesting, it is making architects take retail a lot more seriously. As well as the revitalisation of more traditional high streets such as Marylebone High Street, which has been completely turned around, it shows that you can take a straightforward high street and just use a select group of retailers – rather than whoever will pay the highest rent – and make it more appealing.’

• Shop is at New London Architecture, The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London WC1, from 3 May to 23 June
• The event is being sponsored by Davis Langdon and Lunson Mitchenall
• New London Architecture is an exhibition centre dedicated to the future of the built environment in London
• A series of talks will be made by leading figures in retail development and design, such as Ken Greig of Greig & Stephenson – the architect for Borough Market in London – and Danny Chalkley of Westminster City Council

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