There’s more to shop design than branding

Letters to the Editor should be sent to Design Week, 50 Poland Street, London W1V 4AX. Fax: 0171-734 1770.

It’s interesting to see the extent to which we retail designers have cloned in the years during which technology and the global brand have come to dominate the planet.

I’m left feeling that we’ve adopted the client culture so fully we have become consumer product deliverers and brand strategists, having leapt with glee into a techno-future where shoppers have become virtual statistics whose shopping experience is a process of lonely arms-length consumer goods acquisition.

Just as brands must offer more than brand values (remember when brands had features, advantages and benefits?), so must we retail designers offer more than interactive media and physical manifestations of the brand. Remember when we had professional skills? I recently spent a day in what used to be called (and still is, by most of the population) “going down the shops”, many of which had been branded. It was interesting to see how many of these shops needed considerably more than manifestations… in fact, they needed some fairly fundamental design services. They were damp, dirty, cluttered, worn, noisy, uncommunicative, difficult to shop in; their products and marketing were stronger than, but ill-supported by, their selling environments.

Given that the majority of shoppers will still continue to find the cultural fulfilment that comes from going down the shops (even we cannot convince them that such fulfilment can be replaced by virtual shopping and “going down the screens”), I’m all for having another go at being a shop designer. I’m even up for giving shops a bit of interactive media – we might have fun.

Susan Williamson

Business development manager

BSG/McColl

London EC1

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