Retail designs have shorter shelf life in Internet age

Theories on the rise of Internet trading versus retail stores have often focused on how the virtual could cause the demise of the physical, along with the need for specialist design.

However, according to a recent Mintel report, Retail Store Design, the impact of Internet trading is, in fact, creating a marketplace in which retailers are growing and revamping their stores with increasing regularity.

Generally, retail design appears to be thriving. Intensifying competition between retailers, the growth in shopping developments, as well as the rise in Internet trading, are all contributing factors to current healthy store design activity.

While there is a trend for more frequent design changes, the report points to findings that spend on each revamp tends to be lower. However, Dalziel & Pow creative director David Dalziel disagrees with this point. ‘I think the report has painted a slightly blacker picture when it comes to investment,’ he says. ‘There is more activity, but I don’t see less investment in volume terms. It is fairly consistent. When growth goes up, spend doesn’t necessarily come down.

‘Traders need to compete, and it is traders that use design that are successful. Stores such as Primark are big on price tag, but there is no reason why they should scrimp on their environment. The middle market always has to change and compete, but, I do feel the luxury market is possibly failing to respond, it has become quite complacent and it doesn’t always excite and inspire like lesser brands.’

There is a growing tendency for revamps to be upgrades; current designs are evolved rather than completely overhauled, which is a relatively low-cost option, according to the report. It says that retailers tend to focus their spending on areas that interface with their customers and improve the experience of the store.

Lower-priced retailers are said to add value by designing their stores to look as good as those in the mid-market. Primark, which has worked with Dalziel & Pow for many years, was cited as one chain that is designing stores to look as good as high street fashion shops. This trend then puts pressure on mid-market retailers to justify their prices by creating more innovative store designs.

Advice is offered on how best to improve the look and feel of stores. Shoppers need to be encouraged to spend more time in-store rather than move on-line. Retailers are guided against ‘clone Britain’, in which copycat stores are rolled out, leading to a situation where the high street looks the same.

‘The most important thing seems to be about making the shops enticing so people will stay, and flexibility,’ says the report’s editor and Mintel retail analyst Katrin Magnussen. ‘There are a few different ways of doing this. Technology using screens and sound effects, with interactives, are all becoming popular. If there is gadgetry in-store then it is not pushing people to shop on-line. Design brings the shop to life and captures the imagination. Retailers don’t realise sometimes how important design is. It would be worth their while to spend a bit more money on the design of the store and keep people interested.’

• Concentration will continue in retailing, so there will be a shrinking market for designers, therefore pushing UK store designers to seek work abroad
• The costs of retail design will continue to benefit from the strength of the pound, as more materials are sourced from low- cost economies
• Retailers will continue to design more often, but attempt to generate more results from lower spend
• The Internet will continue to grow as a shopping channel, and as a result, retailers will be under more pressure to compete
• Retailers will try to go Green with their store design

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