Rebecca Jones, Marketing manager UK, Ireland and Central Europe, Formica

Surface treatments are becoming increasingly important weapons in the armoury available to architects and designers who are working in the retail environment, with colour, texture and pattern all having their parts to play in promoting brand messages and enhancing the general experience for consumers

In the fast-moving and very competitive retail environment, store interiors must look good, communicate brand values and entice customers into stores. With this in mind manufacturers must offer a comprehensive range of materials which give retail designers the design flexibility and choice they demand.

Surfaces can be finished in many different ways, whether clad, painted, plastered or left deliberately in their natural state. Clever use of surfaces can enhance the structure and lines of a building. In fact, interior surfaces are often an integral part of the overall feel of a building, so it’s not surprising that architects are increasingly getting involved in the design of the interior space. As architects challenge us with exciting designs that continue to move forward methods of construction, they are increasingly pushing the boundaries of interior surface use and design alongside it.

The varied effects that different interior surfaces and materials can create are being exploited, and, in many cases, the retail sector is at the forefront of this. Surface treatments can be used in many ways and can create an environment full of atmosphere, and materials that appeal to more than one of our five senses are growing in popularity. For example, texture and optical effects give additional value to plain colours and create a sense of depth.

A retail space should create a mood that is relaxing, inviting and even fun, without any feeling of intimidation. It is important that the customer feels comfortable in the environment and should be guided around the store by the interior design and layout. Innovative and decorative surfacing materials also play a part in drawing the customer into the store. They can be part of the shopfittings and furnishings, or a focal piece to draw attention to a certain area of a store.

Surfacing materials can be used in the interior environment in numerous ways, from wall-panelling and column-casing to furniture finishes and units. Surfaces can provide structural elements or include digital print technology for more bespoke requirements, perhaps incorporating a trademark pattern or branding.

A surfacing material can be defined by three elements: colour, texture and pattern. All three are essential for the appearance and style of a retail store interior. As far as colour is concerned, with the increased merging of styles and concepts being used to create interiors that meet the aspirations and desires of today’s fashion-conscious consumer, both texture and colour have become incredibly important, stirring the senses to soothe, inspire or make dramatic statements.

Colour also plays an important role in creating the interior atmosphere, influencing moods and environment. It creates a reaction and can be used cohesively throughout a store, whether it works across the whole interior or complements the existing colour palette, product displays and lighting.

The current trend for bold and high-gloss finishes has seen the creation of zones, for example, between male and female areas, and between types of merchandise or floors of a shop. In the retail environment vibrant or different types of surfaces can dictate customer flow, steering shoppers towards goods on display at specific stands. And, of course, reflecting corporate brand colour palettes makes spaces instantly recognisable and familiar.

The influence of texture has long been underestimated, but its importance is growing fast – the right texture enhances a simple plain colour surface and adds the dimension needed to make a lasting impression.

For example, gloss surfaces are perfect to combine with an understated backdrop to provide an accent feature, reflect light around a space or to complement other colours and textures to create striking and contrasting surface combinations. Pleasing tactile experiences enliven any surface and turn it into the essence of an environment.

Patterns can make a shop either modern and stylish, or timeless and elegant, and can help support the identity of a brand or shop concept. They create a high visual impact. As manufacturing technology evolves, bespoke patterns are coming to the fore. New techniques can create an individual statement or even incorporate a store’s individual branding. Wood patterns are still a popular choice, with a trend towards darker exotic species creating comfortable, exclusive ’club-like’ spaces or referencing the connection between outdoors and indoors.

As for enhancing brand values, it is becoming more apparent that the consumer is expecting the retail space to reflect the ethos of the company or brand. Specifiers have to find solutions which satisfy the criteria and help the firm reflect its identity, showing that the company is prepared to live and work the lifestyle it promotes. Image, as ever, is a key priority in the retail arena, with the enticement of potential customers into a store being a major objective alongside the desire to increase expenditure and traffic volumes. This makes the sector constantly subject to refurbishment projects prompted either by rebranding or just wear and tear.

There are several other factors a designer should consider when choosing surfacing materials in the retail environment. The right style and colour to support the identity of the brand is of paramount importance, but practicality and durability should not be overlooked.

Different retail environments, such as grocery stores and luxury goods outlets, vary hugely in look and feel, but optimising displays is a critical factor in surface selection in both. High-volume traffic areas such as counter tops and changing rooms endure high footfall and can show wear relatively quickly.

Surface treatments need to be visually striking and memorable, yet perform to a high standard to minimise wear and tear. Currently, where retailers are undergoing refurbishments they are looking for materials that last longer and maximise value, rather than spending less and having to implement makeovers more regularly.

In such a demanding environment, we can see that surfaces are a hugely influential factor towards both the customer and the store design. Whether colour, texture, pattern, durability or brand values are taken into account, clever surfaces can create an atmospheric environment, enhance the products within a store and ultimately keep the customer engaged.

Formica Group for Ugg
A recent project across a series of Ugg concession stores in the Netherlands has seen interior designer Maqutos create stunning interiors, designing and installing walls and units throughout.

The High Pressure Laminate range FormicaWoods is a popular choice for the retail environment, with elegant and versatile designs and durable qualities. Using Zebrano, in the Naturelle finish, from the collection contributed to the classic identity of the stores. The striking contrast between the Zebrano stripes and overall neutral palette of the store design enabled the material to stand out as the main design feature.

A popular finish designed to enhance the realism and appeal of woodgrains, Naturelle is an individual surface available on a selection of species from the Woods collection. The matt, velvety feel creates an elegant finish that emulates the look and feel of smoothly planed waxed timber, and complements straight-grained or softly planked woods.

The versatile qualities of High Pressure Laminates made the product an ideal choice for the retail environment. They are perfect for the requirements of high-volume traffic areas in retail environments, being robust and easy to clean. It can also be used horizontally or vertically and can hold a curve to create a striking feature.

A vast collection
The new specification range the Formica® Collection is a comprehensive range of High Pressure Laminates, specially selected in response to European trends. It has a vast range of elements designed to work in conjunction with each other, meaning specifiers gain maximum flexibility and can create truly co-ordinated looks.

The Collection encompasses metallics, woodgrains, plain colours and patterns. Continuous research and development ensures that new colours, designs and textures are part of this exclusive range.

Rebecca Jones

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