On retail differentiation

Differentiation was today again singled out as being one of the most important factors of design, this time in the context of a retail talk at the Royal Festival Hall in London.


As part of the London Design Festival’s Financial Times-sponsored talks, Murray Moss, founder of US retailer Moss, Florence Delorme, head of marketing at Habitat, and Vittorio Radice, chief executive of Italian department chain La Rinascente, took to the floor to discuss design in retail.


This morning’s talk addressed the question, ‘What is the best way to sell design to consumers?’, and considered success stories and failures, ranging from the mass market to the niche, and from department store revamps to boutique expansions.


In contrast to Wednesday’s talk on branding, this time the concept of differentiation related to each store within a chain being different, rather than being used as a means of distinguishing competitive brands.


Delorme made the point that Habitat aims to keep everything ‘fresh and inspiring. We have worked with a number of our own designers to make sure collections are inspiring,’ she said. ‘We don’t want to be intimidating. Architecture is very important. You need to take the basis of the architecture to get the store right. We have a store in Regent Street, which is a fantastic Art Deco building, with an amazing ceiling, so it is important to use the spirit of the building and add to that.’


With regards to the product collections and their presentation, Delorme added ‘We need to keep that novelty, we need to bring in new products to keep that surprise. Keep the furniture fresh. Products need to be illuminated into something really strong – that is what people are looking for.’


Moss set up his company in 1994 in SoHo, New York, and this has now expanded to Los Angeles. His stores are known for their product selection and presentation, and he is said to be instrumental in shaping the direction of the store designs. The New York shop is designed to look and feel like a museum, but each store location is very different in design.


‘It is very site-specific’, he said. ‘In one area there is a furniture district, so you know people are looking for furniture, and in another there is an art gallery district, and so on.’ So, Moss believes you have to work with the space and area available.


‘You can get several products anywhere, but it is about the different way you illuminate them. It is like the show that is showing at lots of different theatres, but one in particular draws people in – you need to make people see what that is and make it interesting,’ Moss added.

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