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Celebrating 10 Years in Retail Design

How It All Started

On 1st April this year, we celebrated 10 years at Innovare Design. In 2006, after nearly 20 years in retail design, I started Innovare Design Limited with the aim of delivering a more client-centred, highly creative and service-focussed creative agency.

It’s been a great journey and as you can imagine, we have seen some exciting changes and developments in the retail design industry. So in this blog, as well as looking back, I’ll be touching on the digital high street, the rise in online shopping and the applications of technology in retail.

Our first project in 2006 was in Dubai, working with Paris Gallery, a leading United Arab Emirates luxury retailer, offering a premium assortment of
perfume and cosmetics, jewellery and watches and fashion accessories. Their first brief was to help them secure an anchor tenancy at Dubai Festival City Mall. We were engaged to design aspirational concepts and planning principles for all store departments covering 5,000 square metres across 2 floors. Today Paris Gallery have gone from strength to strength, winning the 2015 RetailME ‘Most Admired Department Store of the Year’ Award.

 The Changing High Street

Since 2006 we have witnessed dramatic changes to the high street, due to the rise of online shopping and the continued growth of out of town shopping malls. Today this is a hot topic of debate – how to regenerate the high street. There are of course a significant number of regional success stories already – such as the market towns, of Harrogate, Beverley and Chesterfield, all of which we have worked in recently for some of our jewellery clients Hugh Rice and Green+Benz.

Hugh Rice jewellers, Harrogate storefront

Harrogate shopfront

Importantly, The Digital High Street Report 2020 flagged up the importance of future- proofing our high streets by harnessing digital technology. And in early 2017 The High Street Digital Hub trials will take place – a business and government led initiative to assist high street retailers to become more digitally enabled and to take full advantage of the digital revolution.

 The Rise of Online Retailing

Once very much its own channel, independent of the in-store experience, online shopping and the development of smart phones, watches and mobile apps, has allowed the consumer to demand the convenience of cross-channel shopping. Indeed the rest of the world often looks to the British retail sector when it tries to work out what might be coming next!

However, when you look across the whole retail sector, many companies have struggled to adapt to the changing retail landscape. Internet Retailing Magazine’s research of the top 500 internet retailers showed that only 169 retailers had mobile apps with only 93 having ‘advanced’ apps, i.e. those with a personalised transactional capability. So this impacts greatly on how consumers buy from retailers and the offers they might receive.

All of our retail clients have embraced online shopping and the needs of today’s savvy consumers. For optical brands such as Sunglass Hut, David Clulow Opticians and John Lewis Opticians, hard-working social media campaigns are driving their consumers in-store, and our responsive store design facilitates physical transactions.

Optically corrected screens at service desks aid customers to 'try before they buy'

Optically corrected screens at service desks aid customers to ‘try before they buy’

In 2007, when we first started working with David Clulow Opticians, we refreshed their identity and designed a completely new branded retail environment for them. Today, our new generation store design for David Clulow – launched in the City of London’s Cheapside – creatively applies the latest digital technology for a customer-focussed journey. The 75” high res digital screen in the window and additional digital displays in store – all combine to deliver a seamless communication channel that links key brand stories from on line to in-store. Whist branded display tables provide the all important opportunity to touch and feel featured products.

 Advances in Lighting and Technology

Lighting has always been a critical design factor of retail store design. Getting the right balance of light in store and on product is essential. So we’ve really benefitted from the development of Light-Emitted Diodes (LEDs), which have been the biggest single leap since the invention of the fluorescent lamp. They have allowed us to play with colour and to control lighting schemes as well as delivering a technology which has long-term benefits – their reduced size, reduced energy consumption, reduced heat output, and reduced maintenance costs all add up to an exciting new light source.

In addition to creating the right lighting balance for focus, sparkle and luxury in store, the advent of digital screens has helped to revolutionise delivery of the in-store brand story. Back in 2009, when we started working with our first high-end jewellers, TACH, we installed a first generation digital window screen. By 2011 screen technology had advanced sufficiently that we were able to create a full digital window for Ray Ban’s first European store – an urban basement concept in the heart of London’s trend-setting Covent Garden district. The window’s real time branded digital stream successfully enticed customers down to a buzzing ‘underground’ shopping experience. Last year, in 2015, at Westfield London and Stratford City, our re-envisaged store designs for Sunglass Hut incorporated 270 tiny digital screens – creating the largest screen in Europe.

Sunglass Hut Westfield London, largest digital screen in Europe

In 2012, the popularity of tablets enabled us to introduce them as sales support devices for David Clulow Opticians staff. They could not only photograph optical customers in their preferred frames (to help the buying decision), they could measure for lenses and also showcase a far wider choice of frames than could be accommodated in store.

Today’s cross-channel retail continues to shape consumer engagement in store, particularly for those multiple retailers who can invest in it. For instance, larger stores now accommodate click and collect areas, informational beacons, real time stock visibility devices and digitally transmitted up-to-the minute promotions.

Conclusion

Of course, successful retail brands have always understood that it is all about the consumer. And today’s consumers are driving the design of their retail journey more than ever before.

For the consumer, it is simply shopping whether it is in store or online. They don’t care about terminology and categorising the journeys they take through to a final purchase. Instead, they want to switch from channel to channel, from device to store, picking up exactly where they left off in the purchasing process. An uninterrupted, joined-up retail experience that takes place wherever and whenever is most convenient for them.

So looking back, our job today remains the same as it always has. To help retail brands secure profitable growth through well-designed and immersive brand experiences. Or put more simply – effective retail design that delivers great results!

In future blog posts, I’ll be looking at how retail design can entice customers back to physical stores and the emphasis on customer experience. I’ll also be talking to other thought leaders across a wide range of retail topics such as Colour in Retail, Brand Development, Art in Retail and Placemaking in Retail.