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Retail Design Expo 2016

The Retail Design Expo 2016 took place on 9th and 10th March at Olympia in London. It brought together leading retail design experts and their retail clients from around the world, in what was a phenomenal event. It was a resounding success and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to present on what the team here at Innovare Design see as essential aspects of best practice in retail design.

The exhibitor stands were excellent and having 3 conferences in one: RDE (Retail Design Expo), RBTE (Retail Business Technology Expo) and RDSE (Retail Digital Signage Expo) gives it an even greater appeal.

There was so much to see and although it was impossible to take it all in over two days,
there were a number of presentations that really stood out for our team this year. I have tried to capture a few of the key moments below that seemed to represent some of the current trends in retail design.

John Lewis Partnership – Creating the Flagship difference

For any retail designer, the opportunity to work on a flagship store is hugely rewarding. The presentation by John Lewis was a great example of the importance of creating visual theatre in a store environment through visual merchandising – “using VM as retail art” was their phrase and something we totally applaud.

Navigating Trendland: Current trends influencing retail design

Cassie Isherwood and Howard Sullivan explained that the boundaries between Live, Nourish, Work and Sleep environments are increasingly blurring to create branded retail environments that consumers have rarely experienced before.

They then presented some fabulous examples of this trend.

Live: Uncle Rocco’s Barber Shop in Melbourne has been transformed into a Mecca for the trendy set in Melbourne. Whilst primarily being a barber shop, they also provide workshops, have their own clothing line and even provide a place to grab something to eat. This blends several environments and creates a truly unique experience in the heart of Melbourne. The customer becomes the visual merchandise to attract a like minded crowd!

This resonated with us in relation to a project we worked on, where we designed a West London hair salon as a flexible environment so it could be transformed into an art gallery and meeting place when required – see the images above.

Nourish: Cassie and Howard went on to highlight the way in which retail designers are collaborating with artists to create one off pieces in their VM. An example of this was Artist Ai Weiwei, who used traditional Chinese kite-making techniques to create mythological characters and creatures for windows, atriums and the gallery at Paris department store Le Bon Marché.

Work:  Co-working spaces are being intertwined with retail elements to create bespoke stores for consumers. A great example of this is Bespoke in Westfield San Francisco, where you can shop, work and even have a nap in one of their library sleep nooks!

Sleep: Scotch and Soda and AirBnB have teamed up to give their customers the chance to actually live the Scotch and Soda brand by staying at one of their apartments. The apartments have been especially created by Scotch and Soda for the film ‘The Story of Things’. During their stay, guests can have a customised wardrobe, so they can wear the latest collection and live the life of the characters in the film.

Cassie and Howard also gave an insight on how their company work with brands to create ‘Instagrammable’ moments, in which social media plays a major role in sharing their brand messages with the world. They touched on the use of digital technology within the retail environment and the fact that more work is needed to ensure full integration of technology is at the forefront of retail design, rather than as an afterthought.

In part 2, I will talk in detail about some of the other highlights of the Retail Design Expo 2016, starting with a great presentation by Janet Best on the importance of colour. I will also talk about Smart Stores and the critical aspect of lighting in retail environments.

Before I sign off however, I’d like to give our interior design intern Alice’s perspective on her first visit to the Expo:

“I haven’t been to the Retail Design Expo before, but compared to the other fairs I have visited, it felt that much more effort had been put into the seminars as well as the exhibition stands.

People were really passionate about what they were talking about and all of the talks were fully booked.

The whole event was fantastic!”