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Insights and inspiration for retail and hospitality

Updated: May 30

This first half year has delivered an exciting series of trade shows, conference programmes and networking opportunities. It’s been great to be out and about, sharing experiences, reviewing best practice, and soaking up some of the fabulous inspiration offered by thought leaders and practitioners from across the retail and hospitality sectors.


So, this month we’ve brought together a few takeouts and links to the digitally available food-for-thought, advice, and trends analysis which you may have missed.


Shaping enduring brand stories in retail and hospitality

Starting with the SpringFair at NEC Birmingham, the trend-led insights from The Future Collective (TFC) took the audience on a journey into the future of retail design. We’ve posted before about the importance of viewing future retail as a marathon not a race, so we very much agreed with TFC’s Kate Shepherd when she spoke of the current opportunities for the sector – “Leading brands and retailers will recognise this watershed moment – it’s time to play the long game, shaping enduring brand stories and experiences. For those with vision and patience, the opportunities are tremendously exciting.” You’ll find more about this on the SpringFair website.

Top line trends


Of course, not all brands and retailers have the resources to be trend-setters. It’s ok to follow just behind the pack, learning from the successes and avoiding the failures of others. However, it is vital to be clear about the direction of travel for the sector, planning for incremental change along the development journey. The SpringFair website also gives a glimpse of the 2024 retail trends influencing the current retail landscape and whilst they are very top line, it remains a useful checklist to help focus investment strategies.

Understanding consumers


Understanding the consumer mindset is more important than ever today and central to achieving success in both retail and hospitality. Accenture’s 2023 Consumer Pulse Survey provides a valuable source of global insights and recommends approaching consumers as ‘humans first’. Very wise advice which speaks to our own approach with retail and hospitality design projects, putting the human experience at the heart of our design solutions.

Balancing the digital: human experience


The adoption of technology is ubiquitous in almost all aspects of life today but The Institute of Customer Service CEO recently called for balance in the digital:human experience. She acknowledged that whilst technology and AI is to be mostly welcomed, especially if it ensures better knowledge and understanding of customer behaviours, we must also recognise its current limitations. She cited Fortnum & Mason who have started using actors to recreate customer service situations to understand how service professionals become more proactive and cognisant in their ability to anticipate the unpredictable nature of human beings. 

Tech Talks - Insights and inspiration for retail and hospitality

The Retail Technology Show (offered a hive of digital and data focused solutions for the sector, including numerous presentations on how to embrace the AI revolution. However, one of our favourite takeouts from the event came from a presentation by Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics, who took his packed audience through the ‘Outlook for UK Retail in 2024 & Beyond’.

His cautiously optimistic presentation suggested that we are through the worst of the cost-of-living crisis with consumer confidence starting to rebound. He went on to flag his three ‘Top of Mind’ issues for retailers, highlighting the rising complexity

of the Customer Journey, the significant disruption of Recommerce (citing Vinted’s explosive growth), and finally warning about balance in Digital Transformation.

Richard backed up this last point with stats around the ongoing reliance of retail sales on some sort of physical touch point, with over 50% of online purchases still dependant on a bricks-and-mortar experience at some stage of the customer journey. Solving this ‘phygital conundrum’ is still an ever-present concern for retailers of all sizes. 

The evolution of stores


While stores remain such an important part of the sales journey they do still need to evolve. Retail Analyst Natalie Berg of podcast ‘Retail Disrupted’ fame, has participated in numerous retail conference programmes this season discussing this very topic. But it’s her recent podcast interview with Brian Librach – former VP of Stores at Urban Outfitters – that we’ve chosen to highlight here. There can be nothing more fascinating and illuminating than learning from others and in this podcast Natalie and Brian discuss the evolution of stores in today’s digital era, together with a range of retail leadership challenges.

Model of a show - Insights and inspiration for retail and hospitality

The importance of visual merchandising


Visual merchandising and display will always play a critical role in the physical store experience for customers. This year’s VM and Display Show celebrated ‘a fusion of creativity, sustainability, and retail innovation’. The show’s seminar programme did not disappoint with industry leaders sharing current trends, digital innovations, and future designs, as well as discussion around the challenges of sustainability. Of course, the 2024 VM & Display Awards provides a great inspirational guide to current best practice.

Optimising customer experience in hospitality


Visual identity, display and merchandising are equally important in hospitality settings too. Throughout coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars, designers like us need to create visual accents in these spaces. We need to trigger positive connections with customers to prompt purchasing, make them linger longer, and drive recurrent footfall. There was plenty of discussion about these challenges during networking at this year’s Food Drink & Hospitality Week.

However, it’s the summary of the Arena Savoy Lecture that we’ve chosen to feature. Kate Nicholls OBE,UKHospitality CEO gave a realistic yet optimistic opening keynote, offering reasons to be cheerful. She highlighted that footfall remains robust thanks to the consumer’s intrinsic enjoyment of socialising and reported that ‘eating out’ is on the rise again. Acknowledging the ongoing challenges, Kate continues to be hopeful that the worst of the economic hurdles are over and that easing inflation together with tax and interest cuts later in the year, should unlock consumer spending power. As designers of hospitality spaces, it’s reassuring to know that 42% of consumers still prioritise eating out when disposable income permits, and 69% report that ‘eating out’ is the ‘treat they love’.

Flower wreath - Insights and inspiration for retail and hospitality

Insights and inspiration for retail and hospitality

Floral feasts


Finally, whilst on the theme of ‘food’, our most recent inspirational outing came in the form of Chelsea in Bloom - Chelsea’s prestigious annual floral art show and London’s largest free-to-attend festival of flowers. This year’s theme was ‘Floral Feasts’ and we loved them all! Having recently completed a major expansion and refurbishment for modern Pan-Asian fusion restaurant chain OKA, we particularly enjoyed the fishy floral scene at Sticks’n’Sushi.

Public voting has now closed but you can still see this year’s incredible entries on the Chelsea in Bloom website.  


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