top of page

Retail Design Diversity

Updated: Jun 21, 2019

‘Variety is the spice of life’ said William Cowper and I have to agree with him, especially this month. Three trade shows in a row, one of our store designs shortlisted for an award, and an intensive few days vetting concepts for the 2017 Retail Design Student Awards. It’s an example of our diversity as a retail design studio and a reminder of why we love what we do.

The month started with 100% Optical – the UK’s largest optical trade show. In my January blog post I wrote about optical retail design – a sector I have worked in for over 15 years. There are big challenges facing independent opticians today as they fight for market share with the larger ‘value focused’ optical chains. So it was great to see that an innovative independent won the AOP 2017 Practice of the Year award at the show. The award recognised their creative approach to marketing and window display, their wide choice of frames, and their bespoke personal service that puts patients at the centre of everything they do. A very well deserved winner in my opinion!

Putting customer experience at the heart of retail design innovation is something I’ve been passionate about for the past 20 years. In my blog post Understanding Retail Shopper Behaviour I discuss the high expectations of today’s consumers and some of the ‘hurdles’ for retailers. Whilst many retailers still have a long way to go, those who have adopted more considered, experiential store formats, have helped push consumers to think about shopping as a leisure activity. And this blurring of boundaries is very important for the future of both the retail and leisure sectors.

We all want to have some fun…

So say Deloitte’s in their Passion for Leisure report, which explores the UK consumer’s growing appetite for a diverse range of leisure pursuits – from occasional travel or theatre tickets at one end of the spectrum to more regular treats like visits to cafes or the pub at the other. With an estimated turnover of £117 billion, the shape of the UK leisure sector has evolved dramatically over the past decade, and none more so than the eating out and drinks market, which frequent our high streets and shopping malls helping to drive footfall.

We joined the UK pub and drinks sector this month as they came together at PUB17 to discuss their industry’s challenges and opportunities. Visiting a pub or bar remains a favourite leisure activity for UK consumers but with alcohol consumption shifting to in-home, traditional operators have started to develop new incentives for consumers – compelling food offers, craft beers, artisanal spirits and tempting alcohol free ranges, all housed in comfortable and attractive environments that make you want to linger longer.

Make the customer your advocate

Surprise and delight your customers and they will promote your business for you. And today’s technology makes this job easier than ever. Take our new ‘tasting space’ for Sipsmith London. Recently accredited CoolBrand status for 2016/17, we were commissioned by this award winning gin brand to design a tasting space at their West London distillery. Part of our brief was to create an impact that would inspire ‘Instagrammable moments’ from an audience of professional mixologists, trade buyers and the gin loving public, who all regularly tour the distillery. Our design solution reflects the depth of thought, passion and creativity that goes into every drop of Sipsmith gin and as a result, the Instagram ‘Likes’ are flooding in!

Sipsmith London, distillery ‘tasting space’


Adding a touch of passion was the theme of this year’s Jewellery & Watch trade show seminar programme. The #CREATINGLOVE campaign spoke to the creativity, craftsmanship, care and dedication involved in the journey for every piece of jewellery made. Keynote speakers together with the show community were able to share their stories about how they create memorable moments for their customers as well as general impressions about the show itself.

Of course, we pride ourselves on helping our clients create those memorable moments for their customers. So we were thrilled to learn this month that our store design for Luxe by Hugh Rice jewellers has been shortlisted for Best Store Environment by the 2017 UK Jewellery Awards. As usual though, this design project was the result of a strong collaborative process so we must thank the team at Hugh Rice for their contribution and the opportunity to work with them again.

Luxe by Hugh Rice, Beverley

And finally…

As I mentioned at the start, I’ve been busy shortlisting entrants for the 2017 Retail Design Student Awards. Since November I’ve been mentoring 30 students from Huddersfield University as they’ve tackled a brief set by Pret A Manger. Together with Pret A Manger we have now selected the three finalists whose work will be exhibited at the 2017 Retail Design Expo, coming up this May. They will be judged against students from 5 other colleges who have worked on a range of different briefs, and the winners will be announced on the first day of the conference. I’ve got my fingers crossed for each of the finalists – especially as last year’s winner was from Huddersfield!

Creative arts building, Huddersfield University

If you’d like more insights on how to develop your retail or leisure space then just get in touch. We are always happy to talk.


bottom of page