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Retail Design Expo 2016 – The Highlights Part Two

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Welcome to part 2 of the highlights of the Retail Design Expo 2016 which took place on 9th and 10th March at Olympia in London. In Part 1, I talked about two of the very impressive talks we heard. One from the John Lewis Partnership on using visual merchandising as art and, one by Cassie Isherwood and Howard Sullivan from Your Studio on the current trends influencing retail design, where they see the Live, Work, Sleep and Nourish environments rapidly blurring to create unique branded retail environments. You can read Part 1 here.

In this post, I will summarise four more of the talks that particularly resonated with our team during the Expo. These were on colour, smart stores, lighting and digital storytelling, which are all essential aspects of retail design.

Colour: An essential Visual Merchandise knowledge – Janet Best

This talk by fashion retail colour management specialist, Janet Best, was about the value of colour and the fact that it’s important to us in ways that we don’t even realise. Colour has a huge influence on whether we decide to buy a product or not. If the colours used don’t appeal to us, then subconsciously we will be deterred from buying that product. This is similar to the way in which animals use colours to drive threats away in the wild.

Janet also spoke about the importance of colour in different cultures. For example, the colours surrounding death and mourning around the world are different. In western cultures black is often associated with death, whereas in China, Korea, and other Asian countries, white represents death, mourning, and bad luck. The colour scheme associated with luxury items will also vary between cultures.

Janet is a very engaging speaker and she achieved some great crowd interaction. The audience were given colour swatches and as she called out various things, she asked the audience to hold up the colour swatch they felt best represented what she’d called out. It was fascinating to see the variety of ideas emerge for the meanings of the different colours.

Retail revolutions: Smart stores and active flagships – Katie Baron

Katie Baron covered a vast amount of material, but central to her talk was that today’s customers shop across multiple channels and this presents retailers and brands with some great opportunities, as well as challenges! Indeed, 2015 research by US analysts PricewaterhouseCoopers, shows that 86% of consumers currently shop across at least two channels.

So Katie presented a series of examples to show how some retailers are using technology and social media in really innovative ways to drive sales as well as improve service levels.

Of course, near-field communication (NFC) is now being more commonly deployed in store allowing consumers to create physical baskets, or access to a digital ones. One good example of this was Sephora’s Micro ‘Flash’ Omni-Store in Paris, where reimagined store cards help customers to create wish lists both in store and on-line, allowing them to shop at a time and via the channel most convenient for them.

Another fun, interactive example of innovative technology was H&Ms Runway concept at their Times Square NYC flagship. Here H&M encourages customers to become catwalk models for their clothes, who are then filmed and shown live in store as well as on social media. This reminded me of Sunglass Hut’s ‘social sun’ initiative at their first Oxford Street flagship store in London, which we designed back in 2010.

A nice ‘service focussed’ initiative was fitting user-friendly technology in changing rooms to help customers get alternative sizes of clothes without having to leave.

All in all this was an interesting session, reaffirming that innovative and well considered technological innovation can help retailers build their brands as well as increase sales if it’s unique, fun, appropriate and customer focused.

Lighting for beautiful retail results – Steve Shackleton (Zumtobel).

Steve Shackleton talked about the importance of lighting, in terms of quantity, direction, colour and emotional response. Our intern Alice attended this talk and was amazed at the amount of research that goes into lighting design, as well as the impact that the slightest changes can have in a space.

Of course, the correct combination of all the crucial lighting factors are required to achieve the optimum effect, otherwise lighting can potentially have a detrimental effect, very similar to Janet Best’s description of how colour can deter customers from buying.

Another interesting point that Steve conveyed was how different personality types are attracted to different lighting schemes. For example, a corporate director may be more attracted to ‘dominant’ light, with colder colours and accent lighting, which together exude an impression of power. Conversely, harmonisers – such as family focused people or those in more relaxed jobs with less stress – may be more attracted to soft, gentle, warmer light. He showed an example of the same space lit differently to emphasise this point effectively.

INTO Lighting, our main lighting consultants, work with us on many of our projects. We understand the critical importance of lighting in retail environments and focus on it a great detail with our clients.

Customer focussed experiences

At Innovare Design, we continuously strive to keep the consumer experience at the forefront of our design process.

Much of the future changes in retail will inevitably be driven by consumer demand and the shift in technological innovation. The speed of these changes make it hard to reliably predict what retail will look like even in 5 years from now. However, we will be discussing possible future trends in a future post.

To sum up, shows like the Retail Design Expo are just one of the many ways we keep abreast of the latest developments in retail. This year’s Expo was a much larger event and the quality of the stands and the speakers were extremely high. There was a great buzz around the event. It provided a superb opportunity to meet clients, contractors, business partners as well as to generally network with thought leaders in the retail design industry. It was without doubt an excellent showcase for our sector demonstrating “all the elements of the modern omni-channel market place and all the customer touchpoints”.

In my next blog post, I’ll be celebrating Innovare’s 10th Anniversary and looking back, as well as looking to the future, as we consider the changing face of retail store design.


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