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Targeted investment in retail and hospitality design

Last month’s blog post was very well received by our readers. The subject of ‘unlocking new potential’ seemed to hit the spot for many who are focussed on building back better.


So this month, two years on from the first UK lockdown, our latest blog post looks at how we help our clients to feel more secure about targeting investment in the design development of their retail and hospitality estates.


Many businesses feel that they are still in uncharted waters. In a recent survey* 89% of design agency clients reported that ‘their market is moving too quickly to stay on top of’. In addition, 85% of clients believe that ‘the pandemic has permanently changed consumer behaviour’. Layer these concerns with the ongoing uncertainty of fluctuating consumer confidence and footfall, and it’s not surprising that businesses are finding it difficult to plan future innovation with confidence.


We therefore support our clients to identify the known issues and establish the unknown factors about their business operations in order to assess the need for change, and take key decisions about proposed design innovations in their stores and hospitality sites.


This initial stage is about much more than just getting up to speed with a new client or project. Its central aim is to uncover valuable new insights that will define the parameters of the design brief. Most importantly it provides designers and clients with a unique set of tools to unlock brand space development, which results in designing the right experience for customers.


Uncovering opportunities


Post pandemic, retailers and hospitality operators are reviewing every aspect of their businesses in order to uncover new opportunities. We’ve been helping our clients focus on changes in brand vision and values as well as assessing the shifting competitor landscape. Unravelling the ever-changing consumer sentiment has been critical too, together with identifying new operational processes and the impact on the customer journey.


Aside from traditional research techniques, gathering and sharing knowledge is hugely valuable on the pathway to uncovering opportunities. Taking clients on retail and hospitality safaris are great for generating ideas, as are trade shows, which re-emerged this month with staggeringly high attendance figures. This seems to reflect the great need for businesses to re-connect with one another, to share learnings, and to make sense of the new post-COVID landscape.


At this month’s PUB22 trade show, Katy Moses of KAM walked her audience through recent research and hosted a panel discussion about the changes and challenges for the Pub sector.


Several of the great takeouts from this session chimed with the discussions we are having with clients. Firstly, that 88% of pub goers ‘want an experience they can’t get at home’. Additionally, the top two drivers of venue choice are now the ‘food experience’, and ‘friendly & helpful staff’. After two years of lockdowns and restrictions, it’s not surprising perhaps, that consumers are looking for ‘exceptional’ and ‘humanising’ experiences. One panellist summed up their new mission as the need to ‘serve happiness’.


Breakthrough design solutions


Whether it’s serving up happiness for a pub or delivering an overall wow factor for a luxury retailer, there are innumerable ways that well designed brand spaces connect with consumers and keep them coming back for more. The job of the designer is to devise breakthrough design solutions that support their client’s business development priorities.



Sometimes this requires a major overhaul of a store or hospitality site, like the complete redevelopment of independent jewellery and watch retailer, Wakefields, to coincide with the expansion of their Rolex showroom. Other times a more iterative design process reaps the required rewards, like our work for Homebase which has seen carefully targeted design innovations inform their longer-term design development cycle.



Whatever the design solution, breakthroughs can only be deemed successful when they exceed a clear set of targets that we encourage clients to identify at the start of a project.


Teamwork and collaboration


Finally, no investment in design development can be effective without strong teamwork and collaboration. Some projects have become more complex, especially where there is a need to blend the digital and physical experience for consumers. These types of projects can require multiple specialist agencies working together with a client team in order to resolve a design brief.


It's therefore essential to help clients identify the right project team for the job and make sure that all stakeholders are involved in decision making from the start. This way our clients can feel secure that their targeted design innovations won’t fall down at the development and implementation stages.


After the tremendous challenges of the past two years, we are proud to be supporting our clients to transition into the post-pandemic landscape, helping them to target investment and embrace change with confidence.



* What Clients Think report by Up to the Light in association with the DBA (Design Business Association)