How do you provide a really great retail experience every time?
Focus on the staff.

As retail designers we are often drawn to consistent patterns in creating new store designs, formats and experiences. We naturally focus on finding the right material palette to communicate the brand and its values. We scrutinise the layout of each site and analyse the best possible paths for customer journey, sell-through, and penetration into the store. We seek to find new ways to “wow” customers, resulting in phones coming out of pockets to fill social media feeds with what’s new.

Lately, the industry has been focussed on ‘experiential retail’ – “how do we give customers an experience that they’ll love and evangelise about?” This often leads down paths like digital media or a theatrical environment, but are we missing something?

Surely the core component to a truly great store experience are the people that we interact with. After all we seek guidance from store staff to answer our questions or confirm our knowledge or opinion on products, we are greeted into the brand’s world by people and for the most part we buy products face to face from people.

Why then is it so often the case that store staff are not treated with the same respect as we pay to the design of a store? Being employed on minimum wage contracts, put on the store floor without adequate training on products and services, and given little incentive to actually care about their role.

In the best instances, brands are clearly aware of the importance of each and every person in their store. Door staff form literal first impressions of brands and make customers feel welcome and valued, sales staff can be the good-willed fountain of knowledge that link shoppers to the perfect product or service with charm and sincerity, changing room staff can be the considerate opinion that confidently turn ‘maybe moments’ in to positive purchases, the list can go on and on.

In essence, I think it’s important that retail designers look beyond their own output and seek conversation with their clients at the start of their project about the people that operate in their store(s). It can be the difference between simply a great looking store or a truly brilliant experience.

Can I have some more?

Retail design planning drawings

Retail design?
What’s retail design?!

This happens a lot: “So what do you do?” – “Oh, I’m a retail designer, I design shops for a living.” - “Ah ok, so you mean like the fronts of shops? What they look like from the street?”
watch shop display

Designing a store that embodies brand values.

Recently as part of an interview, I was asked what retail may look like by 2025. Whilst I understood that this question shouldn’t be taken literally, I believe it is clear to see that retail is pushing forward into the realm of being experience-led. Brands know that their brick and mortar stores are becoming showrooms to try-on or try-out products, and as such, they are having to push harder to create experiences and connections with their customers.