The future of retail will be experience – we already know that.
But at what cost?

I was asked this week, by a student, what I really thought about the death of the high street, and what ultimately might happen to retail. My answer was clear in my mind; Retail will always be around, I feel sure of that – It will just be lead by experience. Consumers may well focus on purchasing online and we may see stores (as we know them) become showrooms to their products, but it will always exist in some form.

We see circular design feature in so many industries and sectors, but why not in retail?

It may work out differently than that but experiential retail is already here, and it’s hard to imagine it going away. As consumers, we all love a great shopping experience. We love to try products out, place ourselves into fantastical scenarios and to justify our purchases to ourselves by “proving” them in their optimum habitats. Retail designers are doing great work, and not a week goes by without another new store being opened to the world with fresh ideas and new experiences.

But in satiating our desire for the “new”, and always finding out what’s next, there comes a high price to pay.

Ive written before that retail design should be recognised as a discipline in its own right, and commented that people are often bemused by the idea of someone that actually designs your shopping environment. Well, here’s another consideration. Almost all stores have no concept of recyclability or reusability designed in. They are designed and built to serve their lease term and then finish their life as landfill, or fuel for the incinerator.

This isn’t good enough, and being wilfully ignorant to the impact of retail isn’t good enough either. We see circular design feature in so many industries and sectors, but why not in retail? We know going into these projects that they have a shelf life, and its finite – so why not plan for it? Why not consider how to recycle or reuse every item that goes in to making an environment, rather than turning a blind eye to it once its been installed?

Brands can do a lot to improve here, by taking the ethical approach beyond their product and seeing where their responsibilities lie across their business. Likewise, retail designers have accountability too. It is our task to raise these issues, talk to our clients about sustainable and responsible design, and to follow through on these principles.

There is also one other group that has a stake in this issue – consumers. I believe that the customers themselves should be more demanding. When a brand builds an environment, taking resource and energy from the earth, the customers should be asking, “why?”. There should be purpose in furthering the built environment that exists beyond financial profit.

To that same student that asked that simple question, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the end of retail. I’d be much more concerned about the impact that we’re having on the earth by blindly designing something, just so that it can be new.

We have the opportunity to change our practices, as brands, as retail designers and as customers so let’s do it, lets make a difference and turn around an industry that so often hides in plain sight.

Can I have some more?

Hand touching reprocessed material board

Double take on Euroshop 2020

The team at Double gives their take on Eurosop 2020. Describing the main themes on display and their impact on the retail design industry.