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The 10 trends of good retail design
Stuart Rough
14th November 2017

By the end of the decade the teenage Generation Z will be the world’s largest consumer group and they are changing the rules of retail – indeed, many of the old rules of retail no longer apply.

On a micro level individual retailers are innovating with technology and formats while on a larger scale shopping centres are being completely reimagined to meet the continually evolving expectations of customers.

The traditional mall is at a crossroads where reinvention is critical for those that want to remain relevant in this most dynamic of sectors.

#1 Super gastronomy

Food is the new fashion and the glue that binds the modern retail experience together.

Dining now makes up an average of 20 per cent of GLA in shopping centres and this figure is almost double in some new developments, not surprising when, according to JLL, customers who eat spend a fifth more than those who don’t and dwell for up to 30 minutes longer.

Shopping centres are having to not just offer a wider variety of cuisines but in interactive and well-designed seating spaces to create unrivalled dining. This can range from street food and fine dining to concept restaurants where customers cook their own food or ‘farm to table’ restaurants which only use locally sourced produce, perhaps from the shopping centre’s own urban farm.

#2 Leisure as an Anchor

After home and work, retail has now become the ‘third place’, the anchor of community life and creative interaction.

Whatever the format, the leisure offer is absolutely key to a centre’s success as the line between shopping and socialising becomes increasingly blurred.

As well as demanding a diverse and high quality range of shops, customers want an element of escapism and ultimately, entertainment for all the family with everything from child learning zones to casinos.

Public spaces for live performances, exhibitions, festivals, markets and live sports are becoming important features and larger centres are becoming leisure destinations in their own right with additions as diverse as theme parks, museums and theatres to ice rinks, skate parks and climbing walls.

Feature glazed cinema building at Baron's Quay, a new retail and leisure quarter in Chester, UK.

#3 The Great Outdoors

The traditional formulaic layout of the shopping mall is evolving to create the sense of a small town with large open air extensions when the climate and location affords, expanding the building space by integrating outside areas into the main shopping area.

As shopping centres begin to transform into leisure destinations, so we are seeing designs mimic the spatial and physical characteristics of the high street and town squares, offering a familiar streetscape for shoppers while providing amenities that are as exciting as they are unexpected.

At the heart of this approach, whether a major open air extension to a large format supermarket in Iberia or a strategic repositioning in urban Scandinavia, are interventions that anchor the shopping centre to its location with a strong recognizable narrative.

Interior photo of feature green wall at Holea retail and leisure centre in Huelva, Spain.

#4 Placemaking Through Landscape

Placemaking is about creating an environment that people want to visit and return to and landscape brings the context and location that helps articulate a sense of place

Creating places and spaces that enrich the user’s experience is at the heart of good retail design and the integration of nature, both internally and externally, creates a strong aesthetic while enhancing the overall ambiance of a development.

Natural elements help to break the hard edges of a building’s structure while the use of greenery and planting promotes health and productivity, decreasing customer stress levels and increasing dwell time.

Access to natural light and integrating biophilia into retail design capitalizes on the customer’s inherent connection to nature and provides a retail experience that is a multi-dimensional sensory feast while subtle evening lighting enhances a feeling of safety and well-being.

Interior visualisation of tree house and winter garden features at Parklake Plaza in Bucharest, Romania.

#5 Brand Expressions

From the external façade to the internal space, shops should be given the freedom to flourish their brand and image, creating different worlds within a larger grand space.

Retailers are moving beyond traditional store formats as they strive for experiential initiatives that reflect and accentuate their own brand while creating an exciting and diverse mix of retail across a shopping centre.

Stores must become attractions in their own right, showrooms with a museum quality where products are the exhibits. Creating a remarkable retail experience is the holy grail with interactive technology, themed stores and flexible organizational spaces usurping traditional catalogues and visual merchandising.

As the boundaries blur between e-commerce and physical retail, so shopping malls will increasingly accommodate the demand for last mile delivery with traditional car parking being replaced with drone parks and stock warehouses with customers increasingly travelling by rapid transport systems and autonomous vehicles.

Exterior façade of large retail unit at Fan Mallorca in Spain, part of a major extension project by Broadway Malyan.

#6 Superpowered Interiors

A key driver in the design of new shopping centres is the reaction against the closed off, drab interior spaces of traditional malls.

Natural light creates a more seamless connection between the indoor shopping space and the outside world with interiors that strike the delicate balance of beauty and business.

Interiors should be responsive to location and underpin the sense of place through intelligent design and the use of high quality and innovative materials. Stores may be the centre of attention but the mall is now a leisure destination in its own right with an interior that promotes relaxation and sociability.

Spectacular circulation bridges at Lefo Mall in Suzhou, China, boasting five floors of natural daylight from the central glass ceiling.

#7 Retail-led mixed use

As consumer habits change, so customers are looking for retail to seamlessly integrate with their lifestyles, be that living, working or relaxing.

Mixed use developments anchored by a vibrant retail offer are key for the development of many urban economies, developing employment opportunities, raising property values and attracting a more diverse customer base that enriches the overall development.

Successful retail-led mixed use is breaking conventional barriers with innovations such as co-working office space within stores while the judicious use of land in Asia is seeing the growth of vertical retail with retail, residential and commercial tenants all integrated within visually powerful tall buildings.

Photo showing contrasting styles of office building and retail block at ID Mall in Hefei, China.

#8 Brand Destinations

A shopping centre’s brand is its identity. It is the narrative that differentiates the centre from others and elicits an emotional response from its customers – it is why they visited and why they will come back again.

The building layout, massing, architectural language, landscape and interior design all play a part in rooting the project into a location and supporting the creation of a locally appropriate and identifiable place that articulates the centre’s personality and charisma.

The tenant mix helps to build a brand but conversely, a strong identifiable brand attracts good tenants, drives customer loyalty and ultimately increases asset value.

The shopping centre’s brand should be consistent throughout, in its design both inside and out, it’s signage and wayfinding, its marketing collateral and even in its values – customers want to visit places that are familiar and they can understand. Ultimately they want shopping centres they can believe in.

Interior lighting and ceiling design detail at Rosengardecentret retail centre in Odense, Denmark.

#9 Emotive design

Good retail design is an objective response to a detailed understanding of context but its success is measured in the emotional response of its users.

Customer senses should be excited on a subconscious level, evoking a sense of grandeur and vitality with the integration of innovative or palatial lighting, natural spaces and interventions and decorative elements that enhance the design narrative.

The physical retail experience must be increasingly immersive, stimulating all the senses – sight, sound and smell – as it works to attract customers from the ease of online to a more human and vital experience that will create lasting memories that they will want to revisit again in the future.

New timber interior finishes at newly refurbished Lisbon International Airport, Portugal.

#10 Online/offline fusion

Customer behavior is continuing to rapidly shift with the role of the store continuing to evolve and customers increasingly demanding a seamless shopping experience across all channels.

Showrooming where customers check out products before ordering them online is already being reflected in store formats with a focus on a hyper-personalized service and the hospitality values of a top hotel over sales where marketing and branding are the key design drivers.

Stores must be an extension and an enhancement of the customer’s online experience in every way, whether that is product choice or service expectations, while technology will become increasingly ubiquitous with innovations ranging from gesture-based and QR-based window shopping to virtual showrooms and instant social sharing.

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