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SDEA comment: Innovation is nothing without implementation

Much of the buzz in retail is around innovation and online sales. “Innovation is the lifeblood of good retail” argues Lynda Relph-Knight in her thought provoking blog on this site.

And if you hope traditional, physical stores hold future promise there are plenty of hockey stick infographics to prove we are in fact hurtling toward sales Armageddon.

So how do we make this interesting? By being dull. Sorry.

At the Shop Display Equipment Association we are pragmatists. Our members take all this unbridled enthusiasm, innovation and technology and make it work in-store. Almost always on time and almost always on budget. And always, always, safely.

I agree, it doesn’t sound very sexy. But for every CEO claiming the way forward is to ‘refresh our store environment’ or VM specialists seeking to ‘seamlessly replicate the brand experience online and offline’ there are designers, manufacturers and shopfitters smart enough and skilled enough to make this happen.

Think about this for a minute. Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips has declared the retailer will ‘take on the discounters.’ Good plan, probably. I like Morrisons. I like the droplets of water misting across the veg and the good sight lines of the low level aisles. It doesn’t scream low cost to me, though: More of a Waitrose feel than Aldi.

So how will this plan work? Advertising and online promotion will get target customers to try Morrisons. But clever design, in-store messaging and fixturing will underline its story and give shoppers the visceral feel that this represents good food at unbeatable prices.

The challenge exists too for premium fashion brands. I think most savvy buyers suspect that clothes themselves are pretty similar in terms of quality, so the step up to a premium brand has to be underwritten in store: mood lighting, a tactile, organic feel to the displays, a sense of elitism and local flavour in the buying experience. One size does not fit all. A multi site roll out where all store environments look the same is not as popular as it once was.

Shop equipment manufacturers would love to fabricate multiples of the same item, for the economy of scale, to amortise set up costs and increase efficiency. The same applies to the shopfitting.

But that’s not where retailers are taking the environments we enjoy so much. The definition of the retail space is changing.

All this change is exciting. But when you admire the latest flagship store and marvel at how cleverly the design represents the brand message, marvel too that from a blank sheet of paper (or screen) someone has designed it, made it and installed it.

Innovation isn’t just in the idea….its in the doing.