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Opinion: Flexible design holds massive potential for future proof stores says David Dalziel

Time and time again we are briefed by brands who thought they had built their future vision three or four times in the last decade, only to find each time that their concept was flawed, their ambitions needed revision or their brief had been short-sighted.

What happens if you begin the process with a brief to in-build flexibility and in effect create a future-proof concept from the outset?

You might address this brief with a digital approach, a flexible communications platform that is the most responsive and direct of all media. By messaging through digital means print costs are dramatically reduced or removed to make change effective and efficient.

You might address this brief with an architectural approach, building a smart space that shifts with the seasons, reflecting consumer behaviour and expectations. If you build an architectural framework that 'occupies' a space and then employ that framework to create an experience, how powerful and adaptable could that be? A kind of pop-up that keeps on popping.

Flexible retail architecture could pay back in many ways:

It's economical, allowing change to be applied at minimal cost.

It's ecological, facilitating the re-arrangement of merchandising rather than the rebuilding of merchandising.

It's effective, allowing change with minimal effort and planning.

To be future-proof in times of massive change might seem like an unattainable goal, but the tools of change are here, in technology, both digital and mechanical. Digital hardware is more affordable each year and manufacturing partners are more flexible in their development processes.

For the second year running we have completed an event for Samsung in Germany; a roadshow where a series of components are built and re-built over a two-month period in a number of varied locations.

Every time it is slightly different, but every time it is consistently on-message. This event-led, flexible strategy got us thinking about the retail potential of such an approach.

There is evidence of the beginning of this trend in the retail market today; the new Benetton flagship in Milan creates 'rooms' with fabric screens and suspended rails; our Roxlin concept in China is built under a structural frame that suspends shop fittings to create the space; our centre piece in Shasa, Los Angeles, suspends rails in an ever changing showcase for new arrivals; our digital concept for Argos allows the brand's communications in store to change constantly, surrounding the shopper with immersive messaging. All of these concepts explore the potential for a more reactive, more relevant and flexible future.

This is only the beginning, the potential is massive.

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