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Comment: Shopping is the nation's greatest pastime

When I started on my creative journey the great and sadly missed retail design legend Rodney Fitch told me that retail was our nation’s greatest pastime. Shopping is fun. And one of the interesting aspects of modern stores is the convergence of retail and leisure, which supports his statement.

Coffee shop chains and food and beverage brands are increasingly taking over the spaces that were once traditional shops, while customer attitudes are changing destination routines. We are being stimulated by magazine and TV ads but after the initial convenience factor of shopping onine it’s all rather boring and predictable. We all need to get out of the house, and the uninspired work place, and live a little.

Retail has to become even more of a leisure experience . While physical retail may not be front of mind in the omnichannel era it is where the real experience resides. A space where senses are energised, which is fundamental to the customer journey. As designers it’s our job to make this the best possible experience for the customer and ensure the retail brand’s success.

Retail and leisure are currently converging in shopping landscapes, with more retailers offering both experiences within the store design. Look at current department stores where ‘pure’ retail is intermingled with food concepts and more. A contemporary men’s fashion department needs  a barber, a bar and a Bodega. The ladies department has a manicure, massage and smoothie bar. These add-ons connect to the customer experience and enhance the brand. They create a real sense of union with the customer by enveloping the total offer to create a real ‘place’ that reassures the customer they have made the right choice.

The benefits are paramount to the customer experience. Enhancing the combination of food and beverage sales with branded grocery and lifestyle merchandise gives the experience a real ambience rather than relying on artwork to create atmosphere. The ‘Retail Element’ provides real provenance to the offer and instills a true sense of authority and allows the customer to really immerse themselves into the fun and theatre of the space and even take some of the fun home.

Another example that we’ve recently worked on is a craft brewery that reaps the benefits of convergence. As part of a brewery experience we added a beer shop with a glass walled walk-in chiller that allows customers to buy a full range of chilled bottled beers right off the shelf, while watching robot kegging machines at work. Adding a bar with an outside area that looks on to the 24hr comings and goings to the brewery attracts not only visitors but has become the “local’ in the community, with a food offer that compliments the beer range. The integration of outdoor space into the brewery compound provides an outdoor event space. Further integration with the brewery happens online through apps that tell the enthusiasts what is being brewed and when it is ready to be drunk.

The result is an invigorated and integrated solution to establish a mindful ‘Om’ni- Channel customer experience with a great sense of fun that’s real.

Gabriel Murray is founder and creative strategist at Studio 48.

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