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Report: the role of design in luxury department stores

The UK boasts three of the world’s top five luxury department stores, according to a new report designed to understand the role of design in creating retail experiences.

The Sybarite Report 2018 – transcendent retail and the role of design is published today. It was commissioned by architectural group Sybarite and produced in partnership with analyst GlobalData, with the objective of ranking the world’s most successful luxury department stores by sales per sq ft, alongside market forecasts, key trends and expert commentary.

“We commissioned the report to better understand the role of store design in creating truly transcendental retail experiences to help luxury department stores continue to survive and thrive. All the top performers in The Sybarite Report 2018 have found innovative ways to become true destinations whether that’s through spatial design, spectacular retail theatre, cultural events and collaborations, a tight edit of product or luxury services as well as boasting globally recognised, iconic architecture,” says Sybarite co-founder Simon Mitchell.

The report says that the UK luxury sector has benefitted from a spike in international visitors drawn to the heritage of London and the current low value of sterling.

Harrods, arguably the world’s most famous department store, tops the ranking. Le Bon Marché in Paris, Liberty in London, SKP in Beijing, and Selfridges in London make up the rest of the top five.

Le Bon Marche Paris
Le Bon Marche Paris

But long-established European stores face growing competition from younger rivals, according to the report. SKP Beijing is described as the ‘surprise player’ in the ranking, having only opened in 2016.

“Our recent development has seen a transformation of SKP into a curated, design-led department store with a clearly articulated house style.  We wanted to balance historic locale with a desire for contemporary luxury and create something that takes visitors on a voyage of discovery,” says Michael Ferrera, SKP senior director of store planning and design, in the report.

GlobalData predicts that the Chinese department store sector will grow by 97.3 per cent, to $184.3bn, between 2017 and 2022.

And while continued growth is forecast in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, a decline of 8.1 per cent is predicted in North America over the same five year period. Western Europe is expected to see modest growth in the sector of 9.8 per cent.

“At the same time as the department store sector in North America and Western Europe is seeing some long-established retailers retrenching their operations or, in some cases, falling out of the market altogether, newer markets emerging in Asia and the Middle East are challenging the status quo. This is forcing retailers to think more creatively to deliver engaging customer experiences, to innovate and move with the times,” says GlobalData director Joseph Robinson.

A number of trends will be key to the future of department stores, according to the report. It says that shoppers expect increasingly personal service, as well as a new sense of authenticity that communicates contemporary values. Physical and mental wellbeing are increasingly desirable, while consumers are also seeking a more emotional connection with stores through experiences. The report also says that department stores should have a greater cultural connection to the area it inhabits, and its values.

The full report is available at www.sybarite.com/report

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