Monthly Column By Claire Menzies
In spite of pessimistic high street headlines, UK retail is by no means on its last legs. ‘City Centres: Past, Present and Future’ recently reported that many city centres are actually performing well, with insufficient footfall from local skilled workers a greater issue than the internet when it comes to under-performance. At the same time, there’s no doubt that future challenges for both UK retail and manufacturing remain complex and legion.
To attract destination shoppers, retailers have to think beyond traditional lines and practise what our design agency Phoenix Wharf calls ‘liquid retail’, implementing a suite of approaches that embody experiential flexibility. At the new COS flagship at London’s Coal Drops Yard, for example, major floorspace has been given over to art collaborations, echoing previous creative partnerships at Milan Design Week, whilst US furniture retailer Wayfair is cosying up to the influencer economy via influence agency Village Marketing, providing them with a penthouse-style photo studio, furnished in Wayfair products, at a cost of $15k per month. Village Marketing’s roster of influencers has so far generated over five million organic mentions of the furniture brand. Personalised Apps will also increasingly link the digital to the real – see NIKEiD in New York – and we’ll see more episodic-style retail too, such as the bi-annual changeovers at Mayfair’s Dover Street Market.
Ignition, our exhibitions agency, also reports that brands are more prepared than ever to consider flexibility, scale-ability and modularity within the design process. Change is coming from new technologies, such as roll-up screens, as well as new thinking: furniture that’s rented not bought; brand totems re-used within offices and exhibition displays double-purposed to work at events and as instore POS.
Big brands may be leading the way, but innovation is possible for all with the right mindset. Think liquid. Move faster!
Claire Menzies, Chairwoman, Istoria Group