The trends affecting retail in the year ahead…
As we enter a new year, there appears to be a much more positive outlook for the future of retail and the accompanying shopper journey. Despite the economic uncertainty we are faced with, it seems as though many brands and retailers are predicting a retail rejuvenation to follow the bleak years of the pandemic.
And while 2022 could be seen as a slow re-introduction to the ‘new normal’, the year ahead will be the rebirth of retail strategies with key trends at the forefront.
Here are some of the biggest retail design trends that we believe will impact the industry in 2023:
Fluid, Flexible & Communal
The term omnichannel began to dominate retail strategies over a decade ago, with brands encouraged to offer their products and services across both e-commerce and physical platforms. And while the importance of omnichannel remains, the next generation of store design will focus on how a space can be treated as multipurpose, easily transforming from a ‘traditional’ store to a spa, a restaurant, a cinema, a fashion show etc.
Thinking back to 2020, the perfect example of a fluid & flexible retail space would be the Off-White flagship store in Miami, designed by the late Virgil Abloh. Rethinking how physical stores should operate, they designed a space which is entirely stripped back and plays with the idea of becoming much more than a space to shop. It could host a runway show, a café, a cultural event or even transform into an Uber-delivery of Off-White products. It is undeniably fluid and paves the way for a future of multi-purpose retail spaces.
Biophilic Retail Spaces
As we wave goodbye to fast fashion and single use plastics, there is no denying that we have become fully committed to sustainability and environmental wellbeing. This commitment is closely linked with our embracement of nature, particularly during and after the pandemic. Since the lifting of lockdown restrictions and a return to almost normality, individuals and designers alike are seeking to ‘bring the outdoors indoors’ and adopt biophilic design.
The use of plants, trees and green walls in buildings and retail spaces has been shown to improve our mental and physical wellbeing, and with wellness still at the top of our agenda for personal growth, its understandable to see retailers incorporating biophilic design in-store. The Terrex store in Munich is a perfect example of this design trend, highlighting a connection with the outdoors through live foliage and ceiling planters in-store. 2023 will only further the cultivation of biophilic design in retail spaces across the globe.
The importance of building cultural credibility will continue into 2023. There are multiple facets to this credibility, from fostering conversations with local communities through to opting for co-creation when developing product launches. But when we think of retail design 2023, we should be considering how the store environment can be entirely informed by the location.
We’ll use Aesop as the perfect example here. This Australian luxury skincare brand are no stranger to creating beautiful retail spaces with architectural localisation present in each store. Their latest space in China has opened in a residential area, known locally as ‘Lovers Road’, in the former French Concession. Key aspects of the store design includes: floor-to-ceiling windows, sleek individual basins made with Guizhou stone, vintage French furnishing, a garden planted with medicinal Chinese herbs and a ‘Sensorium’ chamber. It is the perfect juxtaposition between Chinese heritage and French-inspired design, utilising the surrounding location to curate the environment.
Coined by the team at Forbes, consumerism curtailment signifies a sense of slowing down. Simply put, consumers will buy less stuff and be more invested in understanding the product life cycle in 2023. In the last two years, we’ve seen the Gen Z demographic place more importance on sustainability, choosing pre-owned products through the likes of Vinted and DePop. However, as brands and retailers recognise the power of the recycle and repurpose trend, they have begun to incorporate this into their retail strategies. Even Primark launched their WornWell vintage concession within their Birmingham store, answering consumer demand for the circularity of vintage pieces – without the high price tag. Likewise, Patagonia have launched their WornWear programme instore, allowing shoppers to repurpose and revitalise their Patagonia products.
Last year, Coach unveiled their Tomorrow’s Vintage pop-up store in London’s Spitalfields Market, As a celebration of the Coach (Re)Loved programme, the pop-up was described as “a circular ecosystem for refurbishing, reimagining and recycling pre-loved products”. It brought the four pillars of the programme (upcrafted, vintage, restored and remade) to life through bespoke events and activations. As consumerism curtailment continues into 2023, retail strategies must consider the challenge of presenting shoppers with a combination of new, used and repurposed products.
We finish with a retail design trend which is possibly the most important of all. As a retail design agency, we are witness to countless design briefs which feature ‘experiential design’ at the forefront. More and more, people are looking for physical spaces which transcend the traditional format and create memorable brand experiences, not always related to products we can take home.
Architectural company, Benoy, predict that 2023 will be the year in which we reimagine these store interiors through the lens of hospitality, with a core focus on ‘service, comfort and convenience’. Instead of ‘experiential design’ which is ambiguous in itself, we will be considering strategies which foster luxurious hospitality-based experiences. This is not the simple addition of a café or juice bar to a retail location, but the concept of hospitality sitting right at the heart of the store design. Molton Brown’s revitalisation of their Regent Street store in 2022 focuses on multiple experiences in this matter, including a multi-sensory virtual France experience with augmented reality and The Salon, a space for intimate gatherings, with a carefully curated archive of MB memories.
While we’ve investigated and revealed just five of the biggest trends influencing retail design in 2023, stay tuned to read our upcoming Future Forecasts for more insight into the retail industry...