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The Future of Retail Design

Stores need to be adaptable, agile and connected to consumers, a new forecast says

The past two years have tested retailers’ abilities to pivot, and those skills will serve them well as they reimagine their brick-and-mortar spaces to serve shoppers whose priorities and habits also have been altered by the pandemic.

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“The retail industry has undergone profound upheavals over the past couple years, but many brands are emerging stronger than ever. Successful retail brands are embracing new opportunities to connect with their customers. Now, retailers are more aware of the need to readily adapt to new changes, and the most successful ones are always thinking of ways to improve their consumer experience through new mediums and methods of engagement,” according to a trend forecast from Gensler, a global architecture, design and planning firm.

Gensler points to four key trends shaping retail design:

1. Agility: If your bedding floor has been as static as a stationary bed frame, you need to shake things up. Use retailers that change store layouts regularly for seasons or for promotions as your guide. “The pandemic reiterated how agility needs to be extended to new challenges like inflation, workforce shifts or supply chain disruptions,” Gensler says. “The most effective retailers will design agility into their spaces through a test-and-learn process. The most effective designs can scale up quickly.”

2. New worlds: Retail will increasingly blend “physical retail with immersive virtual retail spaces to engage customers in ways that haven’t yet been fully imagined.” Think video games coming to life. (And if you’ve been avoiding learning about the metaverse, it’s time to study up.)

3. Connectivity: “Customers expect retailers to be communicative and responsive through multiple channels,” according to the Gensler report. That means offering social shopping (or, the ability to purchase through social aps), livestreamed personal shopping and other options that will allow retailers to reach consumers outside their typical geographic bounds.

* Tailoring: “Retailers are increasingly managing a wider portfolio of typologies to better serve consumers across a variety of needs. Each space has its own specific purpose, duration and activations to offer a more ‘right-sized’ and tailored retail experience,” Gensler says. This means a combination of brick-and-mortar spaces, virtual retail, mobile shops or pop-ups that suit different shoppers at different times.

For a glimpse of designs Gensler expects to inspire other retailers, check out these four spaces:

  • JBL Store, a headphone and audio store in New York
  • Studio Three, a fitness studio in Chicago that combines three exercise disciplines under one roof
  • TOCA Social, a leisure and hospitality center in London that gives visitors a multisensory look at what it’s like to be a big-league soccer player
  • Weltmeister Experience Center, the flagship Shanghai showroom of the electric car company that takes design cues from interactive museums and planetariums.

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