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The Motivation Behind Modern Retail Design

Studies behind retail design have persisted for decades. Improved profits motivate businesses to optimise each area of their store’s shopping experience, from how displays are stylised to the arrangement of shop shelves. There are a number of lasting concepts that have come from such studies, including now widespread retail design choices, such as the threshold and invariant right.

In recent years, technology has dramatically changed the way we shop. Brick and mortar stores have not only had to adapt their services to compete with digital sales but they have also had to acclimatise their stores to accommodate continuously advancing customer technology. Paying for a product with one’s watch, for example, was likely to have been a far-out joke among retailers who encountered a single progressive customer, however, now it is detrimental for a retailer to not offer a variety of such checkout options, such as Apple and Android payment services.

These technological advances have changed the way we think about retail spaces in a number of ways. Classic concepts that have defined shop shelving arrangements and floor layouts are being questioned as shoppers come to expect more modern services.


The disappearance of cash, while unlikely to soon be final, is spreading each day. Ushered forward by both technology and an international health crisis, contactless payments are now standard. In addition to efficiency, they also improve the safety of stores, eliminating the security required by cash.

Self-service checkouts are now a supermarket standard but seemingly already usurped by the development of stores that remove the need for checking out altogether. These stores make use of customer apps, AI, and advanced computer networks to allow customers to simply place products in their basket and then walk right out of the store. This change eliminates the need for a checkout area entirely, endowing retailers with a significant amount of new space.

Augmented Reality

Imagining how furniture might look in your home has been made much easier by IKEA. The store teamed up with Apple to produce an AR application that allows you to place a virtual item of their catalogue’s furniture into your living space. This utilisation of AR has since spread to other retailers, including leading fashion retailers who have implemented AR technology into their stores, allowing people to virtually try on clothing without the need for changing rooms or shop fittings.

As with checkout-less store design, eliminating the need for changing rooms or furniture display spaces are just two examples of how technology can save space within brick and mortar stores. For some retailers, this may create the opportunity to open stores within smaller spaces while, for others, it will allow them to experiment with alternative interior designs.

Experiential Shopping

As part of competing with online stores, high street retailers have had to seek out the shopping experience they can distinctly offer. Experiential shopping seems to be exactly that and a number of stores, from local start-ups to established nationwide retailers, have already begun introducing experience concepts into their retail spaces.

Equipped with greater amounts of space and the motivation to immerse customers in their brand and the lifestyle of their products, it seems likely that high street retailers are going to move away from an abundance of stock and, instead, focus on selling the associated experience, shifting employee responsibility from the checkout and to personalised shopping, with delivery and click and collect services becoming commonplace.

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