Design is now a key drawcard for physical retail stores. Customers who are focused on grabbing their product and getting out can now buy it online with minimal hassle, so if they’ve fronted up in person, chances are it’s because they want something they can’t get at the click of a button – an experience.
Physical stores are an opportunity for the retailer to use design to translate their brand identity into a real-world experience using elements like colour, texture, lighting, and even food and beverage offerings. The quality of that experience is determined by the many small decisions and processes which go into creating a well-designed fit-out.
When it comes to retail, good design has two main functions, says Affin Group managing director Gabriel Nicolau. Visually, it performs a marketing function by fulfilling your target market’s need for a real-world brand experience. On a practical level, good design performs a physical function by making it easy for you to work and customers to shop in that space.
The aim in completing a retail fit-out, Nicolau says, is to find a balance between these two functions. Recent experiential retail projects Affin Group has previously completed include a display wall for The Loop Duty Free at Auckland International Airport which is surrounded and enclosed by LED lighting strips. The lights create an enticing halo effect around the product.
“Light is everything,” Nicolau says. “Lighting is a very important aspect of fit-outs.”
A similar installation for The Loop Duty Free saw a wine display unit swathed in natural timber. It was complemented by a curved display table. Curved surfaces are difficult to fabricate and install as they don’t conform to standard dimensions of materials, Nicolau says, but studies have shown that people consistently prefer curved visual objects to those with a sharper transition in contour.
A study by the University of Toronto, published in 2013, asked participants to label 200 images of interior architecture as ‘beautiful’ or ‘not beautiful’. As Fast Company reported, the study’s test subjects were consistently far more likely to consider a room beautiful when it was full of curves rather than straight lines. Rounded furniture, oval rugs, and even floor patterns all got the thumbs up.