Interior design as an industry sector is feeling the hit of the retail downturn.
With increased competition from the online retail sector and the ongoing effects of the financial downturn, retail overheads, including physical, built retailers, are simply becoming too expensive for businesses, which are often simply closing the doors on their shops.
This poses a threat to the industry; retail fitouts are a major source of both monetary gain and design promotion as the interior designer’s work is outlaid in the public sphere.
Australian retailers are changing the game in their quest to keep shop front doors open via innovative means.
While the stores they design differ in their products, style and location, they each exude the number one aspect that keeps retailer doors open: strong brand identity.
Winning the 2011 Australian Interior Design Award for Retail Design, The Crumpler store in Victoria by design practice Ryan Russell for Russell & George found success through strong brand management and promotion, as emphasised through the shop’s fitout.
“Every aspect of the design reinforces the Crumpler brand: the aesthetic is strong, clear and not at all overworked,” say award jurors.
In true innovative fashion, designers used materials from the Crumpler line – the company are bag manufacturers – throughout the interiors as ‘trussed, surface and suspension elements to display product.’
“Overall, the store entry is an exercise in 3D form, material exploration, customer experience and brand identity,” say the jurors.
Gaining a commendation at this year’s awards in the same category is the Oscar & Wild Camberwell shop front fiout by Matt Gibson Architecture + Design. The linear shape of the shop and exposed curtain rod racks are reminiscent of a designer closet, practically screaming the high-end nature of the fashion goods. This allows consumers to not only understand the high value of the brand but also to feel comfortable and identify with it.
“I believe that what you wear is an extension of who you are and what your mental state is at the time,” says boutique owner Paloma Hatomi. “I would like to think when a customer enters our stores, they will feel uplifted and inspired by what they see, feel and try.”
We have said it before and we will say it again: for a shop front to survive in this industry it needs to be a physical manifestation of the brand presented. It needs to offer a greater ‘experience’ that will motivate consumers to step away from the computer or get off the couch and shop offline.
This is an incredibly difficult time in the economy and the first thing people turn away from is excess spending. While there is no tried and true rule that can keep retailers in business and interior designers working in the retail sector, Australian retailers have found success by stepping out of the box, and bringing a brand to life through design. Now that’s something you won’t get online.