24th January 2019

The Future of Retail

In the wake of one of the busiest time of the year for spending, news has been rife with reports on the decline of the high street, questioning “what does the future hold for retail?”. The face of the high street is quite obviously changing, with shop closures occurring daily and reports of once prominent brands falling into administration. In the first quarter of 2018 major retail chains such as Toys R Us and Maplins went under while others like Marks and Spencers and House of Fraser closed a number of stores across the country.

Amazon is now ranked as the 5th biggest retailer taking £4 of every £100 spent in the UK and statistics report the steady rise in online shopping.  So what lies ahead for traditional retailers and even more importantly for us as specialists in retail design?

International analyst Euro monitor actually predicts that even by 2022 83pc of goods will still be bought in-store globally, so while it’s not yet a word wide epidemic, there is a clear shift in consumer demand and the need for the high street to up their game to keep the footfall coming through the door has never been more important.

While there will always be passing trade to the majority of shop fronts, it is now not enough to rely on having an attractive window display to pull people in. Consumers are making swift purchases at the click of a button. Online shopping can offer speed and variety at your finger tips but there are still plenty of consumers who still crave the level of service and experience found in a ‘bricks and mortar’ store.

The key word in the future of retail is “Experience”.  Frontrunners in the industry are moving with the times, following trends and listening to what their customers need.  Combining digital and physical experiences to engage the public such as offering augmented reality experiences or robotic shop assistants.

We recently completed a retail design for bespoke travel company Meraki Travel.  The majority of their business is done online and a large area of the store was dedicated to the telesales department however the shop front experience is bright and engaging with integrated technology to put the travellers adventures at their fingertips while they still have the human interaction of the knowledgeable assistant.

The customer experience is what led the brief given by luxury travel retailer, Carrier.  When approaching this project, Chalk were particularly excited about Carrier’s position as frontrunners in the new wave of travel retail. The customers’ holiday experience had to begin the moment they stepped off the street and through the entrance door, encapsulating in that instant the feeling of entering a luxury boutique hotel. As purveyors of exclusive and intimate travel experiences, Carrier’s ambition was for the space itself to reflect and convey the essence of their unique service.

The Interior design style could be described as ‘cosmopolitan moderne’, extra wide mocha stained floorboards, a seductive & deep Farrow and Ball colour palette offset against heavily detailed wallpapers from Cole & Son and Arte International picking out walls in the reception area and main consulting room. Antique furniture has been meticulously reupholstered in lustrous velvet fabric from acclaimed Scottish textile designers Timorous Beasties. A linear blade of light guides you through the sequence of spaces, with feature floor and wall fittings giving primary focus within each space: the grand Ostrich Lamp from A Modern Grand Tour, the retail arm of Aynhoe Park; The Duck Feet Lamp & Man 3 Lamp from Porta Romana; the Melt wall light and pendant from Tom Dixon flirtatiously reflecting their surroundings.

Someone extremely passionate about the future of retail is Roger Wade, who we had the pleasure of working with on his BoxPark projects in Croydon, Shoreditch and most recently Wembley.  BoxPark prides itself on creating a strong community.  They bring together people and offer them the experience led environment that keeps the consumer engaged.  Roger is huge advocate for the success of retail and has openly vocalised the importance of keeping the offering fresh and interesting.

Roger’s latest development, BoxPark Wembley, offers a collaborative experience of food retail units, events and bars under one roof.


So while the power of the internet and online shopping is strong and by no means going to diminish anytime soon;  by understanding and offering consumers something more than any digital platform can, then retail experiences will keep on giving and hopefully create a whole new wave of shopping adventures.  The importance of strong design in retail has never been more paramount than here and now.