Is This The Future of Retail?

The co-founder of BradyWilliams – interior designers for the luxury hospitality, retail and residential sectors – on how commercial spaces will look in a post-Covid-19 future.

Personalised service
We’re going to see a shift towards an even more personalised service within bricks-and-mortar stores. Offering customers reassurance that their needs and concerns are being heard, whilst also creating a luxury experiences to entice them to come into a physical store. Retailers will need to offer the usually exclusive one-on-one consultations to a broader audience in order to create a more customer focused, brand facing experience. We’re aiming to elevate luxury shopping to a piece of theatre, whilst keeping customers and staff safe and reassured.

Floorplan changes
The introduction of private or semi-private rooms could come through removal of traditional open floor plans, moving the product from the shop floor into individual categorised capsules. Moving further away from the current open-plan lay out favoured by retailers, in our future vision we’ve come up with perfectly spaced consultation rooms that allow customers and staff to be safely placed, while the introduction of just partial screens means there is still a sense of interaction and personalisation.

We’ve developed a concept where personal shopping meets online shopping, set in the likes of Dover Street Market. Capsule pods could be designed to allow a customer to safely experience all that a brand has to offer, and would be filled with a thoughtfully chosen aroma and luxurious, nonporous materials would be used. An age-old adage a restaurant client told us is that “If guests see a tray of oysters go out, everyone wants oysters.” Hence, the pods are transparent, allowing shoppers to see others looking or purchasing, and therefore encouraging interest. The pods are semi-private, with timber and glass screens allowing customers to feel cocooned yet not enclosed.

Conveyor belts
Whilst protected behind a privacy screen, staff will still have clear interaction as they assist customers in choosing items from the dramatic vertical (and regularly cleaned) conveyor belts behind – we love the idea of the machine at work juxtaposed with the craft of the capsule. The conveyor belts are in many ways the stock room or storage facility of the shop, but in our vision are fully visible and beautifully curated. The product can be called to any capsule pod electronically by the sales assistant, thus allowing for a customised personal shopping experience that is also safe. Choosing a mirrored, reflective conveyor belt will add to the glamour and sense of theatre. I suppose in many ways we’re taking the idea of an online fashion warehouse and glamorising it to sit within the theatre of the store.

Safe deposit boxes
We’ve come up with the idea of integrated safe deposits boxes lining the walls, allowing customers to peruse sunglasses while the sales staff can safely unlock each box remotely when a customer requests to do so.

Material change
Non-porous materials such as HI-MACS, which as a company have a great sustainability ethos, should be used on countertops and are ideal from a hygiene perspective. Whilst these man-made materials might feel cold, the ceilings can be wrapped in fine textured linen, ensuring that the overall aesthetic is one of warmth.

Shayne Brady 

Doors and handles
Retailers must consider using materials that prevent the spread of germs. A key point in all our designs is the front door handle which sets the tone for the design. Moving forward, we recommend using metal door handles in a copper alloy as this material helps to reduce the spread of germs, protecting customers whilst also being impactful and timeless in their design.

In order to create an elevated sense of luxury throughout the store, we’ve chosen timber for the flooring. This wood delivers a sense of authentic, natural craftsmanship but is also easy to keep clean on a continual basis. We would ensure the wood is sourced from a sustainable FSC supplier.

Lighting has an intangible quality that the success of any great interior rests on. When it comes to lighting a retail space, all lighting needs to be flattering while also highlighting the product. As with all our interiors, LED lights, with their energy saving credentials, are key whilst still ensuring a warm golden glow to enhance product. Wall lights and chandeliers create more intimate pools of light, flattering the customer and creating an excitement within the air.

Craftsmanship is key
We want to instil an old-school sense of craftsmanship. Retailers should look to turn their backs on the hype of mass purchasing whilst encouraging customer to buy key items. This needs to be reflected in the interiors which should feel crafted and bespoke, using pieces that will be purchased as an heirloom. We imagine customer chairs would be re-upholstered, mid-century modern pieces, the idea of upcycling elevated to a luxury environment. Wall lights and chandeliers would not be modern reproductions but sourced antiques, repurposed in a spirit of sustainability.

Payment points
As we’ve seen already, contactless payment is key when it comes to the safety of customers and staff during this pandemic. However, we want to take this to the next level and create personalised apps for each brand – this allows shoppers to manage their accounts with that brand, but more importantly creates a further sense of community which is something we all need right now.