Six trends redefining the store space

Following a spate of spring and summer store openings in the UK and internationally, Drapers looks at the key trends driving new shopfits and designs.

Trend 1: Instagrammable hotspots

To prompt shares and conversation across social media, retailers are focusing on creating standout areas, eye-catching features and memorable in-store moments that are made to be posted online.

The new The Shop at Bluebird store in London’s Covent Garden is one such space. It opened in May and, thanks to its eclectic, whimsical decor and “playground of wonders” design concept by retail design agency Dalziel & Pow, the store’s interior has proved popular on social media.

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Instagrammable hotspots: The Shop at Bluebird in London’s Covent Garden, London

The 15,000 sq ft flagship includes an impressive triple-height central atrium, which dominates #theshopatbluebird Instagram posts.

There are also a multitude of hidden spaces, quirky design features and an extensive use of on-trend greenery throughout, meaning that this store surprises shoppers as they move throughout the space.

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Instagrammable hotspots: Valextra in Chengdu, China

Another example is the recreated library environment of luxury Italian accessories brand Valextra’s store in Chengdu, China, which opened in June. This atmospheric store features “hovering” walls that hang from the ceiling and a conical light funnel modelled on the Pantheon in Rome.

It creates the striking effect of a spherical library and is perfect for creating that Instagram moment for sharing on social media.

As well as larger elements, Insta-ready visual-merchandising elements are increasingly popular addition. The integration of plants and natural elements throughout retail environments is growing in popularity.

Stores are becoming less transactional and more about showcasing the brand and creating ways customers can share experiences

George Gottl, Futurebrand UXUS


This can be done through the integration of simple potted plants and flowers such as those found at Pakistani clothing brand Khaadi, which opened in the Glasgow’s Silverburn shopping centre in April, and the New York outpost of luxury womenswear brand Galvan London, which opened in June. Or the more dramatic and theatrical use of natural displays at Stella McCartney’s new store on London’s Old Bond Street and independent womenswear chain Blaiz’s Hampstead store, which opened in May.

George Gottl, chief executive officer and co-founder of design consultancy Futurebrand UXUS, which worked on the DKNY store at Macy’s in Herald Square, New York, says: “Selfie areas are the newest ask from retailers. It’s the biggest trend for retail environments right now. All of our clients are requesting areas in the store that are set up specifically for sharing on social media.

“Stores are becoming less transactional and more about showcasing the brand and creating ways customers can share experiences within the space.”

Trend 2: White wash

White minimalism has become the colour palette of choice for retail spaces. Bright and neutral, it allows collections to stand out and highlights changing seasonal product against a consistent backdrop.

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White wash: Issey Miyake in London’s Mayfair

Among the premium and luxury examples are the new London stores of Alaïa, which opened in April on New Bond Street and Issey Miyake, which opened in Mayfair in June.

However, high street retailers have also used all-white interiors to create a clean, modern, luxe feel – for example, Cos in Liverpool One and Zara in Westfield Stratford City, both of which opened in May.

Trend 3: Commitment to sustainability and community

Demand for sustainability and ethical fashion continues to grow, and many retailers and brands are using stores to champion their more responsible standpoint.

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Commitment to sustainability and community: Stella McCartney on Old Bond Street in London

Stella McCartney is a renowned name in sustainable fashion and her new store on London’s Old Bond Street reflects this. Opened in June, the shop contains air purifiers to reduce the effects of air pollution and incorporates hand-made, organic, ethically sourced and recycled materials, reflecting the conscious objectives of the brand.

If retailers have an ethical standpoint, there is no better channel to tell that story than in a physical space

Pete Champion, I-AM

Fast fashion retailer Primark has by printed its ethos on the wall of its new Westfield London store, which opened in June. It states its commitment to ethical and sustainable practices in the supply chain and across stores. This includes ensuring the safety and welfare of those working in its factories and minimising its environment impact on the planet.

It is a growing trend across the industry that is starting to be reflected in store designs.

Pete Champion, creative strategy director at design agency I Am, which has worked with Drapers Independent Footwear Retailer of the Year Tower London, says: “Physical stores are a real opportunity for a retailer to showcase and demonstrate its ethics. If retailers have an ethical standpoint, there is no better channel to market that can be used to demonstrate that, and really bring that standpoint to life, than telling that story in a physical space.”

Trend 4: Cutting back on physical product

Decluttering store environments is a pattern spotted at several new stores, where there has been a noticeable reduction in the number of products on display and the amount of visual merchandising.

Polish footwear retailer Eobuwie has gone a step further and entirely removed all physical shoes from its shop floor, instead using interactive touchscreens for customers to browse.

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Cutting back on physical product: Eobuwie in Wroclaw, Poland

The former etail-only business opened its first store in Wroclaw, Poland, in May with a concept designed by British company Dalziel & Pow. The digitally enabled store replicates the online shopping experience with an “arrival zone” containing 45 self-service interactive touchscreens for customers to browse the retailer’s catalogue of 450 brands and 40,000 styles.

Requested shoes are brought up from a basement stockroom containing 110,000 shoe boxes to an area in the centre of the store, where customers can try them on.

The removal of product and visual merchandising is a radical choice, but other retailers are moving in that direction by paring back their layouts, fixtures and fittings. Simplified, functional product displays allow customers focus to remain on the clothes, as seen via the utilitarian fixtures and fittings at H&M fascia Arket’s newest store, which opened in Bluewater in May.

Trend 5: Dangling displays and a multitude of mannequins

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Hanging space at Kloke in Melbourne, Australia

Stores are using rails, mannequins and displays suspended from the ceiling more and more to provide the illusion of spaciousness and minimalism.

This can be seen at several recent London store openings: womenswear store Atelier 75 in New Cavendish street and womenswear label Bimba y Lola in Brompton Road, both of which opened March, and womenswear brand Lisou in Westbourne Grove, which opened in May. Each brand has used these displays and mannequins to draw attention to style ideas and outfit choices, while simultaneously reducing the amount of product on display.

Aside from using suspension, mannequins are generally used more prolifically and theatrically throughout stores in a bid to capture consumer attention – part of the search for shareable Instagram moments – and also inspire purchasing.

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Dangling displays and a multitude of mannequins: Primark at Westfield London

High street retailers in particular have created eye-catching mannequin scenes. Primark and H&M have created mannequin stages and scenes to draw the eye of passing shoppers.

Trend 6: Experiences go mainstream

Variety and diversity of experience within stores is a continuing buzzword across retail.

More and more new stores are adapting traditional retail space to accommodate multiple uses to prolong shoppers’ dwell time and offer add-ons to the classic shopping experience. And these are not just the preserve of luxury brands and department stores – the high street is latching on to the trend.

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Experiences go mainstream: Rapha in Georgetown, Washington DC

For example, there is a nail bar in H&M’s new Westfield London store, which opened in March, a barbershop in Foot Locker’s store in Liverpool One, which opened in June, and a coffee shop at premium cycling brand Rapha’s store in Georgetown, Washington DC, which opened in May.

We are seeing a rise in demand for flexible retail spaces that can offer complementary activity

Adam Brinkworth, Brinkworth

Arket, which debuted on London’s Regent Street last year and opened its latest store in Bluewater in May, has given over large areas of its stores to seating and cafe spaces.

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Experiences go mainstream: John Lewis in Westfield London

John Lewis is taking this a step further with its Experience Bar in its new Westfield London store, which opened in March. It provides 23 services, including free personal styling and technology training workshops to help customers get the most out of their purchases, alongside the first express nail and brow bar in a John Lewis store.

Adam Brinkworth, CEO of retail design agency Brinkworth, which has worked on the highly experiential Browns East store in Shoreditch says: “We are seeing a rise in demand for flexible retail spaces that can offer complementary activity. These attributes enhance a point of interest and dwell time within a store.”

Published: 19 July 2018 on Drapers by Kaisha Langton