Retail in Asia

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Taking Stock: “Thinking within the box” for better store design

This article was written by Retail in Asia Expert Terry Waterhouse, director at Asia’s Retail Design & Implementation Consultancy Red Goodss Ltd.

Applying common sense and thinking within the box can provide good solutions for retailers to stay ahead of the game and create a point of difference.

All too often retailers are preoccupied about trying to think out of the box. However, retailers should give more attention to basic common sense and also think within the boundaries of the box to enhance their customer experience and store design solutions. A holistic perspective is needed to provide balance and achieve added value and return on investments.

In most cases retailers lose sight of what equity they already have and think that by creating new ideas and invoking change for change’s sake that this will help solve the problem and make improvements.

Brands and retailers are like people – they can lose their way from time to time. So sometimes they should take a good reality check to look within, ask questions and apply some basic common sense. All too often, ideas can become too complicated and overly concerned about design where simplicity would suffice or where the "less is more" principal would do the trick.

Taking a closer look within the box and working within the boundaries of the box or within one’s constraints is a challenge as well as a painful process, but real, beneficial results can be achieved by adopting this thinking and methodology.

Red Goods works across Asia’s dynamic growing retail market, helping international and local retailers adapt to the pace of change and also to the day to day commercial pressures and ever demanding consumer expectations by working closely with retailers and brands who want to stay ahead of the game and redefine their retail environment.

The human landscape, which is always perceived from within the frame of interior space, is an accumulation of premeditated situations and experiences. This can be seen more clearly through the long lens of history.

Looking at the events of our past which the brand equity, the retail proposition and the retail design has been built on, we can learn from the past.

Looking at the history, applying common sense and focusing on the potential within the boundaries will help retailers develop more intuitive solutions and craft their retail brand experiences and store design. We must now attempt to restore these "more profound" and "significant" elements to the process of retail environment design.

We, retailers and designers, must endeavor to capture heightened experiences, and to generate trust, dignity, respect and pride in our brands, ourselves and our world – so that we are able to reinvent, rejuvenate and stimulate sustainable growth. By recapturing the common sense and working within the box we will be able to design the retail environments of the future that will bring us delight, pleasure, satisfaction, commercial success and an ultimate sense of well-being.

To design well, however, we must take essential human needs and behaviour into account. While we have some comprehension of our functional and stylistic requirements, we have not yet developed a necessary understanding of our visceral and psychological needs. To provide meaningful design solutions that meet human needs, we must first define the experiences and the qualities that constitute the essential parameters.

Design must embrace the human being as more than flesh and blood in order to reintegrate the abstract and the esoteric, because design for interiors is the most inclusive type among all design disciplines, and it has the most fundamental connection to human nature. It is the best suited to lend an exploration that will produce new criteria for design, working from the inside out. This is a particularly poignant role at the beginning of the 21st century when humanity is racing toward the adoption of technology, the mega-structure and the large shopping centre as well as having to cope with the sustainable and social issues we face.

Humans have related their bodies to the shape of the world in three distinct ways:

  1. By creating systems of divine harmony – this relates the perceived perfection of the human form to a perfect, unchanging cosmic order.
  2. By measuring the world according to the direct experience of the physical body – measurements like the inch, based on the length of the first joint in the thumb, were created in this way.
  3. By developing rational and repeatable systems of measurements – the process began with the conversion of irregular, human-based units into standard units, and continued with the creation of classification, such as the metric system, which was ultimately detached from human experience. The rationalisation of dimensions eventually led to standardised measurements of the human body, for use by designers.

At Red Goodss we have been successful in adopting these principals when working with regional retailers and more recently with the Philippine retailers Wilcon Depots, and Golden ABC fashion Brands Penshoppe and Oxygen.

All of these brands released their need to look inside the box, and build on their strong brand equity. They developed their new design approach based on good common sense, the human factor and intuitive knowledge to enhance their customers’ experience and ultimately the holistic brand experience.

Rethinking the approach of retail design and the customer experience is at the forefront of Red Goodss’ mission of improving the retail landscape and retail interior design.

Taking Stock is Retail in Asia’s fortnightly column dedicated to showcasing opinions from experts in the retail industry.