New store openings from Sainsbury’s and HMV show a design appetite for the past is asserting itself.

New store openings from Sainsbury’s and HMV show a design appetite for the past is asserting itself.

It’s a case of back to the future at the moment in retail, or so it might appear to an untutored eye on the basis of a pair of significant store openings. The first is the new/old look HMV that has been welcoming shoppers to 363 Oxford Street since Saturday and which sports a frontage that will be familiar to many shoppers of a certain age. Here, Nipper, the music-loving mongrel, is once more part of the brand identity and given that frequenters of music shops tend to include those with more than a hint of grey in their coiffure (your correspondent among them), this seems a canny move.

Next up is the Sainsbury’s Local convenience store that opened in Cobham on Saturday. From the outside this is like many other Local stores, but step indoors and although technology has a major part to play in the systems and smooth operating of this store, it has a sense of the greengrocer past about it. This is principally because a greater emphasis has been laid on fresh, the quantity of which has been increased by around 40% compared to other Locals, as well as the use of a nostalgic font for the graphics and wood cladding. Thoughts turn to markets and counter service of old.

All of which means that this store trades on a little piece of yesteryear for its more mature customers and a sense of a golden past for those who are slightly younger. Again, this seems sensible, given that older shoppers tend to have rather more money to throw at the matter of eating and may even indulge in spot of tasting the difference where others might be more reticent.

Retail in this country has a long and time-honoured past and it would appear that currently some retailers are looking at how that heritage can be leveraged without compromising sales from the slick selling machines that have been developed. In these complex times, this makes sense. We all hark back to a simpler age and anything that can assist in this process will probably find a ready welcome.

Yet perversely we all want the benefits of in-store technology to make shopping quicker and easier. It’s a fine line to tread, but it’s one that HMV and Sainsbury’s seem to be in the process of recognising.