The Retail Week Interiors Awards have proved, over their 14 years, to be a real feather in the cap of retailers seeking recognition for their store designs, but is there more to winning than this? John Ryan reports 

Winning an award is always good. Not only does it show that you’ve done well, but that you’ve done better than others, which for some people is rather the point. And assuming that being the best is what heading up to collect a trophy is about, then the Retail Week Interiors Awards are a fine way of showing others that you really have succeeded.

Due to take place on September 29, this is actually about more than taking home some silverware (although it is the principal object of the exercise) – an evening at the Hilton is a lot to do with catching up with those you’ve not seen for a while, exchanging a few business cards and, perhaps most importantly, meeting people who might give you work.

Networking aside, however, it’s the stores that are the stars. This year, there are actually a few changes to what can be won – in response to comments from Retail Week readers and the judging panel. We’ve instituted two awards for specialist stores, one for shops that are up to 2,500 sq ft in size and another for those above this. The obvious question is, what’s a specialist store? Thankfully, the answer is simple, it’s a store that deals in neither food nor fashion and which will tend to be characterised by its concentration on a single category. With clarity being everything, this could mean anything from a Clas Ohlson store offering shoppers things they didn’t know they wanted (but, clearly, really do) to the new format HobbyCraft store that appeared in Orpington at the end of May. The point is, while this may sound like something of a catch-all category, it is in fact an award for retailers that don’t fit into a more conventional high street template.

Other new awards include Best New Shopping Centre under 20,000 sq m and Non-food Store Design of the Year. It is worth noting that we’ve kept the award for Best Pop-up Store that appeared for the first time in 2010. This is a surprise as there were many who were predicting the demise of this form of retailing. Instead, the pop-up seems to have been gathering momentum and as it has done so, it has also changed with pop-up stores becoming, through whatever method, semi-permanent and pop-up stores being created that belong to the shop in which they appear (think Topshop).

This shows that the retail design sector remains as vibrant as ever and if it’s change and novelty that is sought, look no further.

There are also the hardy stalwarts that have proved their worth over the 14 years that this competition has been in operation with the categories for Best International Store, Best Small Shop and Best Fit-Out Company all hotly contested.

As for the judges, the panel that decides the winners is filled with familiar names, from Nayna McIntosh, head of store marketing and design at Marks & Spencer, to Tim Greenhalgh, chief creative officer at Fitch. There are eight judges this year, as well as longstanding panellists such as Peter Cross, managing partner at Yellow Door; Steve Morris, UK project director at Urban Outfitters; Christian Papa, director at HMKM; and Robert Hudson, chief director at the National Association of Shopfitters. We are also joined by Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium and Glenn Kinnersley, partner at Kinnersley Kent Design. In total, they represent a robust set of individuals, who are well placed to decide not only which stores look good and engage customers, but also which are likely to prove commercially successful.

Results do matter and the point about store design for the high street is not just that it looks good, but also that it is viable in terms of being taken across a store portfolio in the case of the bigger players, and also that it will help a retailer increase sales. This competition is about more than creating pretty interiors and has frequently proved the case, during its 14-year history, the stores that win tend to be those that subsequently appear in multiple locations.

The winners of this competition appear in a Retail Week report the Friday following the awards.