At a time when cost is almost everything, the notion that a low cost format will jump full formed from the computer screen is wishful thinking.

Attending the World Retail Congress last week to take part in a session on “Store design without breaking the bank” it was amazing to see just how well attended this particular 60 minutes was. The room was packed as senior management from C&A and Morrisons and designers from Brinkworth and Chute Gerdeman mulled the topic and suggested how the best store design needn’t cost a vast amount of money, but does require at least one good idea.

What was evident was that retailers everywhere were looking for ways to save cash when it comes to the business of creating a new store. A lot was talked about and a good number of case studies were adduced, but if you’d been looking for a magical silver bullet, you might have come away disappointed.

The truth is that low cost store design starts with a good idea, whether it’s blacking out the ceiling in a supermarket to light the food rather than the shop, or an ‘A’ stand outside a store with an amusing message, and goes from there. It’s likely to be the meticulous follow through however that will determine whether an initial concept bears fruit.

Morrisons is currently developing a new store format that it hopes will save cash. But it is in it for the long game. Jake Kirkham, format and concept manager said that as things stand, the format is not cheaper than what is used elsewhere and that success will be dependent on further development and a modular approach to roll-out.

This is hardly news, but it is easy to forget that the most effective store design is the result of hard work as well as a good idea. The 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration cliché springs to mind at this point and while we can all admire the current trend for low-cost pop-up stores, in the longer term, good-looking stores will not appear fully formed from the drawing board or computer screen.

There is a sense that plod, plod, plod, accompanied by consistency, will yield results. Not perhaps what might be imagined when you stare at a picture in a retail design consultancy, but reality for all that and if nothing else, those sitting expectantly in the discussion at the WRC in Berlin will have come away with this message.

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