Can a redesign of store environments save the high street?

The web has had a dramatic impact on retailers’ high street presence, meaning the role of stores has to change.

Cecilia Sylvan Martin, associate director at consumer design research agency The Big Picture, says: “The growth in online shopping does not have to mean the death of the high street, but more a shifting of roles and a dramatically redesigned answer to changing consumer expectations.”

Rethinking the retail space is difficult to get right if you don’t truly understand what consumers want from a 21st century store, she adds.

“We believe that the physical retail stores still have an essential role to play,” says Sylvan Martin. “However, it’s more than just providing the latest technology and a seamless experience with the online offer - instead the store has to provide a balance to the functional, transactional experience that online shopping offers.”

Visually conveying your brand essence is important. “Looking at the continuing success of Rough Trade East and West, which was retail brand of the year 2013, HMV could have benefited from a similar ‘lifestyle’ and ‘social’ injection,” she says.

Design is all-encompassing and doesn’t just mean what colour the walls should be. The store environment should work holistically, with the brand story, staff, checkouts, the front of store and overall interior decorating telling the same brand story that makes shoppers want to enter, browse, spend and return.