Supermarket design is riding high at the moment, but other parts of the retail spectrum are not looking so swift of foot.
At the risk of offending a considerable number of people what follows is a paean of praise for supermarkets. Last week, and Retail Week covered the event in some depth, Tesco unveiled what many seemed to insist was the future of retailing and it was in Watford.
Indeed, at the store opening, shopping bags in rough, reusable sacking (aka ‘bags for life’) were on offer bearing the legend “I ♥ Watford”. This might be seen by some as an ironic statement, but there was little mistaking the love that Tesco had lavished on the refurbishment of its massive Extra branch in the town and the outcome was positive. What Watford represents is the way in which supermarkets are increasingly places where you are likely to see store design innovation in a way that is less apparent in a significant part of the rest of retail.
In Watford, praise has been heaped upon a pretty fine artisan-style bakery, an equally alluring artisan-style café and a family-style café. That’s a lot of style and the bakery in particular, with its bowler hats-cum-pendant lights is a good example of a sector that wouldn’t normally look beyond its immediate competitor set looking beyond its immediate competitor set.
A supermarket retailer that goes off in search of inspiration in, say, the fashion sector, is an increasingly common phenomenon. Yet currently it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. In fairness, Liberty has styled its windows recently as a discount food retailer and it does look good, but this is more of a flash in the pan than anything serious, although it did turn heads.
And in answer to those who will say that the concentration has been on creating fashion environments in supermarkets and robbing the high street of ideas, it’s frequently the food bit, rather than the general merchandise, which has shown the most inspiration of late. The UK is really good at creating enticing food environments at the moment and the fact that so many visitors from the sector overseas come here to see what’s happening stands as testimony to this fact.
Perhaps retailers, other than those selling food in this country, might have a look around and see what ideas they could import to their stores that might make a difference.