There is no such thing as a physical trend in store design these days, as recent openings prove.

In recent weeks there has been a flurry of new openings with Sainsbury’s, Gant, Maplin, The White Company, Missguided and John Lewis all opening, relocating or refurbishing existing stores.

At this point, it would be quite normal for those who follow such things to highlight one or more of them as an example of a trend and others might feel tempted to sit up and take notice.

Yet if there is one thing that marks out all the openings this year, it is that they are all different and that there is no such thing as a store design trend in late 2016.

Usually there are three in-store imperatives that need to be followed if success is to follow: differentiate; differentiate; differentiate

Indeed, it’s almost as if the trend is a ‘non-trend’, or do your own thing and don’t waste time looking over your shoulder at your neighbour.

All of which makes sense if you subscribe to the view that usually there are three in-store imperatives that need to be followed if success is to follow: differentiate; differentiate; differentiate.

Yet talking to one of retail design’s great and good last week it was suggested that there are plenty of trends about, it’s just a matter of how you define the term.

The notion put forward was that a trend is not as tangible as we might once have supposed.

It’s a matter of how shoppers are guided when in-store and how the displays are martialled in order to evoke a response

In today’s store it’s less a matter of whether marble, oak or slate is used for the floor, all retailers know about this, it’s more about the customer journey.

Practically, this means that it’s a matter of how shoppers are guided when in-store and how the displays are martialled in order to evoke a response.

Or put another way, how are shoppers to be convinced that they should part with their money?

In the new scheme of things it’s not a matter of the palette of materials that is deployed, it’s a lot more than that.

It could be the service (certainly a trend when personalisation is considered), how the line is drawn between physical and online retail or something as straightforward as the way in which the shopper is guided through the shop.

A trend therefore can now be described as a combination of elements, physical and virtual that point shoppers in a particular direction … if you call that a trend.

In the age of uncertainty, what constitutes a trend seems to be a movable feast.

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