Despite the recession there’s still been a lot to shout about in retail design this year, as the winners of the Retail Interiors Awards show. By John Ryan.

Last week the great and good of the retail design world gathered at the Hilton on London’s Park Lane for the 12th Retail Interior Awards. Always a fiercely contested set of gongs, in spite of the tough economic backdrop this year there were more entries than ever with categories ranging from Best International Retail Interior to Retail Destination of the Year.

Many smiley faces trooped up on stage, with none happier than the team from Jamie Oliver’s Recipease, which managed to scoop the award for Best Small Shop and Best Visual Merchandising Solution, but was also crowned UK Retail Interior of the Year. Shopfitter Deane & Amos also found particular favour as The Birley Retail Interiors Store-fit company of the year.

Of particular note was that in these conspicuously cost-conscious times, many of the entrants had not expended huge budgets on new environments.

The question that has to be asked is whether, when we eventually emerge from these financially choppy waters, retailers will be prepared to stage a return to the in-store expenditure
levels of yesteryear. The answer is almost certainly no and in many instances, this year’s Retail Interiors Awards show just how much can be done on how relatively little.

While this may not be entirely sweet music to design consultants’ ears, the overall effect on retailers’ bottom lines looks set to be substantial.

The Judging Panel

Alison Cardie: Managing director, HMKM

Tim Greenhalgh: Chief creative officer, Fitch

Nayna McIntosh: Director of store marketing and design, Marks & Spencer

Robert Hudson: Director, NAS

John Ryan: Stores editor, Retail Week

The Land Securities Best UK Retail Interior/Best Small Shop/Best Visual Merchandising Solution (joint winner)

Winner Recipease, Battersea

This was the multi-award winner for the night. Time after time, Recipease managing director Simon Cochrane and his team stepped up to collect a prize as the retailer-cum-cookery shop seemed to appear in every category.

In fact it didn’t, but this new format, in Battersea’s Northcote Road, had what it takes to walk away with the award for Best Small Shop, Best Visual Merchandising Solution (an award it scooped jointly with Habitat in Westfield London) and then to take the top prize of Best UK Retail Interior.

The store is located in an area recognised as a destination for foodies and uses a retail offer at its front to draw shoppers in. It then has an area for cookery demonstrations and lessons further into the interior.

Best Visual Merchandising Solution

Joint winner Habitat, Westfield London

Artless simplicity, or so it would appear, characterises the approach taken to visual merchandising at this branch of Habitat. In fact, what is on show is a highly worked interior where nothing has been left to chance and you emerge with the sense that you’d like parts of your house to look like this – which is exactly what the best visual merchandising should do. Habitat shared the award for this category with Recipease.

The Patton Fit-Out Department Store Interior of the Year and the NAS Shopfitting Excellence Award

Winners Liberty London and AE Hadley

Debatably London’s most glamorous department store had a makeover earlier this year with major departmental relocations, new fixturing and a top-end jewellery room. The outcome was an interior that proved to be this year’s other multiple award winner. This is the smallest of London’s upscale department stores, but with this revamp, the judges felt that it had re-established its credentials and is now punching well above its weight.

Best Edge-of-Town/ Out-of-Town Store

Winner Lakeland, Arnison Retail Park, County Durham

Lakeland goes back to its kitchenware roots with a design that has a distinctly domestic feel to it.

Created by design consultancy Small Back Room, the store features simple, stripped-wood fixtures that look good, but which also allow high density merchandising. In many ways, this sets the standard for the sector and looks set to do so for some time to come.

Worth noting too, the spectacular chandelier created from cutlery – a simple way to create an eye-catching effect.

The Birley In-Store Catering and Hospitality Award

Winner Marks & Spencer, Westfield London

Creating an environment that shoppers will want to shop is one thing. Creating a restaurant within a store that will make shoppers prolong their visit, spend some more money and enjoy the experience, is something else again.

M&S has proved adept at creating new in-store catering environments ever since the store modernisation programme kicked off in 2004. But the version in Westfield proves that it has not run out of ideas on how to make a multi-level food and clothing retailer appeal to shoppers in search of a quick bite within a sleek, contemporary setting.

Best International Retail Interior

Winner House of Barbie, Shanghai

Imagine taking a blonde, highly anatomically inaccurate, 50-year old female doll and then basing a multi-level store around it.

If this sounds a mite uncommercial, then consider taking about 2,000 of the dolls, embedding them in a large circular tube and then putting a spiral staircase through the centre of it all. Now colour almost everything candy pink and then stand back. This, more or less, is what has been done here, and contrary to received retail wisdom, it has been a shopper magnet from the moment its doors opened in the spring this year. A clear winner.

The Portview Fashion Retail Interior of the Year

Winner Nike Town, London

Nike Town at Oxford Circus seems to have been around for ever. However, the judges felt that its recent redesign and the high standards of presentation meant it crossed the line from sports and fitness store to fashion emporium. The best retailers can be different things to different customers and Nike Town, working with London design consultancy HMKM seems to have made this a reality.

The Eden Industries Food and Supermarket Design of the Year

Winner Waitrose, Dubai

It’s a tall order to customise a food retail operation as more or less everything is systematised and very little is any kind of accident. But Waitrose has taken its familiar self and managed to make it unfamiliar, as well as appealing to a market that has little in common with the kinds of locations in which it normally trades.

Point-of-Purchase Campaign of the Year

Winner Nokia, Regent Street

A simple and elegant campaign at the Nokia flagship store. Designed by Fitch, a strong use of graphics, mounted on the mid-shop display pods and a window display that combines technology with a chintzy domestic feel, made this an obvious winner.

The Nuttall Group Health and Beauty Design of the Year

Winner Destination Skin, House of Fraser, Westfield London

A concession area within a House of Fraser store might sound like an unlikely setting for the health and beauty winner, but Destination Skin is that rare beast – a shop within a shop that looks and feels like a distinct entity. Clean lines and a high gloss finish gave this the edge.

The Kleerex Sustainable Store of the Year

Winner Timberland, Westfield London

Green needn’t be dull, or at least not if you follow the path that has been taken by Timberland, working with design consultancy Checkland Kindleysides. From the outside, this store, with a chassis formed from sustainable timber, looks like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Step inside and repurposed materials with graphics telling shoppers what’s on offer, right down to a pair of used Timberland boots supplied by a contractor who worked on the store, are everywhere. An ecologically conscious store that puts a smile on the face.

Retail Destination of the Year

Winner National Geographic, Regent Street

A retail destination is a place that should draw shoppers broadly irrespective of its neighbours, purely on the strength of what is on offer, both in terms of product and the environment that contains it. The National Geographic store ticks both boxes. Regent Street is, of course, a destination in its own right, but this has the kind of interior that provides real standout.