HISTORY OF RETAIL DESIGN 

Retail experience has been a part of our cultures since the beginning of time, whether the department stores in America, Greek Agora’s, souk in the middle-east or bazaars and mandi’s in India. Retail Design, essentially a specialized stream of interiors and space design, including so much more than the just the function of architecture. Elements from industrial design, décor, graphic design, ergonomics, advertisement, psychology, sociology, etc. participate in the creation of a retail space. Retail has been a part of our history since the conception of sharing, bartering, selling, and consuming resources. The main aim of a commercial space is to store and sell the product to consumers; spaces must be designed in such a way as to promote a pleasant and trouble-free shopping experience for the consumer. Whence bigger players entered the market, words like scale and economy became the center of the universe; studies focusing on better ways to sell, what to show. Industrial revolution; a major event in history changing trends of consumerism drastically. Since mostly mom and pop stores existed in the 1800s, retail was much more of a personalized local experience than today. Many of these stores were drug stores or general stores selling everything from groceries and fabrics to toys and tools. People during this time were also expanding settlement across the country and creating new towns. 

In the midst of the 19th century, shopping experience was given a whole new meaning with retail design becoming a part of the design field. Retail design embraces the disciplines of architecture, industrial as well as communication design with responsibly creating a contact between the brand and the customer. It ranges from the fascia of the store, to its signages, circulation, interiors, visual and spatial aspect. Department stores, the stores didn’t just sell items. They also provided demonstrations, lectures, and entertainment events that appealed to newly wealthy customers looking for how best to use their disposable income. Today people are still looking for content and experiences as part of their shopping activities that can help influence what they buy.

Shopping malls, the concept of malls as central locations where customers can visit multiple merchants has been around since the Agora’s of Ancient Greece. However, our more modern concept of malls — as physically built shops connected in one location with communal facilities — began in the 20th century. The mall was envisioned as a cultural and social centre where people could come together and not only do their shopping but also make an activity of it. Technology has played an important role in the evolution of retail design, stores are adopting tools such as: digital mirrors, which give you a more realistic view of how the product will suit the consumer, and digital tags, which include all products’ features, pricing, sizes, colours and enable the product network. For example, if a store doesn’t have a particular product in a specific colour, size, etc, it will connect to the nearest store/warehouse to have it delivered.

Now we’ve reached another phase of history, where malls are dying. With the advent of e-commerce, how can retail design address this issue? Designers need to think about how to be remembered. We portray this ‘motto’ in the spaces, which will talk for the brand. It is important to draw consumers’ attention to the spatial experience, either through surprising elements, digital and interactive space tools or, unifying consistently within the brand stores. Understand the product, the story behind it as well as the consumer’s needs, wishes, aspirations and give them ‘brandscaping’. Brand-scaping being referred to as a combination of two words Brand and Landscape coined by an anthropologist Jonh Sherry in 1986.

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