“To thrive in retail today, it’s not enough to simply look good and carry great stock….. changing times require a fresh look at the rules of consumer engagement,” Says Belinda Morris, editor of The Jeweller magazine (published by The National Association of Jewellers) in an article about visual merchandising.

For the article Belinda interviewed Peter Cunningham of Design CLD. Here’s a transcript of that interview.

Belinda: Are there any particular trends that have emerged in that last 12 months or so in terms of materials, colours, store lay-out, special features etc?

Peter: Store layouts are becoming less formal, the traditional cash desk is a thing of the past as now there so many different ways to pay, cash transactions have become relatively rare. This means less barriers between consultants and customers, desks have given way to coffee tables and lounge chairs. For big purchases, exclusive VIP rooms offer the retailer opportunity to build relationships by pampering the customer and creating a relaxed atmosphere in which to sell.

Another trend which is influencing showroom design is the power of marketing via social media. It’s not unusual to create exciting feature areas (often branded) to serve as backgrounds for selfies. Currently the emphasis is on using technology to transform natural materials into building products and interior finishes. These products might be tree bark, straw, moss and lichens, often they’re used as a counterpoint to very hi tech materials such as satin anodised aluminium and glass. Colour is becoming less important as designers turn to innovative textures to create interest and mood.

Belinda: Is thought being given to sustainability issues (re materials, energy etc)?

Peter: Yes – there is a drive towards sustainability but it’s not solely out of altruism. Although sustainable solutions may be expensive in the short term, they often make long term economic sense. One obvious example is the general trend to move to LED light fittings, but there are others. However it would be hard to argue that customers spending many thousands of pounds on gold, precious gems and diamond jewellery are driving this change.

Belinda: Are retailers looking at ways of providing an ‘experiential’ visit for customers, ie going above and beyond simply selling?

Peter: Absolutely – to be frank, this has to be the way forward, retailers have to focus on their strengths. Service, communication, relationships, knowledge, and fun are real world strengths that are hard to replicate online.

Belinda: Have you noticed a Brexit-related downturn as far as spending on refurbs or new stores?

Peter: Yes and paradoxically no. I think the uncertainty around the BREXIT process has led to delayed spending decisions but it’s hard to just pull the shutters down and wait for better times. After all since 2008 we have been living through a time of great change. BREXIT is a symptom of this but it’s not the only one, we’ve had the financial crash, referendum  after referendum, political turmoil, and dire predictions of climate change and what’s more, no sign of a conclusion. Yet, I’d say many of our clients have flourished during this period. I’d put this down to a willingness to recognise and face up to the challenges with an open mind and flexibility. Everything’s up for grabs and fortune favours the brave.

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