From strategic display placements to creating an inviting atmosphere, there are many ways to make your retail space more engaging for customers.

Lately, there’s been an increased sense of hope when it comes to consumer confidence: It’s actually rising. People are actually spending money.

But while consumer confidence rises, their baskets seem to be shrinking as illustrated in a recent Nielsen report (mainly with their food purchases).

So, while brands, retailers, and consumers alike watch intently at how the economy progresses, we want retailers to know that there’s always a way to spend money to attract consumers while saving at the same time.

If there were one formula for retail success, we’d like to think it would look something like this:

Retail formula = X+Y
(“X” = where a retailer should spend, and “Y” = where a retailer should save)

Scientifically tested? Maybe not.

Useful for determining what to put where? Absolutely.

How do you start if you’re looking for ways to improve your store’s efficiency? Well, have you considered looking at what your competition is doing?




Yes, go shopping, and start with your competition – you need to know what your competition is doing to engage and persuade consumers to shop.

From our perspective, we strongly encourage a competitive analysis to be part of your design strategy and research. You need to get to know your customer:

  • Act like a customer in your competitor’s bricks-and-mortar location and go online (yes, actually do some shopping to see what the experience is like).
  • See what they’re doing right, and what they may be doing wrong.
  • Conduct research with a third-party agency to develop a competitive analysis – they can do the shopping for you and track customer movements within a store.
  • Always get intimate with your own store – spend some time to see what your own customers are doing in your retail space (your store’s camera and tracking software can help greatly).

In his book, “Made in America,” Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton wrote that he built the world’s largest retailer by stealing ideas from his competition. Walton was like a professional covert shopper and made his own retailing experience better by understanding what others were doing and improving where necessary.

Notice how Wal-Mart has had its eye on Amazon lately? And now Wayfair? Not surprising.

Recently, we helped one of our clients with changing their retail environment. As part of our initial analysis, before any design and strategy were done, we:

  • Spent time with their teams to understand what they had as “wants and needs” for their experience.
  • Spent hours shopping and visiting their competitors.
  • Observed customers in their own retail spaces to collect data regarding their customer behaviours.

Our analysis was presented at their annual general meeting, where we were able to successfully articulate the needs and wants, and how to achieve them.

Now, we won’t go into the psychological side of consumerism (as a side note, here’s a recent PwC retail survey that explores consumer behavior and paths to purchase), but there is a correlation between store and customer: The brand experience and a retailer’s layout can impact a customer’s buying behaviour.

Boosting your bottom line means being smart. And being smart means knowing what your competition is doing – the good and the bad – so you can better prepare to strengthen your environment.




A study a few years ago showed that 40 to 70 percent of consumers make purchasing decisions in a bricks-and-mortar location.

And there’s no shortage of clever techniques retailers use to attract customer attention — getting them into the doors and getting them to shop. Consumers react to big red signs better and faster than other colours, they love the big shopping carts that welcome them to buy more, and the smells and colours of a space attract attention.

But how can you improve your store’s design?


Know how customers move through your store. When it comes to a mass merchant, the tendency is to get customers to go to the right when entering and have them move along the perimeter of the store (often referred to as a “racetrack”), then they’ll duck in-and-out of aisles. When it comes to fashion or specialty stores, customers will weave in and out.


Know where to put the premium stuff. When it comes to mass retail and convenience, for instance, the racetrack behaviour mentioned above establishes a premium status — customers will see more products along the perimeter. With fashion or specialty, customers are conditioned to see new products upfront and clearance items in the back of the store. In the mall, windows are premium display areas as they generate initial interest for customers walking by.


Loation. Location. Location. High-traffic areas are great. They create attention, a sense of urgency, and a need to get out of the way. That’s right. Shoppers will linger less and avoid getting in the way of traffic or causing it. This is a phenomenon known as the butt-brush effect, coined by legendary retail strategist Paco Underhill. And yes, it says exactly what it means – people don’t like to be brushed up against or touched, especially from behind. Customers will also engage with the display and products differently, and perceive them to be either discounted or higher quality based on how they’re displayed.


Different strokes for different folks. You need to showcase the right products in clear sight of customers, whether it’s grocery items on a run of gondola shelves or a striking dress on a mannequin at the entrance of your store. High-margin, private label brands in food and general merchandise stores should always use the strike zone to attract attention (eye-level location of products at the front of an aisle) and place lower priority offerings above or below them. For big box stores, customers perceive “bulked out” products displayed on the floor as a good deal. For higher-end shops, avoid clutter to create a sense of demand and urgency — if it seems like supply is low, a sense of urgency can be created.


Give them a reason to stay. History has shown that providing a diverse product offering will keep customers shopping longer. And making your space aesthetically appealing and comfortable with an experience, like coffee, food, and yes, barber services (Frank & Oak is making their fashion experience complete by going beyond clothing and adding services to enhance a customer’s look with an in-store barber services, and Club Monaco in New York City has added a flower shop to cater to the discerning set of clothing shoppers).


How your space looks impacts the customer decision-making process. Remember the butt brush we mentioned earlier? Keep that in mind when determining how you want to influence your customers. If you’re selling convenience items, avoid obstacles to purchase and consider impulse items at the check-out counter — customers are expected to come in and out quickly. Also, consider how to stay in business when you’re renovating — we shared an article recently that digs into this topic a bit more.


What you see is what you get. The type of store dictates how merchandise should be displayed. And perception is everything. Cluttered, messy-looking aisles in a store will create a sense that products are priced lower than another, more organized store, even if the products sold are the same at both. More expensive products create a greater emotional response and need an environment that matches the product offering – it creates a sense of comfort and value.


There is no cookie-cutter approach. You can sell them, but we don’t use a cookie-cutter approach when designing a strategy to attract your customers. You need to be very intimate with your brand and your customers. And if it’s a trend that’s caught your eye, be cautious — select the trend that makes sense and that’s a genuine match for your brand.




Retail is a dog-eat-dog world, and your retail space lives in an aggressive sales-per-square-footage world. So, to avoid getting bitten, here are a few ways to get the most of your space.

  • Shelve it the right way. To increase consumer traffic flow, get more products on display.
  • Properly position displays to increase exposure to inventory. Create a path to purchase.
  • Create an atmosphere to make the customer feel comfortable. As part of the shopping experience, customers want to hang around if there’s a reason to, like nice lighting.
  • Declutter your space to create a crowd and attract a crowd. If you make room, they will come, and they will stay if others are there, too.
  • Tantalize them with smells and colours. Turn up your customers’ senses with inviting aromas and strategic use of colour and sound – inspire your customers to envision themselves with your products.
  • Become a mind reader — yes, you read that correctly. Trash the hard-sell approach and engage your customers quickly to support their reasons for shopping at your store, and to know whether your customer is seeking immediate help or is waiting for check out.


Retail space isn’t cheap. By compelling customers to visit, enticing them to spend time, and encouraging them to spend money, you’ll be able to justify the rationale for making changes to your retail space.

Remember this: Don’t take your space for granted. Changes are good to encourage customers to visit and to stay a while. Think outside the box, be creative, and be willing to take action on what you’ve learned from your competition.

The formula we shared at the beginning of this article may seem simple, but our clients have gained success because of our approach to design, supported by deep insights and experience.


And by the way, we love working with new and existing clients. Their unique business challenges become our challenges. Their needs and wants evolve into our strategies and become our motivation. And the solutions we create are distinctive, designed especially for each client. With years of experience, we understand that one-size-fits-all is not a sound approach and that each project is an opportunity to distill our know-how and guide clients with new insights.

Interested in making better use of your space? Let’s talk and see what we can do for you.



When it comes to answering the “slings and arrows” of retail fixtures, much like Shakespeare, we’re renowned for creativity.


To customize or not to customize is a must-ask question when retailers consider choosing between custom manufactured retail fixtures or off-the-shelf commodity fixtures, or whether they can (or should) have both.

It’s an all-too-common question. And rightfully so – there’s so much to consider.

How will the fixture look? What brand manufacturers the fixture? How much will it cost? Does it match your in-store brand experience?

The customer experience has long been a key consideration for retailers. Today, it’s not unexpected to see some go beyond by making it less about a product and more about the overall experience.

And a part of the shopping experience is a retail brand’s ability to convey its aesthetic standards – how it looks, feels, and how it creates an emotional connection with the customer.

So, what’s the difference?

  • Like a nicely tailored, bespoke suit, custom gives you the luxury of designing, engineering, and manufacturing fixtures specifically for your unique retail experience.
  • When you think “off-the-shelf,” you think commodity, the standard option for fixtures with a host of alternatives for shelving, racks, hangers, mannequins, and so much more.

But did you know that commodity and custom fixtures can be used together? Yes, you can marry them to complement your brand’s experience. Designing a unique retail space means you can spend more on making your brand more prominent in some sections, and reducing costs in other areas by taking advantage of commodity options.



Commodity: Off-the-shelf to your shelf.

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So, what’s the big deal with commodity fixture options?

Commodity fixtures are an attractive option since they can be very cost-effective versus custom. But if your retail space seems to take a basic approach to its environment, understand this: You still have to spend money, and the commodity isn’t dirt cheap.

What can approximately $25 per square foot get you?

Well, sometimes the least attractive (and cost-effective) retail space can be a successful experience. As the following article states, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and a retail space can seem “ugly” and still be successful.

But not all consumer experiences are created equal. And, not all commodity fixtures look the same. It can sometimes feel tricky, trying to navigate options for complementing your brand’s personality with your customer’s tastes.

What to consider?

  • Choosing the right finish – metal, wood, low-grade laminate, and a host of standard finishes.
  • Knowing that you’ll get commodity fixtures to your stores faster than custom (weeks versus months).
  • Realizing that commodity can be versatile.
  • Figuring out ways to maximize the retail footprint.
  • Not being afraid to explore design with commodity fixtures – yes, you can! And you can still use commodity with custom.
  • Your decision can often come down to price.


Custom: a sense of style matching your offerings.

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Bringing the same aesthetic to your store fixtures that your brand already emits can be tough. That’s why custom is becoming a strong consideration for many retailers looking to add depth to the in-store experience.

Much like custom lighting and bespoke furniture, custom fixtures play a prominent role in a retailer’s larger brand ecosystem.

Is there a shift toward custom?

Well, that depends on the brand. But we’ve seen greater interest in custom, especially considering that some online retailers are creating bricks-and-mortar retail spaces now.


This is disrupting retail and making the landscape very competitive.

But what does custom achieve?

Since retailers are trying to create a point of difference – an “in-store experience” that enhances products – custom can help differentiate and create a competitive advantage. Retailers are hankering to showcase the uniqueness of their brands, and custom fixtures can build on the brand’s personality, help celebrate its identity, and create an air of exclusivity.

With custom, there are endless possibilities – shapes, sizes, and textures can be distinctive with a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. A retail brand can take a very innovative approach to how they showcase products.

But considering the investment of custom, retailers are constantly asking how they can effectively demonstrate ROI.

In a recent Shop! white paper, we participated in a case study that examined a recent project. It helps to offer actionable insights for justifying these investments that create successful store redesign for enhancing the retail experience for customers.


What’s trending?

Is there a particular finish that’s hot right now? Is steel better than wood or stone better than glass? What about fabrics? Should I go with earthy elements or natural tones, and what about colours?

Trends are great for celebrities. But with retail fixtures, we suggest shying away from the trends, unless something “now” is aligned with your brand.

With that said, there are always design considerations that can help the brand.

A recent article by Shopify outlines 7 key retail trends that any retail brand should take the time to read and strongly consider their own experiences. And the one takeaway that resonates with us is a quote that sums it all up nicely:


“Today’s consumers want what they want, when they want it, the way they want it, and given all the shopping venues available to them, those wants are critically important.”

In sum: Be prepared to deliver.


Focus on the customer experience.

At the end of the day, this is certain: You know your customer and you know the experience you want to create.

And from our perspective, we know that:

  • Both commodity and custom fixture options have a place.
  • Both commodity and custom fixture options can be used in combination with one another – yes, they can.
  • We help retailers expand their businesses and manage their capital expenditures.
  • We will show retailers how to achieve their unique proposition as part of their unique physical environment.
  • We are experts at effectively showcasing a retailer’s offerings and captivating shoppers.

Your store shelves should always be strategically positioned to sell. And they should always be stocked with neatly organized merchandise. So, regardless of whether you choose a commodity or custom fixture option, or marry the two, we’ll help you make the decision that’s right for your brand and for your business goals.

If you’re willing to design your fixtures from scratch as a way to embrace your brand’s heritage, create new designs to encompass a modern aesthetic, or choose ready-made options to complement your budget, there’s a way we can help meet your needs.

We’re experts in commodity and custom retail fixtures.

We’re advocates for creating spaces that will thrive.

And we work within budgets to determine where best to spend on custom, on commodity, or both.

To help you understand the ins-and-outs of transforming a retail environment, look out for our next article in our “How to Get Started” series: “When you need a new store design.”



Business renovations can be an inconvenience to customers. The challenges are many, but the rewards of creating a better customer experience will be very fulfilling.


Business is booming, you’re excited about the change, and your business is considering a complete redo – renovations that will make the customer experience so much better.

Business renovations are absolutely necessary.

Physical improvements to your retail space will improve your bottom line, help you keep customers loyal to your brand, and drive new customers to your shopping experience.

But not everyone will be happy, and we mean customers. You can’t afford to lose them during any period of change. And you can’t afford a complete shutdown that can last for weeks.

If you’re getting ready to renovate, you’ll need to think strategically, and consider many things:

  • How do you stay open?
  • How can you continue offering a suitable shopping experience?
  • How do you minimize the inconvenience to customers?
  • How do you actually keep them shopping and wanting to come back for more?



Be patient. Stay calm. Always smile.

At CBSF, our retail clients are always looking to make their experiences more incredible than ever. And that can mean making changes to their physical environments as a response to market factors, changing consumer habits, and introducing new products.

So, when they come to us, they’re trusting that we’ll help them work through a successful construction period.

We’ll work with clients to understand the need for the change (determine why this change is necessary), design the right environment to complement their brand, and create a plan that’ll work for their business during and after the renovations (there’s no cookie-cutter approach to renovations, and a single plan will not work for all businesses).


You can’t hide, so don’t try.

Any renovation that happens during business hours is almost impossible to hide.
So, don’t try to cover up the fact that you’re renovating.

Be transparent about what’s going on. Your customers need to be informed and better able to negotiate the “currently under renovations” experience.

You need to make customers realize that the renovation experience can be good, and we’ll help you realize that it can be achieved in multiple markets.

We understand the apprehensions to do a renovation: It will impact business. But it’s a short-term hiccup that will achieve long-term results.


We heard you, and we’re making changes because you asked for them.

Yes, things can get messy (no worries, customers won’t see this) and some of the retail footprints might be temporarily unavailable. But you need to engage customers in a creative way and keep them informed. Make them feel a connection to your business by letting them know that this is being done for them because your business has listened to their feedback.

Whenever you can, redirect the need for changes back to customer feedback.

Also, make the disruption seem less rowdy, and more like a normal part of creating an exceptional experience.

  • Plan ahead, and make changes when necessary.
  • Work after hours for some of the jobs that can get a little too loud, dusty.
  • Always think health and safety.
  • Constantly keep your staff informed and communicate often.
  • Show plans of what the new space will look like.
  • Put a PR plan together.
  • Let customers know why you’re doing this – speak to them, and often.

Customers will notice the changes (they’re going to be too big not to notice), so don’t try hiding anything, and share every step of the process.

  • You can remain operational, just be confident.
  • You need to be friendly.
  • Provide renovation updates on a regular basis.
  • You will need to communicate to customers every day (add signage, email your subscriber list, and inform on your social media channels).

Just think business as usual, with just a slight interruption as you create the best experience possible.


Plan to work around the clock.

Let’s be blunt. No customer – especially a loyal customer – likes to have their shopping experience disrupted. And no business wants to disrupt their sales and revenue flow. But major renovations are needed since market factors drive the need for change. So, that means planning to work and shop around disruptions is necessary.

As part of the scope of a project and the comfort level of retailers, the renovation team (contractors, construction companies, engineers, architects, project managers) will determine how quickly the renovations can be done.

The health and safety of workers, retail employees, and shoppers is paramount during any renovation.

Phasing out the renovation process helps things go smoothly while minimizing the disruption to the shopping experience. When planning, we recommend dividing the retail footprint into four or five phases. Quarantine products in one phase and squeeze other products into another portion of the retail space, making one section inaccessible – this will be the phase where the renovation begins.

Although the brand experience may be minimized, temporary set-ups and establishing quadrants will enable products to remain accessible during the rebuilding process. Ensure the proper products are prominently displayed, and which can be displaced or combined with other product categories (displacing seasonal products, for instance, can make this process easier to manage).

Key takeaways:

  • Try to do business renovations with the least amount of disruptions.
  • Schedule work based on your best interests.
  • Run a “hard hat special” during renovations to entice loyal patrons to continue shopping, with the hopes that you’ll welcome new customers during renovations (they may, in fact, become regulars themselves).


Always think safety.

When renovating a retail space, there is no bigger challenge than keeping everyone safe. Yes, there’s a deadline. But this type of a project moves smoothly with meticulous planning and proper communication with stakeholders.

Signs, signs, and more signs! Ensure your customers know exactly what’s happening, where it’s happening, and what to avoid.

  • Let customers know what is accessible.
  • Mark things properly – show customers how to properly detour the retail space (prominent signage at the entrance, arrows on the floor, wall signs throughout).
  • Install signage that indicates where products are located, if they’ve been temporarily moved.
  • Show them what’s happening – an artist’s conception of what space will look like after the renovation will get people excited.

Construction can be a messy thing to deal with, so don’t forget to keep things clean. Sure, barricades help, but things can get dusty and loud. Take the necessary precautions to ensure shopping is still fun and not annoying.


Let the world know what’s up.

Renovations can be a big deal for a retail brand, large and small. Consider making the experience worthy of sharing because, after all, you’re doing this to make the shopping experience better than ever, and your customers will appreciate the changes.

  • Consider using local media resources to help garner attention – if the story is worth sharing, media will want to share, and people will want to listen.
  • Add incentives for the post-renovations/re-opening phase, even before the renovations are completed.
  • Stay active on social media and share what’s happening frequently on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Share the news in trade publications with an advertisement or editorial support.

During the renovations and once they’re completed, make sure everyone knows that it’s a big deal that business is back at full, uninterrupted steam. The news will be great for business.


Give them a reason to shop.

After weeks or maybe a couple months of construction, your tireless efforts to make your retail space as perfect as possible will come to life. And your loyal customers will be looking to be rewarded for braving the disruptions. So, have a sale! The loyal customer will be happy to shop and chat about the new experience, and you’ll attract new customers with the incentives to experience your new store.


Back to business as usual.

We’re going to make this really simple:

  • Be patient.
  • Be smart.
  • Be safe.
  • And keep the business going when you’re renovating.

By acknowledging that renovations will disrupt business, but are necessary evils to building on your success, you’ll quickly come to realize that your growing pains will pay off. And your customers will love you for it.


Ready to renovate? Then give us a call and let’s see what we can do for your business.


“Unstores” Underscore the Intangible

On the face of it, it’s an extraordinary idea. A store as showroom only, no cash registers in sight. Shoppers in these spaces aren’t shoppers at all. More like tire kickers. They look around, ask some questions, maybe try something out. But they leave empty handed. And that’s just the point.

The concept of the “unstore” is that customer engagement and product education trump hard purchases in the customer experience game. And though still fairly new to the retail scene, this stock-free paradigm shifter is an idea on the rise.

Samsung’s got a big one, with its 837 store in New York. At this colossal three-storey hotspot in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, consumers can “capture the holiday spirit” with a 360 selfie from inside a snow globe, get interactive with the movement-responsive snowflakes in the window display, or hang out in the “holiday living room,” where “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” play in rotation.

Michael Koch, Samsung’s senior director of store development, was the first to reference the un-store concept during his presentation at the International Retail Design Conference in September. He talked about aspiring to create a retail situation where people could relax without feeling the pressure to buy.

Nordstrom has an unstore, too, in Nordstrom Local. This unique small-scale space in West Hollywood has a styling suite, eight dressing rooms, on-site alterations, personal styling services, beverages and manicures. What doesn’t it have? Inventory.

Other examples include:

  • Starting with three Boston-area stores, Staples has just started a partnership with office-sharing startup Workbar that sees it devoting a portion of its square footage to workspaces—where customers can’t buy a thing.
  • With its magnetic wall panels, in-store power concerts and interchangeable displays, Sony Square NYC is set up to do everything but sell product.
  • In one of its San Francisco stores, Target operates an Internet of Things concept store that functions as a learning lab for shoppers.
  • Reebok has CrossFit gyms at its FitHub stores.

“The idea was never, ‘Let’s go and create a store without any inventory for our consumers,’” Samsung’s Koch says. “The intent was always to find a better way to display products in a way that people would understand them, and be educated in a more comfortable environment.”

store unstore

Inaugural “Reimagined” Target Store Unveiled

Its lack of success in this country notwithstanding, Target USA is continuing its full-speed trajectory toward an unprecedented future that stares e-commerce right in the headlights.

The next generation of this company’s appearance on the American retail landscape launched last week with the opening of a grand and exceptional store in Richmond, TX, thirty-five miles from Houston.

This 124,000-square-foot original is the first of 500 “reimagined” stores the retailer plans to open within the next two years with a customized view to create an enhanced shopping experience. It’ll do this, Target’s chairman and CEO Brian Cornell has said, “by offering more elevated product presentations and a number of time-saving features.”

It’ll also exemplify a commitment to a new retail posture that seeks vigorous competition with department stores and supermarkets by way of specialized consumer goods in home decor, apparel and groceries.

What sets this next-generation store apart is its embrace of two concepts in one. On the “ease” side of the store, busy families on the hunt for convenience get a supermarket-style experience where they can pick up online orders, and buy grab-and-go items.

For shoppers looking to indulge their consumptive outing a bit more, there’s the “inspiration” side of the Target store. Here, customers can undertake leisurely perambulations among beauty products, seasonal décor and specialty brands from celebrities like “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines.

There are even two distinct entrances for customers to choose between, each offering a different promise of the shopping experience.

This next-generation store showcases a modern aesthetic. Polished grey concrete floors offer wide, airy passage through expansive aisles set off with natural wood accents and illuminated by windows that let in natural light. Smaller signage and LED lights dim automatically to be more energy efficient.

Other features of this unprecedented retail environment:

  • A Starbucks with outdoor seating.
  • Apparel, cookware and seasonal décor retail sections with whimsical names like TrendSpot, Kitchen World and Wondershop.
  • Strolling tech experts ready to advise on electronic purchases.
  • The Kid’s Node, a curved centre aisle near the children’s clothing section highlighted by a carpeted book aisle and an expanded toy section with coolio interactive offerings like a heat-sensitive touch wall and talk tubes.
  • A curbside pickup station where attendants will ferry purchases—paid for electronically—to busy shoppers’ cars.

With this revolutionary dual-concept store design, Target is making a statement about a blended future in which an established brick-and-mortar presence demonstrates its adaptability to an e-commerce upstart.

The retailer plans to eventually remodel more than half of its US-based 1,834 stores. By the end of 2017, it will have tackled 32 of them, with plans for an additional 35 in 2018.

New Target Store Design

Walmart Canada Unveils Scan & Go

First, there was the self-bagging innovation. Then there were the self-serve checkouts (and their attendant hovering sales associates, ready to help with inevitable technical mishaps). Now with Walmart’s introduction of Scan & Go technology, shopping enters a freshly interactive age.

Last week, Walmart Canada picked 22 stores from across the country as inaugural hosts for a new electronic payment-processing system that has an app as its central piece.

In this (almost) pain-free shopping scenario, customers pick up portable barcode scanners at the launch of their shopping trips, and use them to scan and tally up purchases as they go. At the end, an itemized receipt on their display lets them know what to pay—to either a flesh-and-blood cashier or at a self-serve kiosk—at checkout.

The Scan & Go-equipped stores in BC, Alberta and Ontario mark the first appearance of a Scan & Go in this country; the technology’s been available at Sam’s Clubs in the States for more than a year.

Eventually, says Walmart, the handheld scanners may be abandoned in favour of a smartphone app, as is the standard in the US stores.

While the big-box retailer has claimed this move to automation will not result in human-resource cutbacks (citing customer convenience as the objective), many with an eye on the developing scene are skeptical.

So pokes through the iceberg. By the end of 2016, according to research from London-based research and consulting group RBR, there were 255,000 self-checkout machines in stores around the world; by 2022, that number’s expected to have topped 400,000.


RealREIT Conference Tackles Industry Challenges

The intelligentsia of the retail real estate crowd congregated in Toronto last Thursday to talk property management and disruptors.

The fourteenth annual RealREIT conference dove headfirst into its retail focus, and the spate of grim prognoses the media’s been assigning the scene of late.

OneREIT CEO Richard Michaeloff was succinct in his efforts to put the hysteria in perspective. “Retail,” he said, “has always had turmoil. . . . The key thing is for landlords and property owners to stay focused, be adaptable and recognize trends.”

Among the forces vying for their focus, find the aggressive encroachment of technology and ecommerce.

Ken Silver, CEO of CT REIT, told the crowd that retail success boils down to a commitment to the stuff. The retailers that are investing in technology—not just in support of their website and e-commerce efforts, but in every move they make—will always be the victors, he said.

And for the retailers not among this laureled crew, the fallout of addressing the space they abandon falls to the property owners. Not surprisingly, the conference made room here for a lively discussion about the legacy of Target—which left 16 million square feet of unoccupied Canadian retail space in its wake.

Clever managers, conference participants concurred, can make a virtue of such failures by turning them into opportunities. One third of the old Zellers stores are now Planet Fitness centres.

The conference also dipped into comparative analysis, and the consensus was that the differences that distinguish the American and Canadian markets are significant.

For one, the population split means there’s about 25 square feet of retail space per capita in the US, versus just 15 square feet per capita in Canada. That, commented Don Clow, president and CEO of Crombie REIT, means “there is a bit of a cushion.”

For another, there’s the vacancy rates in the two countries’ major shopping centres: below five percent in Canada, almost eight percent south of the border.

“The bottom line is we do have reasonable level of occupancy in this country,” Clow told the group.

“You just need to be working with your retailers to adapt very quickly and make your centres successful through that accelerated change.”

Retail Real Estate CBSF

New Accolade Honours Pros Who Make Spaces Beautifully Liveable

There’s nothing like a prize to make all the effort worth while. By keeping their eyes on the thing, professionals challenge themselves to achieve performance levels beyond those they might hit on a non-competitive landscape.

It’s why Antalis, a noted European distributor of papers, packaging and visual communication products, has partnered with Wallpaper* magazine to launch the Antalis Interior Design Award.

This brand-new international contest is aimed at celebrating the talents of architects and interior designers, among others, in transforming spaces into areas for splendid, and exemplary living.

Two types of submission are eligible for the contest, including projects completed (or launched) between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2017, in the hospitality, restaurant, retail, office, home and public building domains.

 The organization will award six separate prizes:

  • the Hospitality Award for hotel design;
  • the Restaurant Award for restaurant and dining design;
  • the Retail Award for shop/retail design;
  • the Office Award for office/workspace design;
  • the Home Award for home design;
  • the Public Premises Award for public/outdoor space design.

The contest will be judged by an international jury presided over François Confino, a world-renowned specialist in museum exhibitions, and Wallpaper* Bespoke art director Aneel Kalsi.

The prizes for the Antalis Interior Design Award are juicy. For one, winners will get a burst of media exposure in all of Antalis’s communication sites, as well as through its press partners, Intramuros and Wallpaper*.

 Selected works will be on display on the Antalis Gallery website throughout the competition’s gestation.

Winners’ work, along with their profile pics, will also be published in a book—The Book—showcasing the best projects from the competition. Ten thousand copies of it will be distributed among the world’s key interior design players.

Finally, the Antalis Interior Design Award will recognize the contestant/project that scored the most likes on social media.

Interested parties are invited to submit their entries for the competition from between September 1 and December 31, the day the contest closes. The winners will be announced on January 15, 2018.

For more information, visit Antalis Interior Design Award.


RCC Program Facilitates Meeting Accessibility Targets

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) is making good on its pledge to facilitate Ontario-based retailers’ efforts to meet the province’s new accessibility laws.


The RCC’s training program—a workshop and webinar series that’s part of the EnAbling Change project—offers practical assistance for retailers charged with adhering to an end-of-year complying deadline for a revised set of accessibility laws.


The EnAbling Change program is an initiative of the Government of Ontario, administered through the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO), that provides financial support and expertise to help industries and sectors comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The series, which launched on August 22 with the webinar, “How to comply,” will include five webinars in all, on such topics as the ramifications of non-compliance and mental health in the workplace. And on September 29 at the RCC office, retail participants will be able to take part in a workshop with a guest speaker from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

Other guest speakers in this series include representatives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“We’re very honoured to have been selected as a key partner in helping retailers in Ontario succeed at making their stores more accessible,” Diane J. Brisebois, the RCC’s president and CEO, has said. “Shopping is such an important part of peoples’ everyday lives, and removing barriers to help all people in Ontario have a better retail experience is an excellent example of how retail matters in this province.”

The EnAbling Change webinars are free and open to all retailers.


Free Workshop and Webinar Series for Retailers (CNW Group/Retail Council of Canada)

Free Workshop and Webinar Series for Retailers (CNW Group/Retail Council of Canada)

Pot Shops Need Clean, Comfortable Designs to Break the Mould

With marijuana legalization slow-burning on the horizon, Canadian entrepreneurs are racing to lay hands on whatever part of the retail pie they can.

Retail design is part of this looming revised reality.

Pot stores, legit though they might be, are hitting the scene at a significant disadvantage. After all, their head-shop predecessors have established a sketchy reputation for purveyors of such dubious pleasures. These are the seedy, dark dens of iniquity—populated by sketchy characters and staffed by cut-from-the-same-cloth clerks—a mother hustles her child across the street to avoid.

Though there’s still lots of haze around what legalization will look like in this country, there’s no doubt that the looming legislation offers a fresh opportunity for those involved in this trade to reinvent themselves, and those in on the ground floor know it. This next generation of pot-dispensing retail outlets can set the bar high from the start and the retail sector’s buzzing with ideas on how to do it.

Among them:

  • Sidestep psychedelic posters and reggae music in pursuit of a more professional image. Nobody wants a store to tell them who they ought to be.
  • Don’t eschew the traditional head-shop look so fiercely that you end up like a clinical drug counter—that’s just as unappealing, particularly to the older population looking to replace pharmaceuticals and opioids with something natural.
  • Include a clean, cozy consultation area that, ideally, says consumer research conducted by Toronto-based interior design company Figure3, looks like a kitchen.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of featuring an assurance of safety in the design of the space. That means lots of glass and an open view in from the street.

In January, the first-ever business-only national trade show devoted to the marijuana retail and dispensary business will take place in Oregon. The “RAD Expo,” whose booths will be populated by retail design firms, fixture manufacturers and lighting companies, will look to offer pioneers of this retail arm some guidance.

Photo: Surterra Wellness, Tampa Florida. Design by figure3


CBSF Surterra Wellness