With one year in the bag and another on the table, the time is ripe for retrospection. The last 12 months in the land of retail design were busy ones, as a worldwide surge of creativity proved once and for all that the status quo can always benefit from a tweak. Here are the top seven developments from 2012.
• Integration. The concept of one-stop shopping got a makeover as, everywhere, retailers came to realize that consumers’ interest in having all of their shopping needs — Web, mobile, and brick and mortar — addressed via a single channel is the ultimate goal. See Best Buy, and its new style of scaled-down but technology-loaded retail footprint.
• Experience. Increasingly in 2012, retailers unveiled “experiential” store spaces whose clever designs encourage customers to browse, test and learn about products on site. See the Rapha Cycling Club (in Osaka, San Francisco and London) and its club-based retail environment.
• Playfulness. Retailers demonstrated that they needn’t take themselves so seriously with quirky in-store concepts that encourage shoppers to have fun. See the brightly coloured materials and fabrics used to replicate the beach for British department store Selfridge’s beachwear department, and the extraordinary kid-rendered interiors of Piccino Kids Wear Boutique, in Valencia, Spain.
• Pop-ups. The rise of the temporary retailer was a serious movement in 2012, with Canada’s busiest city witnessing its share. Perhaps the most celebrated was the tantalizing taste of the magic of Target outlet a Toronto pop-up shop gave locals last February.
• Drama. The world’s various states of economic hardship over the last year notwithstanding, store designs — mercifully and for the most part — didn’t stint on either materials or flair. See the massive food emporium, complete with an 18-foot-high wall of cheese, that is the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws in Toronto.
• Simplicity. With the elaborate and opulent store design inarguably occupying one end of the retail design spectrum, sparse minimalism enjoyed every bit as legitimate a claim to a spot in review of 2012’s retail trends. Sometimes, the most striking way to sell your product is to make it, and not the interior that houses it, the focus. See German footwear retailer Não do Brasil, whose elegantly undulating Berlin store is vast and monochrome, so the stars of the show leap off the shelves.
• Lighting. Thanks to the federal government’s ban of incandescent 100-watt bulbs to accord with new energy-efficiency standards, store interiors across the land were relit in 2012 with LED bulbs. These expensive, efficient wonders still deliver 100 watts of power, but burn only 20 watts of energy doing it.