The rise of online shopping has had a drastic impact on retail businesses, not helped by the global economic crisis, high rents and taxation. To succeed, today’s retailers are focusing on the things they can offer that the online seller can’t. When buying online, people can’t see, smell, touch or test the product. As a consequence, smart retailers are dialling up the sensory side of shopping and aiming to deliver a fully rounded experience for their customers. Flooring – the one décor element that people are always going to be in contact with inside a shop – plays an important role.
The future of shopping
For some retail brands, an urban, industrial or futuristic look will parallel the design of their products, which suits certain clothing and homeware, as well as technology. Polished concrete or grey ceramic with glass and metallic fittings support this look and help to reinforce the qualities of the brand and the value of the products. Alternatively, sleek grey wood flooring brings both characterful detail and a modern edge which can prove very attractive. Pink and pale blue lighting is on-trend at the moment, adding to the contemporary feel.
The modern shopping experience can be dialled up further with interactive displays, virtual reality (VR) installations and perhaps even alternative reality (AR) apps that shoppers can download. By doing so, they can engage with the retailer on their smartphones and learn more about the products by seeing and experimenting with them in different contexts and settings. They can also customise the features and place orders, mixing the retail environment with online options.
Seeing and doing
Other types of retailers are putting a greater emphasis on authenticity and personal contact. Craft products by local makers are interesting to shoppers, and here there’s even more room for engagement. Shops where customers can see their purchases being made, talk to the creators, take part in workshops or attend presentations by experts and authors help to create experiences they’ll never forget. Whether it’s seeing a pair of jeans being cut and stitched, making their own wine or attending a book signing, the chance to get involved with what you’re buying and meet other like-minded customers is proving to be enticing.
Craft-led retail points towards a down-to-earth aesthetic led by simple, practical design with bespoke features and fittings, along with natural textures in the décor. Nothing supports this aesthetic better than real hardwood flooring with its unique grain texture, an authentic tooled finish and its rich, natural colouration.
The gallery experience
Shops that are packed full of products, piled high and sold cheap are not competing well against their online rivals. Instead, many retailers are going for something tidier and minimal that gives their products – and customers – room to breathe. The gallery approach to décor is a key trend at the moment, with sample products displayed on tables, pedestals or in vitrines to give a sense of their value. Shoppers will feel like they’re in a gallery, buying something a little more exclusive and special, with the actual stock kept in the back. It’s a way of selling that has always worked well for high value and luxury products, but is now spreading into lots of niche sectors including health and beauty, technology, arts and crafts and more.
Arches and alcoves are features that can be used to support this design approach, along with super-sized floor tiles or terrazzo slabs for that popular monolithic look in larger spaces. Wood flooring in elegant white shades works extremely well to support the gallery-style retail experience, allowing the products on display to come to the fore. Meanwhile, herringbone parquet patterns can add a touch of extra glamour in a design boutique setting.
With political and economic uncertainty weighing on people’s minds, interior designers are helping retailers to offer an antidote to shoppers. No matter what the products are, warm, comfortable and serene spaces give people a break from the stresses of everyday life and negative headlines. Soft colour schemes with caramel and amber tones help promote optimism. Honeycomb and other natural patterns support this, along with natural textures like wood and stone. Mindful décor with sustainably sourced wood flooring is helping customers escape from the outside world. They can then relax in the retail space, focus on the now and enjoy an all-round shopping experience.