Retail designers have always found inspiration in unusual places. One source where I’ve found a wealth of ideas this year is at the annual industry awards shows where some fresh, new projects took everyone by surprise by walking away with top honors.
In January, at the Retail Design Institute’s annual store design competition awards held in New York during the National Retail Federation Big Show, the store of the year award went to SnackBox, a repurposed shipping container turned pop-up hot dog stand.
One of the unique attributes of the SnackBox design was its incorporation of technology that enhanced the shoppers’ experience, both in elements of the outside attraction of the kiosk as well as in the experience of ordering food. The “box” transforms from a secured shipping container into a self-contained restaurant (including hybrid power, water and cooking facilities).
While mainstream retailers could be quick to dismiss this project as less relevant due to its small size, unusual locale and the fact that it’s a restaurant, it illustrates a trend toward recognizing unconventional retail venues. This idea continued in February at the Visual Merchandising and Retail Design (VMRD) awards held at the In-Store Asia conference in Delhi, India.
Here, the award-winning entries crossed all sectors, from tiny phone kiosks to stunning jewelry stores and enormous hypermarkets. But the best-of-show award went to BluO, a next-generation bowling alley in New Delhi that offers customers an entertainment experience that seems more at home in a W Hotel. Everything from a corporate events center to premium cocktail and dining options (think herb-ed filet of sole in cream sauce – no nachos here!) redefine the concept of bowling for a newly affluent Indian market.
Both of these winning projects can teach us some interesting lessons about how non-traditional retail experiences are reshaping shoppers’ expectations. These new shopper trends and desires shouldn’t be limited to the fringe. In fact, mainstream retail environments need to evolve using some of these strategies to hold shoppers’ attention and delight them.
Jim Crawford is executive director of the Global Retail Executive Council (grec), an international association, and a principal at Taberna Retail, a global retail shopping experience consulting company.
This article is one part of "Bowled Over," which appeared in our April 2012 issue. To read the rest of the article, click here.