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Editor's Comment: Continual evolution will keep the store experience alive

Keely Stocker

As retailers continue to announce store closures, the future of bricks-and-mortar retail is in question.

Friend and Company

Friend and Company

Source: Friend and Company

The industry is asking how stores fit into retail’s future make-up, what the remaining stores may look like and how the in-store shopping experience will evolve.

Last week I took up judging duties for the Future Retail Destinations competition, run by Drapers’ sister title, The Architects’ Journal, and The Crown Estate. The six finalists participated in a day-long workshop to develop their initial ideas of how to re-imagine regional retail parks for the year 2030 and beyond.

While each finalist had a unique concept (including a huge vertical drone funnel from AEW Architects & Designers) there were some similar themes throughout that could give an indication of what the future shopping destination – and the retailers within it – could look like.

The most prominent similarity of all projects was how retail parks will embrace the “park” element. Projects highlighted how green space will be incorporated into shopping centres – not only for the environmental benefits, but also to provide the much-talked-about experience for shoppers.

Friend & Company Architects took this concept a step further with its design entitled Nirvana – A Biophilic Sanctuary (above). Aiming to “see retail like a garden”, the project featured a plethora of green spaces. It also had the ambition of enhancing the customer experience through customisation.

Although radical in its approach, it planted the idea of a retail attraction where customers can come specifically to customise products. Taken to its logical conclusion, an entire shopping centre could be built on brands’ customisation offers.

Weston williamson + partners

Weston Williamson + Partners

Another, more common, theme was agility to provide flexible units to retailers. As the store experience evolves, retail parks will need to quickly adapt, rather than tie retailers into fixed-size units on long-term leases.

Many entrants showed how logistics will be serviced from a central hub, rather than by individual retailers. Several offered the underground car park as part of this solution, as self-driving electric cars make car parks redundant.

The day provoked important questions for the retail parks – and retail as a whole – of the future, and showed how continual evolution is key for both.

 

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