Contract Magazine - June 2020 - 50
DESIGN IN ACTION
The Future of Retail
David Cassidy, AIA, NCARB, Senior Vice President,
Cassidy is a senior vice president in CallisonRTKL's Dallas office. As the
retail practice area lead, he is responsible for the firm's global retail efforts.
He also co-directs the advancement and synthesis of technology and mobility
throughout the practice areas. With more than 35 years of diverse experience,
Cassidy has a client list that includes Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue,
Hudson's Bay, JCPenney, AT&T, and the Ala Moana Center.
Would you say retail is in crisis? If so, what changes must the industry make?
Retail was in the throes of reinvention long before the COVID-19 crisis.
The pandemic has merely escalated the urgency for change. It will weed out
the weak retailers, leaving a stronger path to recovery for those who survive.
Successful direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailers are realizing that brick and
mortar is still a significant method to attract new customers and increase revenue.
DTC companies such as Warby Parker and Allbirds have discovered they can
successfully translate their strong digital presence into the built environment.
Working seamlessly across physical and digital channels and understanding
how customers shop both in the real world and online is at the core of many brands'
success. For the built environment, DTC retailers utilize the highly curated
showroom model as a way to reinforce the brand and company ethos.
This is not to say you forgo technology in-store. Rather, as consumer behavior
evolves, so does the integration of technology. The continuation of the in-store
experience can happen as you walk down a shopping center or the high street-
technology allows retailers to create a continuum from online to store and back.
How would you characterize the most interesting things happening in retail?
Can you name some interesting under-the-radar brands?
The retailers who do more than just retail. Brands like Toms that have a one-for-one
business model (donating a pair of shoes for every pair sold) and go beyond the
bottom line are growing and developing their customer loyalty. A desire for brands
that have a strong social responsibility started with millennials, but we're seeing
it reinforced now by Gen Z.
Apolis is a certified B corporation and a brand that invests in people globally;
they sustainably source and pay living wages to foster global resiliency for the
people who construct their apparel and market bags.
Pop-up stores are an interesting and fun design exercise-there is something
quite liberating in creating a temporary solution. Pop-ups allow for real-time customer
insights to emerge and then shape the formal brick-and-mortar store design.
What are the biggest challenges in retail design?
As we move into a post-COVID retail world, our whole industry is challenged to
understand how people will shop, taking into account social distancing and the need
for wider aisles, as well as the importance of hygiene and cleaning. Some of this
has to do with tactical implementation to meet health requirements and some
is a response to customer perception around cleanliness and safety.
Going forward, the challenge will be identifying the best way to add social
distancing protocols. We were moving toward a customer who demanded more
interaction within store environments. Now customers are showing caution
toward-even fear of-that very interaction.
are currently used for comparison shopping, loyalty programs, and product
information research. They convey our experiences, likes, and dislikes through
social media channels, and give us the ability to make one-click purchases.
The challenge for store designers is to create and leverage this technology
to synergistically enhance the physical environment while maintaining relevancy.
Establishing more opportunities for meaningful customer engagements
is another piece of the solution. Personal curation between app/personal device
and in-store experiences is an example. Imagine browsing in-store, a notification
pops on your device to use your headphones-and all of a sudden, a custom, curated
playlist appears that ties to merchandise and heightens the in-store experience.
In this way, DTC brands, with their integrated digital/data analytic
infrastructure, have a lot to gain by moving into physical retail. For legacy retailers,
data and analytics will allow them to do what they do best: deliver that one-on-one
connection with a customer.
What are you and your business doing differently in response to the
The pandemic has fast-tracked and reinforced the core tenets of our business.
The effect we have as a global design firm has been emphasized during this time.
The direct impact the built environment and industrialization has on the earth
is more evident than ever. Air pollution is diminishing, the earth is restoring itself.
We have a social responsibility to do more. The design community has a real
obligation to improve our well-being, our communities, and the global ecosystem
to help us thrive collectively. This transcends to holistic resiliency-environmental,
economic, societal-at the core, and being attentively human-centric with
the places we create. Now is the time for our industry to take a larger jump-
get past efficiencies and get to impact.
How will retail change because of COVID-19?
Maintaining a high level of interaction to maximize the experience of the
customer while engaging in new social distancing protocols will be one of our
biggest challenges. It is not as simple as placing sanitizer stations at entryways
and distancing employees from customers with plexiglass barrier screens.
Technology and mobility are critical to the success of retail. Contactless
transactions have been available in other countries for years. It has begun stateside,
but the pandemic has certainly expedited the implementation. From there greater
integration with AR/VR/XR should take hold. With in-store experience mirrors
and app-based preferences, we can see how we look in clothes or jewelry without
having to physically try them.
From a less tech-forward standpoint, appointment-based shopping is
an area many retailers have struggled with-it may now become the norm. These
are all opportunities to get the experience right, make it personal and seamless,
and still let people experience retail in the real world.
What are your hopes for the future of retailing?
Retail is an ecosystem of brand touch points-physical, digital, face-to-face,
and automated. Design doesn't begin with a simple interior fit-out. It begins with
an analytical dissection of the customer, their experience, and the connection
to the brand. This trend will continue, and we are excited about it; it reinforces
what is at our core a human-centric focus to design
I hope that we can creatively expand the connection and utilization of
technology as an enhancement that improves the physical shopping experience
without numbing it. Let's be clear: Some product purchases are more efficient
and enjoyable online, but many others really require a hands-on customer
experience. The future of retail and the need for retail designers depends on
understanding which products require the physical space to experience them.
Then we must create those environments and make them memorable.
What are some potential answers to these design challenges?
Our personal mobile devices are part of the solution. We can navigate our
own experience with the safety of social distancing built in. Personal devices
Contract Magazine - June 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract Magazine - June 2020
Contract Magazine - June 2020
Designers You Should Know: Harken Interiors
Action in the Age of Crisis
The Future of Workplace
Beyond the Basic
The Future of Healthcare
The Future of Hospitality
The Future of Retail
Competition: 2020 ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Awards
Designers Select: Healthcare
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Editorial
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Industry News
Contract Magazine - June 2020 - 19
Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Designers You Should Know: Harken Interiors
Contract Magazine - June 2020 - 21
Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Action in the Age of Crisis
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - The Future of Workplace
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Beyond the Basic
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - The Future of Healthcare
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Future Scenarios
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - The Future of Hospitality
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Fostering Wellness
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - The Future of Retail
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Matrix: Workplace
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Competition: 2020 ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Awards
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Contract Magazine - June 2020 - Designers Select: Healthcare
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