Shop til you drop.

A previous post I wrote for Digest Magazine I looked into the relationship about restaurant design and their menu and I touched upon the future for restaurant design. I’m sitting now in the very cafe I mentioned ‘The Garden’ at Fact, Liverpool. And I want to discuss in a similar matter – retail design.

While working in the world of retail, you notice a strong correlation between the way you merchandise products and sales. If something looks cool, people think it’s cool and will buy it to make them feel cool. This isn’t a new formula and without highlighting a touch of manipulation between the retailer and consumer, there is a reason behind why everything looks the way they do in our stores. And why some stores are booming ahead of others in the fight for their customer’s money.

In a world where the customer is all to aware of the ‘hard sale’ and is frankly put off by some greased up suit and tie guy using all the tricks in the trade to sell them some piece of crap, retailers have to use modern and more exciting techniques to get customers part with their cash. And a more over troubling demon is the forever increasing number of internet shoppers.  These cyber retailers have a much lower overhead expenses and therefore can offer items at a much lower cost.

But where is the fun in that? Sitting in the ‘comfort’ of our homes, lazily straining our eyes hour upon hour as we scroll down pages getting cramp in our hand to buy some soulless image of an item which might not actually be what you think of it.

Yes, I’m being a hypocrite, I can’t lie, I have bought online, but honestly as soon as the bill starts topping up in my virtual basket (by the way the first basket in shops were in the 1930s, come on internet catch up and give me something new) more often than not I get cold feet and close the page before I enter my bank details. Because of all the purchases I have made online, I’m always slightly disappointed and question myself “If I saw this in the shop. would I have bought it?” the answer is usually no.

So the issue I’m trying to get here, is what are our high streets doing to get us off our ever increasing back sides and our socially inept society and get us to walk into their shops and spend money.

The key, I believe is our senses. Online shopping taps into our visual sense, fine. But bricks and mortar can do so much more! Not only does it have to be visually stimulating, but touch, sound, smell and even taste! Creates an overall experience which makes us want to return. And not to mention the social aspect, I won’t talk about customer service this time, that’s a whole other problem which unfortunately many companies need to address.

So if we’re using the senses as a starting point we can implement this into the visual merchandising. Not every shop needs to be like an Alice in Wonderland experience. But when we get excited about a shop and believe in the ‘brand’, whether this is concious or not, customers will want to buy something.

Recently I went into Anthropology in London, and if you haven’t been in one of their many stores around the globe. Well it would be impossible to talk about merchandising without mentioning it. They are what we describe in the trade as the “daddies” of merchandising. The way they entice you throughout the shop is incredible, like rock pools at a beach you want to inspect every area in case you miss something. I literally walked around with my purse open wanting to buy everything. From their infamous window displays to the till point, every area was meticulously thrown together yet every detail was so effortlessly covered. And it isn’t about high end expense but odd recycled tables and cleverly thought out hanging displays dotted around but all look distinctively ‘Anthropology’.

First impressions are crucial in retail to get that all important customer over the threshold and Anthropology are known for their window displays, cleverly thought out and executed to the smallest of details. Here are a few of my favorite I have collected on my Pinterest Shop Board.

This image is not about cramming all the latest looks and products for everyone to see, but to catch the attention of all passers by. The tongue and cheek pink balloon dogs are adorable and are clearly the star of this window over their chosen product. But it captures your curiosity and makes you smile and leaves you with wanting more, so you go in.


Christmas is an important time for retailers and this window captures the whimsical connotations of Christmas and appealing to all the children in us at this time of year.


What is really clever, their ideas do not cost a fortune, this Autumn inspired window uses dyed tea bags to create the look of falling leaves tide by string creating an overall strong effect.




One thing I noticed more than anything throughout their visual merchandising, is that all the products were so accessible and tactile that you wanted to touch, pick up everything- tapping into our touch sense.

Here are a few images I took that day.

Wine racks, butchers block and old crates are just some of the accessorized point of sale displays. And as for the old window? Well why not.

photo 1

Wooden boxes hung from the wall filled with books reminded me of an old fashioned kitchen. Although snug in a corner at the back of the shop, usually the dead area of a store. The intimate lighting made it cozy and inviting to peruse some of the books on offer.

photo 2

Even the usual glass shelving that you find in every shop was jazzed up with coloured wooden divides highlighting particular products. So simple yet so affective.

photo 3

These amazing vintage architect drawers are the perfect way to display door knobs. There is a strange excitement that some drawers are open and others aren’t to create an eccentric hap hazard looked littered with books. Although there is so much to look at, to avoid the distracting Aladdin’s cave look, the products themselves are lined neatly and in an organised manor which helps the customer see what they should see and easily pick up what they want to buy.

photo 4

I also wanted to show this cool image of Larks Store in Australia, even before the store was open they have created an excitement of anticipation for their future customers. “Really really cool things are coming soon” Why wouldn’t you want to visit this store when it’s open?


So to thoroughly engage our senses, stores all over the high street I believe need to up their game. Make yourself give a lasting and memorable experience for your customer. No longer do we want to walk into a boring white room lined with even shelves and neatly placed products all in a row. To walk into a shop and read it straight away won’t encourage the customer to walk all the way around let alone come back. By creating lots of points of interest will stimulate our visual and tactile senses. Along with cool funky music, a sweet subtle aroma, which apparently the American’s do this a lot better than we do in the UK. And maybe a free cookie at the till? All boxes ticked and I’ll be back next week to shop some more.

Check out more cool shops on my Pinterest page.

I’d love to hear about your local stores that hit the mark wherever you are in the world!