As the world continues to navigate its way through the coronavirus pandemic, the only constant in an ever-changing landscape is that of change. Here, RLI takes a closer look at the shopfitting and design sector to highlight how it is evolving and how brands are transforming their in-store environments to respond to consumer demand.

The retail sector has been hit particularly hard by the global pandemic, but with crisis comes opportunity for innovation, and many brands and businesses have reacted and adapted rapidly and admirably to the changed environment.

Alongside hospitality properties, retail spaces have had to adapt to ongoing guidelines, which have potentially changed how they will function in the future. According to SGP’s ‘Commercial Property Trends for 2021 and Beyond’ article, four key design trends for the future are:

• Welcoming Spaces – This trend comes through in cafes, hotels and restaurants but creating spaces which feel more like real living spaces will become increasingly popular in retail properties. Incorporating more seating for customers to get comfortable and indulge in the shopping experience more than a cold hard exterior of racks of clothing will be preferred. More vibrant colours and interactive aspects such as advertising screens incorporated into the room structure showcasing models in clothing are also likely to become more popular.

• Experiences Over Sales – Shopping habits have likely changed for many Brits with the stay at home messaging in 2020, which means the physical shops may no longer be the final destination in the purchase journey. Instead, the physical space is somewhere customers will come to test out products and then make their purchase decision online. Some brands such as Canada Goose have taken this a step further already and created demo environments for customers to really try before they buy.

• Changing Rooms – Whilst many shops haven’t been able to offer customers the opportunity to try on clothing before they make a purchase in 2020, once restrictions do eventually ease, we expect the existing changing room space to have adapted. Existing cubicles will need to be made much larger with walking space between each pod widened and one way systems to be imposed. Regular cleaning will also be common with new technology installed to allow direct lines of communication to members of staff for further assistance without having to leave your designated area.

• Virtual Assistants – If you shop online, you’ll have seen that many businesses have introduced chatbots and virtual assistants to help with queries. As we head back to the high street in 2021, we might begin to see these virtual assistants present in physical stores. Recent products such as Pepper the retail assistant could be something customers become familiar with, as the technology will allow them to receive special offers instantly in-store and log direct feedback on their in-store experience.

Whilst retail has of course changed dramatically in recent years, it is no more apparent than in the last 12 months due to the ongoing pandemic. Because of this, physical locations have had to raise the bar and re-evaluate their layout, atmosphere and character to ensure that it is an experience that customers could not get online.

SteamPunk’s article entitled ‘Fit Out Design Trends 2020’ suggests that retail spaces of the future needs to incorporate flexible spaces, which essentially boils down to the creation of ‘pop-up’ counters and displays offering samples. For fit-out arrangements, they argue it is about flexible design, making sure that it is possible to create these spaces whenever a particular promotion is on. This could be via clever partitioning, having modular furniture that can be used in many different ways and in various fixtures and fittings such as lighting that can itself help to ‘zone’ an area. SteamPunk also mention that whilst sustainable materials are important in office and restaurant/pub environments, it is even more crucial when it comes to retail spaces. Reclaimed wood and natural stone are great sustainable materials to build with in a retail environment as well as papier-mâché wall panels and biodegradable mannequins. A recent global survey of 30,000 millennials showed that 63 per cent of those interviewed said they wouldn’t shop at a store they knew was not sustainable or harmful to the environment in some way.

Shopfitting & Design across the world
Taking inspiration from the famous Richard Serra Fulcrum Sculpture which is situated directly opposite the new Watches of Switzerland entrance at Broadgate in London, Quadrant Design created a design which echoed the sharp angular forms and used this as a design language throughout. The shopfront boasts three elevations, wrapping the entire corner of the new Broadgate development. Whilst housing many brands within the Watches of Switzerland store, they wanted to create a design which would wrap each elevation together to emphasise the scale of the store and create a design which would work in synergy with each of the watch brands own unique identity. Inspired by the intricate workings of a watch strap, they created a fret cut pattern for a high-level uniform treatment which not only wrapped the store but also provided a privacy screen to the first floor which accommodates a VIP lounge.

Nuremberg, Germany
Designer: blocher partners

RS No. 9 is more than just a retail space, it is the ultimate fan experience, designed to immerse the customer in all that is The Rolling Stones. Designed by GH+A Design Studios with fit-out work completed by Clements Retail, RS No. 9 is located within a protected heritage building. Inside, the store comes to life with a full height multimedia video wall inspired by The Rolling Stones latest No Filter Tour stage set. In the windows is an art installation of a soundwave representing the first verse of the iconic song ‘Paint It Black’. The black theme is continued throughout the store with a muted palette of black and dark grey tiles, wood and metal accented by pops of the iconic Rolling Stones red. The exposed ceiling is painted out black and the concrete floor creates drama and serves as a neutral backdrop to the product.

Last year Versace once again turned to fit-out specialists Clements Retail to ensure that the Woman Boutique in the world famous Harrods was ready to wow its discerning customers as the doors reopened in late spring. From the exquisite design through to the luxurious fittings, every element in the boutique perfectly complement each other and are in harmony with Versace’s outstanding Italian couture and brand ethos. The work by Clements Retail, utilising their expert vision and expertise have created a breath-taking environment that leaves an irrepressible mark on any visitor who comes to the store.

Canada Goose, SKP Mall, Beijing, China
Designer: GH+A Design Studios Shopfitter: THT Photographer: Zhong Hai

Without a doubt, Breuninger – a family run, traditional company with 11 department stores and an incomparable selection of exclusive labels – is one of the biggest names in the fashion sector. With the spectacular conversion of its Nuremberg store by the designers at blocher partners, it has now made a statement that can be read as a clear commitment to stationary retail. Instead of presenting wares the old fashioned way, with displays covering entire floors, the interior designers decided to create many small (brand) worlds on both the basement and ground floor levels. The spaces are reminiscent of pop-ups and help guide the flow of customers. A minimalistic design in the shoe department, for example, is accentuated with an iconic staging of sneakers: From the basement to the upper floor, a rough metal grid serves as a vertical development point and as a presentation surface for the shoes. The futuristic impression of the shoe department, which covers 700sq m and includes such luxury brands as Givenchy, Balenciaga and Chloé, is underscored by the insertion of a stainless steel floor.

RS No. 9, London, UK
Designer: GH+A Design Studios, Shopfitter: Clements Retail

Sportswear giant Nike sets a new landmark in Paris with its first House of Innovation in Europe, situated in the iconic 79 Avenue des Champs-Élysées – also dubbed as the most beautiful Avenue in the world. The building is the most expensive real estate in Paris according to It covers 83,000sq ft, a total of eight floors of which four are dedicated to retail. It also includes a showroom level as well as an executive top level office floor. The roof top offers the most amazing views of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. The design by umdasch The Store Makers has been built to “learn and evolve from the findings of its previous stores”. The Paris House of Innovation and focusses on four areas – uniting shopping, serving women, creating more opportunities for kids to get active, as well as offering a more seamless end-to-end consumer experience.

The Canada Goose experiential “Northward” Concept Store brings the Canadian arctic landscape to Beijing’s exclusive Shin Kong Place (SKP Mall). The given retail space is a complex, unusual shape, which inspired the design philosophy of dropping an organic rock formation into the provided footprint. Traditional retail parameters were intentionally ignored by GH+A Design Studios, they instead created a sculptural expression of the Canada Goose brand that stands out among the other retailers. Inspired by the jagged ice and rock of the Canadian Arctic, the store features organic faceted walls composed of trowelled concrete panels. Black niches frame and highlight the curated product offering. Anchoring the space is the ceiling art installation “Northward”, which was created by Shanghai-born Chinese-American artist Juju Wang. The purpose of the store is to amplify the Canada Goose brand story within the competitive retail landscape of Beijing. SKP Mall blurs the lines between a shopping destination and an art gallery, and the “Northward” Concept Store exemplifies this directive.

APPLE STORE, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Designer: Foster + Partners

An exclusive industrial building in a dynamic city of the mid-twentieth century serves as the setting for the new store presentation by Breitling. Located in Mirdif City Centre, Dubai, UAE, umdasch The Store Makers were asked to execute and refurbish Breitling’s new ‘urban loft’ design concept. The redesigned boutique not only maintains Breitling’s heritage but also adds an upbeat, cool and informal vibe within a contemporary design palette. The aim was to build an interior that blends the heritage of innovation and design with inclusive luxury. Breitling, being a well-known luxury brand, came with complex and detailed fixtures and furniture, which had to be executed precisely. The project features a blend of wood and metal, which is in line with Breitling’s corporate colour scheme. umadasch The Store Makers were also involved in the manufacturing and installation of the store front’s digital wall screen.

Back in September, technology manufacturer Apple revealed its spherical Apple Marina Bay Sands store in Singapore designed by architecture studio Foster + Partners, which it describes as its “most ambitious retail project”. Built in Singapore’s Marina Bay alongside the Moshe Safdie-designed Marina Bay Sands hotel, the Apple Store is completely surrounded by water. Accessed via a 45-metre-long underwater tunnel from the nearby shopping complex, the store is surrounded on all sides by the bay – creating the impression that it is floating. The store’s main space is an open-plan area within the 30-metre-diameter, self-supporting glass and steel dome. The structure is made from 114 pieces of glass with 10 narrow, steel vertical mullions for structural support. Customers within the store will have 360-degree views across the Marina Bay to the surrounding city.