Interior retail agencies are being pushed to provide total brand experiences in-store
The retail interior sector was hit by some challenging issues in 2000 as it proved the exception to an otherwise healthy design industry, leading some to ask whether it should still exist as a stand-alone discipline.
- Retailers are taking a more considered, brand-aware approach to their spend on interiors, as they grapple with consumer demand for a consistent brand experience across multi-channel delivery — but, judging by their declining turnovers, specialist agencies in this sector are finding it tough to respond to these needs.
- The top three companies all suffered dips in turnover, with Fitch, down from [pound]22.1m in 1999 to [pound]8.96m, supplanted at the top by BDG McColl, even though BDG itself saw its turnover fall by nearly [pound]3m in this area.
- Imagination, which was third last year, is absent because it chose not to provide turnover figures by sector — an indication of how much the boundaries between the sectors have faded.
Checkland Kindleysides moved up a place to third, as it experienced an improvement in the proportion of fee income to turnover, making up for a [pound] 3.47m turnover drop.
But with the exception of Firbank Kempster, the rest of the top ten — admittedly much smaller — agencies all saw improved or static workloads.
According to BDG McColl strategic development director Jill McArdle, clients need designers who can offer in-depth thinking as well as interiors expertise in order to create the right brand expressions for today’s ‘multimodal’ consumer.
“You need the logic to create the magic,” she says. “You have to understand what makes brands tick, otherwise it’s just another nice interior.”
Fitch has also been moving away from traditional notions of interior design to approach interiors as another form of brand expression.
“We are still passionate about retail design, but a lot of the most interesting stuff is where you’re looking at a store as a brand,” says Fitch creative director Tim Greenhalgh, adding that clients now want agencies who understand why and how people shop, as well as having interior design expertise.
Checkland Kindleysides, whose clients include Levi’s, Speedo and Lunn Poly, has been advocating a more integrated, brand-led approach for the past five years.
“We’ve always had a mix of projects, from lead agency, brand expression and prototyping to roll-outs,” where, says managing director Jeff Kindleysides, it can test the visual side against the brand expression.
“Retail clients expect a much deeper understanding commercially of what they’re going through beyond what it looks like.”
20/20 has also found that clients are looking for advice on how to make the retail brand come alive through the shopping journey. The agency works with other consultants to make this happen, according to development director Yaron Meshoulam. “Ad agencies have traditionally briefed us, but now in a few cases, we’re briefing them,” he says.
As well as high street clients such as Sainsbury’s, 20/20 has worked for utility brand Nuon in the Netherlands and also on coffee retail outlets for Douwe Egberts across Europe.
New types clients are another factor in today’s more changeable retail market. “The days of getting briefings from British high street retailers every week are gone. We’re seeing more activity from non-traditional retailers coming to market such as manufacturers and service providers,” says Fitch’s Greenhalgh.
Allen International has identified a growth in financial services work as banks such as Deutsche Bank and BPI change to more sales relationship-oriented branches, and plenty of manufacturers are becoming retailers in their own right.
Not only are the cheats changing, but so is the nature of what they want, as the trend for providing an enhanced consumer-focused experience, rather than merely a store, continues apace.
Greenhalgh sees a trend for a more ‘editorial’ approach to retail design to achieve a faster-changing interior look, as Fitch has implemented for WH Smith’s Bluewater store, where displays and shopfronts are changed regularly. “It’s almost like a cover of a magazine that changes every month,” he says.
Retail design’s future looks to be firmly rooted in providing the brand strategy as well as the final solution, and agencies will need to have the capacity to work across different channels and countries to achieve that global, but local, expression of a client’s brand.
TOP 30 INTERIOR DESIGN AGENCIES Agency Turnover 2000 ([pound]) 1 BDG McColl 29,025,000 2 Fitch 33,200,000 3 Checkland Kindleyside 12,500,000 4 Interbrand 37,200,000 5 Allen International 4,640,000 6 Conran Design Group 7,245,000 7 20/20 3,936,385 8 Landor Associates 13,586,000 9 Corporate Edge (formerly CLK.MPL) 12,988,000 10 Firbank Kembster Group 6.000,000 11 Clinic 5,741,479 12 Marketplace Design 2,662,606 13 First Partnership 1,581,817 Design Consultants 14 View 4,200,000 15 WAA 4,600,000 16 Stocks Taylor Benson 2,400,000 17 Loewy Group 3,970,000 18 The Brand Works 2650000 19 AMD In Real Life 7,241,000 20 The Design Group 4,072,000 21 Citigate Uoyd Northover 5,750,000 22 Tayburn 7,260,000 23 Aricot Vert 1,200,000 24= Barsby Prince & 3,000,000 Partners 24= TMA - The Ideas People 2,000,000 26 Tynan D'Arcy 4,580,000 27 Shelton Fleming Associates 2,049,719 28 Scott Stern Associates 2,500,000 29 Uffindell West 2,188,753 30 The Northcross Group 5,200,000 Agency Retail/interior ([pound]) 1 BDG McColl 13,061,250 2 Fitch 8,964,000 3 Checkland Kindleyside 8,000,000 4 Interbrand 3,720,000 5 Allen International 3,248,000 6 Conran Design Group 2,825,550 7 20/20 2,676,742 8 Landor Associates 2,037,900 9 Corporate Edge (formerly CLK.MPL) 1,558,560 10 Firbank Kembster Group 1,440,000 11 Clinic 1,435,370 12 Marketplace Design 1,331,303 13 First Partnership 1,107,272 Design Consultants 14 View 1,050,000 15 WAA 920,000 16 Stocks Taylor Benson 864,000 17 Loewy Group 595,500 18 The Brand Works 503,500 19 AMD In Real Life 434,460 20 The Design Group 407,200 21 Citigate Uoyd Northover 402,500 22 Tayburn 363,000 23 Aricot Vert 360,000 24= Barsby Prince & 300,000 Partners 24= TMA - The Ideas People 300,000 26 Tynan D'Arcy 229,000 27 Shelton Fleming Associates 204,972 28 Scott Stern Associates 125,000 29 Uffindell West 109,438 30 The Northcross Group 104,000