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The value of retail design by Lynda Relph Knight

But retail’s value goes way beyond earnings in the impact it has on British lives. Shopping is a positive leisure pursuit for many, with a third of consumer spending reportedly going through shops. And increasingly it offers entertainment and, to an extent, education as chains as diverse as Adidas, Argos and Burberry seek to engage their customers through interactive experiences.

We all love to play and shops are becoming our new playgrounds. Take the success of Apple stores or the Samsung Experience in New York, for example, because of the chance to play with products they offered long before it became the retail norm.

Fashion brands such as Anthropology and toiletries chain Aesop are meanwhile pushing the boundaries, creating one-off experiences in the design of their stores. Such is the confidence and vision of these nimble independents that high-street homogeny isn’t for them – or, indeed, for their clientele.

The desire to draw customers in through changing spectacles isn’t new. As the TV drama Mr Selfridge conveys, it has been part of Selfridges’ culture from Edwardian times, forging a path for other department stores to follow. But we talk about it more broadly now, referring regularly to ‘experience’, ‘theatre’ and ‘semiotics’ in the context of retail design.

Innovation is the lifeblood of good retail – from the way we experience environments, window displays and instore concessions to efficiency of service and backroom support. Digital design is playing a big part in this, both online and instore. But innovation is also coming through collaborations – Burberry with Apple, for example, and Uniqlo with musician and serial collaborator Pharrell Williams.

Collaboration is natural in retail because it is such an open, inclusive sector. It delivers directly to consumers, creates aspiration  – and it moves fast.

London is a centre of retail innovation, enjoying its status as a world destination. But it is an exceptional place and largely immune from the high-street blight hitting Britain as chains increasingly ply their trade online, independents close and charity shops move in. Clear vision and intelligent innovation could help to redress the balance though and get the tills ringing again. Then we all benefit – as a nation, as communities and as consumers.