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Interview: Space NK head of visual and store design Paul Wilkins on how to humanise technology

Paul Wilkins, head of visual and store design at cosmetics retailer Space NK, has little doubt what the main trends are in current store design. “The key difference between shopping online and walking through the door of a shop is the experience,” he says.

As a new member of the Retail Design Expo 2017 steering panel, Wilkins is keen that experiential elements of store design take centre stage in the event’s conference and exhibition spaces. “The trend for anybody growing a bricks and mortar business is to really focus on that experience. Knowledgeable staff, sampling opportunities, the process of being able to test or demonstrate… in stores where there is a lack of that you just pick things up, and there is no difference to buying it online,” he says.

One exciting area in which stores may soon be able to make significant advances is in humanising technology, adds Wilkins. “Seeing skills and craft alongside the latest cutting edge technology… that would be great to consider from a store perspective. Humanising technology acts as a backlash against anonymous clicking online.”

With the beauty sector being one that is well suited to product demonstration and sampling, Space NK is well placed to provide new experiences in its stores, but it is also committed to presenting a consistent face across all channels.

In keeping with this commitment to being a truly multichannel retailer, Wilkins has responsibility for the visual representation of the brand in all of its iterations. He covers “Everything a consumer will interact with from a visual perspective: the look and feel of the stores, all of the creative for every campaign we produce, windows, direct mail and visuals for photoshoots to use online. I also manage the classic VM and store layouts and brand adjacencies.”

The key objective is to give customers a seamless shopping experience, however they choose to buy. “The tone of voice, the presentation and the aesthetic should be the same,” says Wilkins. “It’s all about joined-up thinking and a joined-up approach. If you do it properly there is a place for us all.”