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Interview: Ruth Shapiro of MoMA Design Store in New York to speak at Retail Design Expo 2017

A unique retail design project will form the basis of a presentation at Retail Design Expo this year. Ruth Shapiro, director of stores and business development at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, will showcase a project to redesign the MoMA Design Store.

Situated directly opposite the Museum of Modern Art itself, the store is a firm favourite with tourists and also with ‘design pro’ customers based in the Big Apple. The store is often a must-see attraction even for many people who don’t visit the Museum, says Shapiro.

“We spend a lot of time talking about who the customer is,” says Shapiro. “We have in general a very international audience, and they have very high expectations about what the store should sell… There is an obvious synergy between what the Museum considers to be its uber visitors and our design pro customers.”

With customers bringing a high level of design education to the store, the environment must offer a compelling experience as well as new and interesting products. Two major seasonal product updates every year are supplemented by 20 or 30 new product launches every month, which requires flexible interiors.

Shoppers expect more than the designer product staples of Eames chairs, responding well to new technologies and emerging designers, says Shapiro. “When we launch a Samsung TV by the Bouroullec Brothers the design community really responds,” she says. Every item sold in the store is approved by curators at the Musem of Modern Art.

After interviewing a number of design agencies Lumsden Design was appointed to redesign the store, resulting in a three month renovation during 2016.

The project involved freeing up space previously used for a Muji concession and creating a lighter and more airy 3,000 sq ft store. Customer circulation has been replanned to allow easier navigation, while a sound system from Teenage Engineering has been installed.

“Our job has been to enhance the presentation of the merchandise and every decision during the design process has been significant, because the end result elevates the entire shopping experience within the store,” says Lumsden Design director Callum Lumsden, who will be co-presenting the seminar at Retail Design Expo.

The new store also has to fit with MoMA’s evolving omnichannel approach to retailing, says Shapiro. “We’ve determined that our most engaged shoppers are online looking for design inspiration all the time,” she says.

Retail Design Expo visitors will be able to find out more about the challenges of developing the highly-curated interior and displays at the store.