#RDE2018 The future of retail design: 'Keep it simple' say experts

Speaking to a packed audience, Judith Kelly, head of retail design at retail property group Hammerson, said: 'Sometimes retailers tend to focus on creating the wow before they've actually got the essentials right.'

Agreeing with her, Ian Johnston, founder of design agency Quinine, added: 'There still seems to be this ever-present push to go into digital more, but many retailers we speak to don't actually know what they want it for. Our advice is that they have to use it cautiously, and think about why they are using it in the first place.'

The sense from the panel was that retailers can sometimes panic about needing to over-design, when they should really decide what fundamental type of experience they want to create.

Tim Lalli, retail consultant at CGL Architects, said: 'We work with H&M, which has a sister brand called Monkey. It's decided Hoxton Cool is its watchword, and everything stems from that it's items are displayed using a rich selection of materials, it's merchandise is hung like it should be in an art gallery; the whole feel here is that the stock is unique, curated, and that the customer is buying something special.'

According to Lalli, attention to design like this is a factor that is often missing from stores, while others felt good design needn't be astronomically expensive either. Kelly said: 'We all need to realise that good design doesn't need to be expensive design just for the sake of it. I think we can all be much more clever. It's not beyond our expertise to look for design that's great, but did not cost the earth.'

The only way to curb over-design, claimed Johnston, is for the new crop of designers to leave their desks behind and get out into the 'real' world: 'We can all read stacks of reports about profiles of consumers, and what works best for them, but there's no substitute for gaining insights from employees who actually work in these environments every day' For clients we work with, such as EE, we followed staff around, and actually did their jobs, to see what design needs they had. This sort of research is invaluable.'

'At the end of the day, the aim of all retailing is to keep people in stores. Do this and they spend,' said Kelly, warning: 'Not all retailers are born equal. Design has to reflect the sorts of spaces consumers want. Some will want flagship stores, others will want places with more functional design. There has to be fluidity in design to allow for this.'

Concluded Johnston: 'Good design is not just about creating experience- the buzz word we've all heard at this expo- but the right experience, and one that's right for the retailer.'