Retail design trends

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Darcy Kay is an architectural graduate and integral part of the Retail and Commercial team. Since joining ThomsonAdsett in 2014, he’s delivered several major mixed use, commercial and retail projects across Australia. Darcy is also the recipient of ThomsonAdsett’s Excellence Award, which will see him attend the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Here, Darcy shares what he’s working on at the moment, and some of the trends he’s seeing in retail design.

What is the Retail and Commercial team working on at the moment? 

Our team is designing a wide spread of projects across the eastern seaboard and in the Northern Territory. Our Brisbane team is working hard to deliver a range of great projects including a state-of-the-art Bunnings in Newstead and a town centre development in Ripley, amongst other work. We’re also continuing our long history of developing neighbourhood retail centres with some of our national clients.

Further afield, we are currently developing a large-scale expansion in Darwin that includes major retailers, child care facilities and a tropical public realm to cement the centre’s significance in its community.

We’re also seeing exciting opportunities to combine the expertise of our Retail and Commercial team with different mixed-use operators, including opportunities to integrate retirement living, hospitality and child care facilities alongside commercial and retail spaces. This spread of typologies, scales and uses is one of the exciting parts of the Retail and Commercial sector – no two projects are alike.

What are some of the trends you’re seeing in retail design?

As retail designers, we increasingly have to consider and develop public spaces, outdoor areas, play areas for children, chill-out zones and nodes of activity. These places are all crucial in complimenting and supporting a vibrant retail experience.

Having the widest array of stores and major retailers isn’t enough anymore – customers want engaging and immersive experiences along with convenience. This is especially true of high-growth areas like Melbourne and Sydney. Inserting more engaging places into existing building infrastructure is an enticing way to attract more patronage and solidify the community value of a development. 

What are some of the top considerations when designing for retail?

Every project requires flexibility and this applies throughout the entire design and delivery process. New tenants and retailers in existing spaces will often make changes, so designers need to view every project as a system that reacts and responds to changing retailers. You can’t necessarily rely on a permanent mix of uses, so you have to focus your design interventions on the known parts of the system. These can be things like public spaces, spatial hierarchy, wayfinding and connections to complementary uses. When you develop a robust and clear approach to a project, you can manage the ebbs and flows of tenant changes while defining an exciting place and experience. 

Where do you see the Retail and Commercial sector in 10 years?

I’m excited to see how rapidly new and emerging technologies impact the retail and commercial sphere. The Amazon prototype store and fully integrated wireless coworking environments are already breaking down the physical delineation of spaces and uses.

In the coming years, that could erode the physical definition of a ‘bricks and mortar’ store or office completely. This means the social and environmental experience of a space will be pivotal in supporting commercial success. While a physical environment will always struggle to compete with the sheer convenience of the online marketplace or remote work setups, retail and commercial architecture creates personal experiences that are simply too rich and enticing to resist.

I’m imagining a work environment with adjoining leisure spaces, a dining precinct and opportunities for further education – we will move beyond the silos of any singular building typology.