Richard Hamilton of HamiltonBIG, a creative retail and brand consultancy, reflects on style and substance in shop design

The look of the store obviously needs to reflect your own personal ambitions and being guided by a store designer is certainly of benefit. But of course I would say that.
To begin with, however, you must have your own idea of what style your operation can work within and how you want to be perceived. The role of a good designer is to translate your words into images and ideas, which can be developed into a 3D built store.
One point to constantly bear in mind when thinking about a look is to remember that, at all times, your eyes may well see differently to those of your customers, as design is inherently subjective. Some operators opt for a fashion-led design approach, which is exciting, fresh and fast-moving, but also expensive and short-lived. This requires you to be prepared for regular refreshes and the need to constantly stay in touch with what’s new.
The healthy and hearty approach was in vogue a couple of years ago, with Daylesford leading the farm shop revolution. Urban minimal was pioneered by Pret A Manger in the 1980s and EAT softened this with a highly styled timber-and-white approach a decade or so later.
However, the classic approach can be of great success; take Caffè Nero, a classic Italian coffee house, which, in my view, easily outranks Starbucks’ watered-down American approach. It’s not just the pale blue contrasted with the rich mahogany-style timber, it’s also what’s behind that façade that adds to the feeling of quality: the coffee, the authenticity and, most importantly, feeling secure both in store and in brand.
The emotion of a store is the ultimate challenge and the look is part of determining this. Once you’ve encouraged customers through the door, fed them well, offered value for money and they’ve subliminally recognised the store is clean that’s when the emotion needs to kick in.
The store needs to offer more than your competitors, it has to feel safe and conjure positive associations in the customer’s mind. The look has to have broad appeal without being bland or niche. It’s a fine line but, executed correctly, it is one of the ingredients of success.
l Next month: how to allocate your budget