Working with existing architecture in retail

existing architecture in retail

In this piece, David Anthony explores the way that different retailers can work with the existing architecture of a space and introduce visual merchandising that creates a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.

Picadilly Arcade: Timeless Style

“I focused on menswear retailers here. It’s a beautiful arcade with these curved windows that we rarely see. At the entrance, as you walk through, these unusual curves are here, so whatever architectural decision was made back in the day, they have made the most of this. It’s a very classical build with unique features, including the window panes in the door which you don’t see often. The displays are also very simplistic, with simple mannequins wearing outfits, very traditional menswear-looking type displays and it feels like you’re almost stepping back in time with these classic and modern retailers. You can see in Simon Carter that they have used the floor space and utilised lots of colour, with well-made, tailored pieces in the window. They’re trying to sell a story about everything they have. You can also see into the store itself behind the products and through the door. Because the windows aren’t a flat surface, this captures your eye and works like an extension of the floor space as it comes out further. It makes it a lot harder to walk past and intrigues you. It’s almost like a museum showcase in each window.”

Working with existing architecture key takeaways

  • Floor space can be useful for additional window displays
  • Allowing passers-by to see inside a little can create a sense of mystery
  • Classic building features can be used to retailers’ advantages

Bond Street: Heritage & Modern

“A lot of luxury retailers keep it simple as this makes it look more exclusive. You can see right through windows into these stores and it’s often double heighted, like Louis Vuitton and Prada, who you can see using the space above with very simple, modern props in the MaxMara window. The colours reflect back to make a strong display. Dior has windows either side, but they haven’t used this space for products, instead extending the props to continue that story. As long as it’s telling a story somehow, you can continue the VM and it can be beneficial to do this. With all of these retailers, you can see through most of their windows or the front entrance, so it brings the seasonal story of the brand. They use this whole storefront almost like a billboard to tell that story, with everybody working with the existing architecture and what they’ve got.”

Working with existing architecture key takeaways

  • Props can continue a visual merchandising story in the absence of products
  • Simplistic displays can create a luxurious feel
  • Shopfronts can be used to tell a story

Peckham Supply: Urban Style

“This concept store has a younger and edgier feel. I love an industrial or warehouse space and it proves that you can make the emptiest of spaces work. It’s simple with wooden structuring and simple shelving with trestle tables and it works. I like the fluorescent lighting fixture as it draws your eye and outlines the space, so when you look in from the outside, that’s what you see. The rails are unique, helping to carry that story throughout the space. The simplicity and open space makes you focus on each product, as well as being functional with storage space beneath shelving units, keeping it neat and tidy without feeling too perfect. Everything feels more like a workspace studio where people can explore in a casual, easygoing environment rather than being worried to touch things.”

Working with existing architecture key takeaways

  • Lighting fixtures can be used to draw attention
  • Displays don’t have to be perfectly tidy to encourage browsing
  • Simplistic rails and tables can be effective in visual merchandising

Overview: Making the most of existing architecture in retail

David explained: “You’ll always be limited by what you’ve got, but you don’t need to be afraid of this. Any retailer can create a popup or space that inspires. You can embrace what you have and give it your own twist to make it yours. Don’t fall into a trap that makes you think you have to do a certain thing because of the building. As an example, you can put a simple mannequin in a space, with a display on a back wall, using simple fixtures on the shop floor and use this as the backdrop for your windows. It can always be made to work.”