The added value of shops lies in the experience of being there

Monika Sandmayr, Associate at MACH Architecture, talks about the changes in retail architecture.

What are the main tasks of retail architecture?
The products and the brand are at the heart of retail architecture and the space gives them a three-dimensional aspect. Presenting a brand within a space requires a symbiosis of the architecture, interior design, communication and graphics. The goal is to give the customer an authentic and emotive shopping experience. 

What are the biggest challenges facing shop architecture today, in these times when stores are dying out and we encounter ‘dead malls’?
Shops should offer added value compared to online shopping. This comes, above all, from the experience of being there – customers should be able to experience the products with all their senses. The design must be adaptable because the pace of technological developments is very fast. To generate a sufficiently high level of customer frequency, shopping needs to be combined with other functions, like serving food and drink, presenting events or providing additional services.

What influence does globalisation have on retail design? How can the global and the local be combined?
Globalisation has led to a situation in which certain brands implement a specific design concept worldwide, which means that their shops look similar on every continent. This contributes to the brand’s recognisability but it does not allow any diversification. There are a few brands, however, that use a completely different design for each location. That’s exciting. 

Should retail design be a means to stage the brand or is it mainly about optimally displaying the product? 
Retail design should offer an authentic experience of the brand and, while doing so, acquaint the customer with the product. Ideally, the design enables the customer to interact with the brand. This creates a bond. In an experiential world of that kind, people can meet others with similar interests and they can take part in events or tutorials for the products. That way, shopping becomes part of people’s lifestyle.

What retail concepts have a future? Flagship stores, pop-up shops or the shop-in-shop?
A variety of retail concepts will still be needed. We believe that future concepts should offer the following. Discovery: the customer should be able to discover products and services. Staging: products or brands are showcased and given a platform. Service: the customer should receive personalised advice and assistance. Engagement: a bond that remains beyond the purchase should be established between the customer and the product.

What building or interior has inspired you recently?
Interiors depend heavily on their specific context and how they are staged. Timelessly elegant are, for example, the Negozio Olivetti by Carlo Scarpa; its allure comes from its fantastic lighting and special details. And the interior of the Kronenhalle Bar by Robert Haussmann, which embodies tailor-made perfection. I am also inspired by more recent concepts like the interiors of Aesop shops, which are always different and yet manifest the essence of the brand, or the surprising and floating installations by Nendo, which are abstract and clear at the same time.