2016’s Top Trends for Designing Retail Spaces

Retail design may not change as consistently as fashion, or the latest in pop-culture trends, but it does change over time. To ensure that you don’t get left in the past and inevitably playing catch-up with your competitors at home and abroad, these store design tips will help you to guide and direct your commercial contractors to creating the perfect space for your brands’ identity and character.

Embrace Raw & Organic Materials

In office settings, it’s a proven fact that integrating an aspect of the natural world helps people to concentrate more, and become calmer and more comfortable in their surroundings – the same applies to retail spaces. Integrating aspects of wood, stone and greenery will bring a sense of calm to your ideal target market. Play with contemporary colour palettes to accentuate your use of hardwoods and stains.

Pair a dark hardwood floor with white walls and pine shelving, using the contrasting colour of the woods to attract the eye of your shoppers. Utilize stone accents in your design of counter space, plinths, and displays. Further, if your establishment is located in a very urban environment, the juxtaposition of wood and stone will further bring awareness to space and design in your customers.

Try incorporating elements of raw and unfinished or salvaged materials into your design as well. Including the odd section of recycled sheet metal roof, wooden crate or salvaged barn board can go a long way in humanizing a high-tech space and separate you from your competition.

Eclectic and Abstract

It may not be your favourite style for a retail space, but use of eclectic, cutting edge décor and accoutrement can make for intriguing storefront displays and abstract showcases that attract curious customers in from the street. By combining a vast array of styles, colours, textures and furnishings, you’ll create a dynamic space that’s as much an immersive experience as it is a retail space.

Focus more so on creating an interesting place, instead of a typically ‘nice-looking’ place.

Eclectic spaces can create a cluttered and spastic space, so try combining aspects of “shabby chic” with large bold art works, and experiment with colours by painting smaller sections of your store so you don’t accidentally overdo it.

Unfinished Finishes

It’s as much about leaving things unpolished, as polished and finished. Try utilizing simple plumbing for the base of your display tables and shelving units, or utilitarian warehouse-style lighting fixtures. Experiment with different combinations of finishes on walls, too. Try leaving that renovated wall open to the exposed brick you found underneath, or add a thick shag rug in a space that feels sleek and postmodern to add an element of opposite. When you tear up that aged tile floor or carpet, leave the original hardwood in its worn and vintage state and fight the urge to refinish it. The character will carry through in your space, and contribute to an experience of authenticity.

Mood Lighting

Using lighting in dramatic and effective ways can be a challenge for retail design, but investigate ways of helping your lighting to be one of your defining design efforts. The right lighting is pivotal in creating a desired attitude and ambience that contributes to your own unique brand experience – and it highlights certain sections of your store, helping to draw a crowd.

Your lighting fixtures tell a lot about your brand too – try engaging with some unorthodox shapes and finishes; and use your lighting efforts to accentuate the textures and materials you’ve chosen to highlight elsewhere in your retail space.

And where you can: embrace natural light to replicate an authentic urban experience. A number of studies have shown that use of natural light promotes an increase in sales, primarily because people don’t feel so trapped inside.


Have you ever been lost in an Ikea? Us too. Take a good look at your existing space and investigate your current sightlines. Where does your eye lead you within your store? Is the pre-existing architecture of your space leading your customers to the correct spaces within your establishment?

If not, consider hiring an architectural consultant to help you create some dynamic sightlines that will encourage the customers journey throughout your space. Instead of trying to trap people inside, allow them to easily navigate towards the exit – because good modern retail design is more about helping customers through a journey. It’s about linking positive experiences and making connections within a broader space.

Creating pedestrian/customer pathways that allow them to see the end point from the beginning encourages the freedom to explore. Embrace the idea of an open single lane of traffic that outlines your product and brand message. If you willingly allow your customers the freedom to explore – and ironically, leave – your space, you’re going to inspire confidence in their journey, and your space will be linked with a positive customer experience.

Blending Form and Function

Following the notion that shopping experiences are about more than just the experience of shopping and now embrace the buyer’s journey, you can use this trend to experiment with how you engage your clients. By creating a smaller section within your retail space that directly competes with its surrounding creates an intense customer experience. The use of a large scale installation as a display case or product backdrop creates a peppy environment that’s as much about the physical space of your store as it is the products on display. If you can make it interactive somehow, by getting your customer to merge into the space, you’ll be helping your customers connect with your brand. Once strictly the domain of out-there artists and designers, the use of architecturally inspired art can easily be used to represent products and focused ideas within a savvy retail space.

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