Emily Fisher of Lambert Smith Hampton examines how different design elements on the high street such as lighting, clothing positioning, colour scheme and music all contribute to the customer’s experience and their perception of the brand. You’ll be surprised at just how much you are manipulated, every time you step into a store...
Trick of the light
Lighting is an important factor in any store, whether it be fashion or accessories, high street or high end designer. Lighting was fairly continuous throughout the similar high street retailers, consisting of spotlights, studio and industrial feel lighting. These lighting schemes create a white and blank ambience in the store, leaving room for the focus being the clothing, but can be seen as having an impersonal feel. High end designers opted for more unique and bold lighting such as large studio lights and hanging lighting, suited to their unique brand image and giving a more exclusive feel. High street stores tended to favour bright, white lighting, while those at the high end made use of warmer lamps to give a golden glow, adding lustre and sparkle to the products on display.
The impact of the decompression zone
The decompression zone, which is the space you encounter when first entering the shop, should be a place for the customer to adjust to the setting. In some high street retailers, the decompression zone is filled with deals and clothing, whereas high end designers tend to use spacious and calm spaces in the entrance to give a sense of luxury and relaxation.
The clothing positioning in high street retailers such as Dorothy Perkins and Primark appears cluttered, due to their desire to cater wide audience and their focus on unit sales. Higher end stores, such as Hackett and Banana Republic, where consumers need to be convinced to pay a relatively high price tag for each item appeared less cluttered, more spacious and more well thought out in terms of the layout of clothing railings, such as colour matching and outfit suggestions.
In many of the high street retailers, the music was turned down low and disappeared into the background and although the music does not take the focus away from the clothing, the atmosphere is not as strong. Music in high end stores was unique and slightly louder, therefore creating an inclusive feel but not overwhelming or distracting from the clothing. Sports and recreational retailers opted for a louder music base with popular music being played to attract their target market, but a loud music system can be distracting and sometimes came across as being intimidating. The younger the target audience of a store, the louder the music appeared to be!
Blank canvas or brand colours
The colour scheme for high street retailers is predominantly white at present, demonstrating the blank canvas approach of trying to appeal to multiple age groups and demographics. Other brands adopt a darker colour scheme, making them stand out and giving them a different brand feel. All Saints is the bravest – they proudly use their brand identity in their colour scheme – in fact, the clothing feels part of the store design. They can do this as they have a very strong design feel that transcends seasons and short term fashions, and it sets them apart from all other stores.
High street brands, although establishing themselves, have a wider range of target audience and diversity and are therefore unable to obtain an iconic brand and recognisable design that can be felt throughout their outlets. Store design can make shoppers feel exclusive and important, rather than just a number. High street retailers design stores with the target of appealing to as diverse a range of customers as possible, whereas high end stores are targeted specifically at exact demographics, appealing to their particular tastes and drivers, in order to convince them that the higher price of the clothing is worth it!
Emily explains: “This study revealed how retail stores use their design and many other elements, even seemingly irrelevant things like smell and music, to influence the consumer subconsciously. Personally, the store designs I liked the most were All Saints and Banana Republic, due to their strong and definite brand identity, as well as unique design, inviting music, intriguing colour schemes and plenty of space to walk around. I now find myself viewing retail stores differently and increasingly analysing my approach to shopping.”