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As value fashion retailers take visual cues from their upmarket rivals to entice customers in, the luxury players themselves are harking back to a boutique style that speaks of bespoke service.
Many designers claim there is a huge opportunity for retailers to raise their game by creating stores that offer richer experiences and a sense of drama. Designers might well say this, of course, as it is the conjuring of such delights from the drawing board that pays their bills. But there is no denying that competing on the mercilessly cutthroat high street, as well as against burgeoning online retailers, demands an especially enticing offer. Responding to these challenges, the fashion sector in particular is abuzz with new formats, refreshed branding and store roll-out programmes.
'Retailers are finally starting to do something after four or five years of stagnation with the white-box concept,' says Lewis Allen, director of retail at Portland Design Associates. 'The Spanish invasion of brands such as Zara and Mango has really shaken things up and, to some extent, shown everyone else the way. They have brought theatre and experience to stores with products that are more seasonal.
'There is now greater investment, better ideas and stronger visual merchandising propositions,' he adds. 'Look at Marks & Spencer: it assessed styling, products and packaging, with a much stronger focus on the consumer.'
These changes are not simply the work of retail design agencies …