The personalised touches and growing trends shaping retail design.

Shop design is arguably the most important factor in the success of any retail jeweller’s space, telling a story from the window to the till point. Courtney Hagen goes in-depth to discover how interior design is evolving, the current trends shaping UK jewellery retail and the little touches that make jewellery shopping an exciting, personalised experience.

The backbone of the retail experience in any industry is built upon shop design. It sets the tone of the brand, contributes to the overall experience for buyers, and ensures the longevity of the company. This is particularly evident in the jewellery business, an industry that revolves around aesthetics, and one where purchases tend to be significant and considered.


Yet the world of shop fittings is influenced by shifting design trends that have only accelerated in the last few years as brands, both local and international, begin to carve out more well-defined identities within bricks-and-mortar shops.

“Store design has evolved from purely being a style exercise to become a highly developed marketing tool, which good retailers now recognise as being an essential element of their brand strategy,” says Lumsden creative director Callum Lumsden. “It has become highly targeted to the customer base that the retailers want to attract, and is critical to the profitability of their businesses. Good shop design makes the consumer feel special. Shopping, especially in the jewellery sector, should be a highly pleasurable experience and if the design of the shop enhances that experience then it is worth every cent that the retailer has spent on it.”

In his 25 years in the design business Lumsden has worked with some of the biggest names around, from designing retail spaces for the Tate Modern, the British Museum, and the V&A, to working with retail queen Mary Portas, and the recent completion of Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design’s innovative Hertfordshire boutique-come-workshop, studio, and coffee shop.

In the last few years Lumsden has identified a need for retail brands to differentiate themselves in their physical shops in the face of increasing competition from the internet.

“The hottest topic in retail is multi-channel shopping and how to ensure that the physical shopping environment enhances the virtual one and vice-versa,” says Lumsden. “The days of customers relying solely on the retail environment have gone, as we are all comparing product, service and price on our smart phones as well as looking at the product in-store. This is where independent jewellery retailers can really make the difference and where thoughtful and creative design can enable them to stand out in a very crowded marketplace.”

The kinds of niche experiences offered by multi-channel retail are only growing on the retail barometer. Echochamber is a creative retail intelligence agency whose head of research, Matthew Brown, works with commercial companies such as John Lewis, Boots, and Selfridges to inspire and provide insight into the way store design can impact a business. Like Lumsden, Brown also identifies the shift to multi-channel retailing and the need for more personal shopping experiences in-store.

“Multi-channel is the real revolution – everyone can get everything online – and anyone can now sell online using eBay or Tictail, so your customers can also be your competitors, [meaning] traditional retail is under threat like never before,” states Brown. “If you don’t have a multi-channel offer you will be in trouble long term, and yet real retail is still important – just look at how online brands are experimenting with physical retail spaces. Long established retail brands are collapsing and the survivors will reinvent what customers actually want from physical shopping – better, more personalised service, smaller more tailored ranges backed up by wider web assortments, leisure, retail and hospitality combined, and interactive experiences.”

In this environment, retail design is evolving faster than ever. Shopfits quickly become outdated in the traditional store as more brands begin to introduce innovative retail destinations that go beyond just outlets. Spaces are becoming sleeker and more intimate, allowing customers to get a feel for the product, something that is especially important in the jewellery sector.

Sheridan & Co. is a full-service retail design agency that has previously worked with the Estee Lauder Group, Procter & Gamble and Swarovski on design and shopfits. Its chairman and founder Michael Sheridan explains how jewellery shopfits have changed: “The practice of jewellery being enveloped in elaborate velvet, in the form of boxes and cushions, has diminished significantly,” he states. “Today we are seeing luxury represented as something new. Simplistic and minimalistic design, when implemented correctly, will project an image of wealth, luxury and indulgence. Something that is probably attributed to the popularity of Apple designed products over the last 10 years.”

Sheridan notes how jewellery-based clients’ demands have shifted towards pared down stores that emulate the environment in which their customers might use their products. Lighting leads this innovation as adjustable light fixtures that were once commonly used in cosmetics sectors are incorporated into jewellery boutiques.

“There are jewellery lines that are designed to be only worn at night, so it only makes sense that they are presented to the consumer in similar conditions,” says Sheridan. “The ability to adjust the light in different areas of a display and store allows the retailer to show the product in the environment for which it is intended.”

Natural lighting is part of a larger growing trend rooted in more in-depth interactions between company, client and product. A growing number of retailers are also beginning to incorporate educational elements into their boutiques and branches giving their customers a more cohesive experience.

“The sharing of key information about particular stones or jewellery pieces is something that will be more commonly presented to the consumer,” says Sheridan. “Following in the footsteps of the type of retail units utilised by watchmakers, the history, heritage and technical details of a piece of jewellery will be used to provide added value to a product. I believe we will begin to see more LED screens or maybe even radio frequency ID tags within jewellery units, used to display this information in a manner that is attractive to the consumer and in keeping with brands’ heritage.”

Brown echoes Sheridan’s sentiment: “Consumers are more retail-literate and less willing to be passive consumers of products and services, [so] retailers are evolving to create more active ways for customers to experience their brands. They are becoming more transparent about their processes and products and customers want to engage more directly – either watching products being made or by helping to make themselves – a trend we call DIY.”

Key materials are incorporated into store design to highlight a more honest approach to interior designs; elements, such as Corian, marble, steel, and wood have become widespread.

“In terms of the displays that will be housing these products, we’ve also been seeing a lot of marble being used as a background or base in recent years,” says Sheridan. “Marble walks the fine line between being a simplistic material that will allow the jewellery to speak for itself, whilst at the same time being seen as indulgent and luxurious on its own merit.”

One standout example of a well-established brand incorporating modern elements into a more personal jewellery experience is that of the Fortnum & Mason jewellery department re-design, revealed late last year. The work was undertaken by 20.20 Limited, chosen for its particular interest in fashion and department store design.

The end result needed to incorporate the traditional Fortnum & Mason brand into a contemporary yet intimate space, with seasonal flexibility and hospitality specialities such as its On The Rocks bar.

“As the jewellery products are so detailed, we focused a lot of attention on the cabinets,” says 20.20 Limited client director for fashion and department stores Sanela Lazic. “We used a mix of reclaimed antique frames and modern fabrics, combined with engineered LED light fittings that would provide perfect illumination. The outcome was the result of a close collaboration between 20.20 and Fortnum & Mason’s buying, visual merchandising and operational teams. The design process is essentially a delicate balance of listening, inspiring and prototyping – whilst keeping an eye on the budget and not compromising on the overall ambition of the project.”

This approach has translated into increased revenues, says Fortnum & Mason head of fashion and home buying Jo Newton: “The floor space in the Jewellery Room has increased by 44%, and the sales have increased by 170% year-on-year. We are so happy with the beautiful, newly established department that 20.20 have created for us.”

Though many are reaping the benefits of revitalised retail design, Brown claims there is still so much more to come. “The pace of change will continue to accelerate and we will see more small scale, innovative solutions – pop-ups shops, payment technology that gets rid of the cash desk and so forth. The future of retail stores is not about selling product we need because we don’t need anything, or we can get a wider or better selection online anyway – it is about inspiring and seducing us.”

Whilst the jewellery industry will only witness more retail developments, Lumsden claims that success is only fully assured with the service and products to match the aesthetic veneer.

“First and foremost retailers need to differentiate themselves from their competitors, thinking really hard about what their retail environment should look like to attract and retain customers. They need to communicate their brand and make themselves memorable to the world outside. It is vital to say that if the service, price and the product in the shop don’t live up to the design of the environment, then retail design will be a very short-lived solution. Design alone is not the be-all solution.”

This feature was taken from the September issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.

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