Relevancy is a challenge that faces all retailers. Design trends change rapidly, and, all too often a store’s interior can look dated or out of sync with its customers.

For this reason, the time between store refurbishments is becoming shorter.

While, just a few years ago, five to ten years was an appropriate span in the lifetime of a fit-out, today, two to three years has become the norm. However, even this isn’t enough to keep up with online heavyweights such as ASOS and Amazon. As such, high-street retailers are having to find new and innovative ways to adapt to changing stock layouts and seasonal trends. Or risk looking out of touch.

But just how do retailers stay current without having to undergo a significant period of investment every few months?


The history of store design

Retail design began to emerge as a creative and commercial discipline in the late 18th century. Before this, most goods were kept in a back-room, with very little merchandise displayed within the store.

With roots that can be traced back to bazaars, the development of the arcades at the beginning of the 19th century changed all that. Buying goods became a sensory experience with new materials such as iron and glass creating a visually stimulating shopping environment.

However, it was the emergence of department stores such as Printemps, Selfridges, and Macy’s in the mid-19th century that changed the shopping experience forever. Merchandise began to be promoted in elegant and opulent displays, while at the same time, stores were designed to exude a sense of luxury.

Stores became destination venues, and retailers across the world began to catch onto the commercial benefits of creating an enjoyable and hassle-free shopping experience for customers. While at the same time, selling more stuff.


History of Store Design



The birth of ecommerce

In July 1995, the first ever book sold on Within its first 30 days of business, Amazon went on to sell to online shoppers in 45 countries. And the retail industry changed forever.

Until the rise of the internet, retail design had remained a somewhat settled field. A lengthy process that took place over a number of years, brands would invest heavily in developing the identity of their stores, carefully testing the likely impact before launch and subsequent roll-out.

Prudently executed it may have been, however in our brave new world this protracted approach is no longer enough to keep up. Particularly against the ability of online retailers to offer changing deals and promotions on an almost daily basis.


Changing retail design needs and expectations

Faced with tough competition from a new breed of vendor, today’s bricks and mortar stores need to do all they can to lure online shoppers back into the physical world. And, in addition to introducing new product lines, and adapting effective online strategies, to do this they MUST exploit the full potential of visual merchandising and retail design.

“Main Street is going to get a whole lot more competitive, and traditional brick-and-mortar retailers must step up their game in order to win.” Vend, Retail Trends and Predictions, 2015

However, today’s customers are demanding. Used to having their needs met almost instantaneously, they are unlikely to stay brand loyal while retailers cater for a long-drawn out refurbishment. Likewise, while extremely high-impact retail store designs do still have a role to play - the very first Google shop-in-shop in London being a prime example - not all retailers have the budget to invest in something big-ticket.

So, flagship stores aside, retailers need a simpler solution. A solution that offers a fluid approach to store design. A solution that helps to enhance the overall customer experience, and keeps retailers looking relevant. A solution that meets the growing need for sustainability. And, importantly, with the costs of changing a store’s physical appearance historically prohibitive, a solution that achieves all this while meeting the demands of increasingly tight budgets. Ultimately – ensuring revenues continued to grow.


Retail Design by Google at Tottenham Court Road


Agile retail design

Online companies are experts at being agile. Rather than spending all their time and budget creating ‘the perfect’ solution, they focus their efforts on testing a variety of smaller improvements.  

In contrast, many of the top retailers are built for efficiency, not speed. But they need to adapt if they want to survive the consumer revolution.

The semi-fixed store design allows high-street retailers to adopt a more agile approach to business. Helping to keep things fresh while regularly testing the impact of their visual merchandising. Without breaking the bank.

Optimising all available retail space, the semi-fixed approach sees the core of the store remain the same while reconfigurable elements and accessories are used to enrich the customer experience.  


Types of reconfigurable retail display

Aluminium Modular Profiles

Profiles can be supplied in a range of decorative finishes, colours, and textures. And, with a vast amount of additional extras, can be combined with other structures and accessories.

Why aluminium?

Combining light weight with high strength, aluminium’s superior malleability makes it the perfect base for creating retail displays.

  • Flexible and pliable. Resulting in displays manufactured to your exacting needs
  • 100% recyclable. So it can be reused time and time again
  • Energy efficient. Requiring less green-houses gases than comparative metals during production
  • Three times lighter than steel. Making it easy to use and transport
  • Long-lasting solution. Resistant to rust so it does not corrode
  • Strong. Able to attain steel’s high-strength characteristics
  • Environmentally friendly. The earth’s most abundant metal.


Modular Aluminium Retail Displays

Find out more about the Unibox Modular System


Movable Illuminated Shelving

A high-quality, versatile solution for retailers, designers and visual merchandising teams, illuminated shelving provides bespoke LED lighting - specific to your products, shelving and layout - while at the same time helping to lower overall logistical costs.

As simple as picking up a shelf and moving it, reconfigurable illuminated shelving allows shop staff to refresh product displays in line with changing promotions and seasonality.

No wires, no connectors, and no need for costly electrical specialists or shopfitters.


Movable Illuminated Shelving

Find out more about movable illuminated shelving


Graphic Displays 

LED lightboxes allow for the creation of stunning, adaptable retail displays that drive footfall, generate sales, and enhance brand awareness.

With virtually no height limitations and the ability to be customised to your exact needs, colours, and specifications, LED lightboxes are suitable for any retail environment.

And, with the option of easy to change fabric graphics to keep up with instore promotions and seasonality, displays can be updated without a visual mechanising team, lowering overall logistical costs.


LED Lightbox Retail Displays

Find out more about LED lightboxes


In conclusion

With the rise of e-commerce, the importance of a physical presence, where people actively experience a brand has not diminished. However, as more and more consumers take to shopping on the web, brands must pay close attention to trends in store design to captivate and draw in consumers (not to mention looking at how to integrate traditional and new paths to purchase).

Effective retail design helps to attract, engage, and inspire customers. Indeed, not only does the combination of design, space, layout, lighting, colour and music contribute to a distinct store atmosphere, but together these factors influence shopper behaviour, spending habits and brand loyalty.

But it’s vital to shake things up.

With variation essential to keeping the customer engaged, reconfigurable retail design solutions provide a simple, cost-effective way for retailers to change the physical appearance of their stores without breaking the bank.

Transforming ideas into reality, at Unibox, our intelligent products help retailers across the world to sell more effectively.

A creatively aware UK based manufacturer with market leading design experience, we’re proud of our expert in-house team, pioneering machinery, and advanced manufacturing skills.

But that’s only half the story. With many of our team coming to us from an agency background, our collaborative, approach means we understand the needs of our retail and design agency clients. Bridging the gap between manufacturing and creativity we create attractive, well-built, retail displays that deliver.

If you’d like our help turning your ideas into a reality, or for a quick chat to find out more about how Unibox does things differently, contact us today.