For November’s audit, we decided to turn our attention to Birmingham; a city that, in recent times has taken leaps and bounds in the retail world with development in its offering with a number of memorable new stores. It says so much about the power of retail (and great architecture) that the main image of our blog is so easily recognisable as the Selfridges store at the Birmingham Bullring.

We wanted to take a look at two leading heavyweight retailers: Harvey Nichols and John Lewis, each of which has targeted Birmingham as a prime location for new high profile stores in 2015.

Harvey Nichols

Harvey Nichols has created a real sense of theatre at the entrance of their Birmingham store.

They have used a large animated archway with bubbles climbing up and over as a tunnel into the store, along with a concierge desk and feature mannequins waiting to greet you.

The store has cleverly used its many windows as elements of their display, which use hanging rails that maximise the natural light to highlight products.

A fresh, slick women’s footwear section benefits from the use of bold structures and some great detailing. A striking black framework dominates the floor space which is contrasted with white illuminated shelving around the perimeter. One small detail which we thought was a great addition was the use of small fixed pots on the sofa section which stores pop socks for customers to use when trying on the footwear.

As you continue to the rear of women’s footwear department, reflective surfaces are combined with some great illuminated halos which are used to frame individual shoes that they want to stand out.


The use of copper was quite noticeable throughout the entire store; copper is an ideal accent finish to add warmth and highlighting.

The copper effect continues throughout the store with a very innovative wire wrapping on the joints of the retail fixtures, we thought this was a wonderful detail.

In contrast with the sleek materials used in many areas of the store, an industrial steel reinforced beam provides a contrasting framework for the men’s footwear category.

Harvey Nichols are also using a lot of acrylic; backlit or under lit throughout the store.

They use a huge array of materials throughout the entire store giving each section and element its own personality, its high class merchandising.


John Lewis

John Lewis use these stand out metallic words, located around the menswear section, we think this is a great way to introduce tone of voice.


It’s noticeable throughout John Lewis stores that they often use lighting as a feature above many of their displays, this is no different within the Birmingham store. They do however pull out all the stops here.

John Lewis has been another retail giant to adopt the trend for mixing and combining materials in display unitary.

They use tapered legs and industrial fixings to add further character.

We are used to John Lewis providing customers with ‘How to choose’ information throughout their stores, it’s great to see the average items such as TV’s and sofa’s getting the same treatment as the high ticket items.

Another example of how they present a category is shown below; the Z’s set the scene, along with ‘The Sleep Room’ title. This is backed up with great messaging, creating a journey of discovery, knowledge, options and selection, making the purchasing path clear and simple.

This has to be one of the best sports shoe displays for clarity and communication. It uses a clear hierarchy of category, brands and use of shoe.

A simplistic colour coding system for use is clearly explained and then applied to each product. It may not be ground-breaking merchandising, but it is very effective when applied so clearly.

The visual merchandising team has created some wonderful details throughout the store. Each section within the store has received a treatment that accentuates the products and adds some contemporary tones.

John Lewis takes lighting very seriously using it as another sales tool. We have highlighted a couple of very effective light treatments below; we really like the illuminated circles they have used above the rear stairwell. Another intricate feature was the halo lighting effect used on the displayed items behind the counters.

Harvey Nichols and John Lewis have both created bold and stylish stores to fit in with Birmingham’s new developing retail scene. Each has its own standout look and feel, with intricate design details and great use of lighting and product display.