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Industry voices on the future of retail design

By N Jayalakshmi | July 04, 2024

Tapping regional markets, focusing on profitability, energy-efficiency and sustainability, talent pool creation, and integrating meaningful technologies emerge as the key call-outs from the series of conversations that Retail4Growth recently had with different retail designers/architects on the Business of Design. Here’s a summary.  

‘Greater need for consultants who can advise on best practices’ 

Deepak Puri, Principal Architect of Deepak Puri Architects & Interior Designers:

The focus today is not on more stores but on stores with better ROI and this means putting the money in better services. This means there is need for consultants who can advise retailers on best practices, market trends, and customer engagement strategies. This also means working towards budgets-focused solutions that deliver the stated objectives.

‘Time to recognise retail design as an investment’ 

Sanjay Agarwal, Co-Founder & MD of FRDC

We are now experiencing the 'Third Wave' of Retail, where the dominance of brand/s and store size is giving way to the ascendancy of knowledge-based influence, innovation, and deep conversations led customer engagement. This entails talent pool creation and recognising retail design as an investment and treating it as part of the marketing budget. 

‘Huge opportunity in regional markets, talent is the biggest industry challenge’ 

Shyam Sunder K, Founder, Principal Architect & MD - 4Dimensions Retail Design

The opportunity from regional retail market is much bigger compared to corporate or national brands. Many regional retail companies have their revenue growing at an average year-on-year rate of 15-20%. In terms of industry challenge, it is finding the right design talent. Everyone in the industry can come together and collaborate towards this so we not only groom new design talent, but also leverage it for our businesses.   

You are not designing for the brand, but for the brand’s customer’

Jasleen Manrao, Studio Head at Figments Experience Lab:

Brands that are successfully navigating the changing landscape are those that are constantly adapting and responding to their customers' needs. So, you are not designing for a brand, but for the brand’s end consumer, and if you have a pulse of what is happening over there, then that change is worth expressing in design. 

‘Design must focus on the human aspect’

Rajan Vernekar, Managing Director of Rave Design:

Designers must create spaces that resonate with customers on an emotional level. This involves using elements such as lighting, colour schemes, and spatial layouts to evoke specific moods and enhance the overall shopping experience. By focusing on the human aspect, designers can create environments that are both inviting and conducive to sales. 

‘Let’s redefine ROI in store design’ 

Juhi Santani, Principal Designer & Founding Partner, Retale Design Solutions: 

Today ROI is looked at in a very unidimensional way and brands often use it as a tool to bring down costs. But ROI is actually about getting more business for what has been done. So, let's not look at ROI with a scarcity mindset, instead let’s look at it with an abundance mindset.“ 

‘Front-end tech is a crucial part of design today’ 

Shravan Suthar, Principal Designer at Shravan Designs Company: 

The integration of front-tech solutions in retail design has also become a crucial aspect of enhancing the customer experience. When you are looking to enhance the overall store experience, digital displays are pretty much a must nowadays." 

‘Clients seek efficiency and streamlined processes’ 

Vikesh Chheda, Director of JCA Architects:

New projects are being launched at an unprecedented pace, reflecting the retail sector's buoyancy. However, this growth is accompanied by evolving demands from clients, who now seek more streamlined and organised project management to enhance budget efficiency, minimise wastage, and foster innovation. 

‘Immerse the customers without overwhelming them’

Vishal Kheradia, Interior Architect at Vishal Kheradia & Associates: 

Incorporating elements of storytelling and customer engagement into design is crucial for creating an immersive experience. Designers should prioritise creating a layout that allows customers to browse products without feeling overwhelmed, encouraging them to spend more time in the store. 

‘Robust demand for innovative & profitable spaces’

Ashateet Saran, founder of SA Studio: 

The Indian retail industry is currently on a growth trajectory and this growth reflects in the expanding markets and the robust demand for innovative retail spaces that enhance customer experiences and drive profitability.  

‘Technology and creativity will drive growth’ 

Dhruv Karla, Principle Architect at I'm D'sign Studio:

Designers must try to use materials that are more Indian and local in nature. Also, only innovation and creativity can drive growth in the industry. The use of technology and sustainability in experiential retail will be crucial in shaping the future of retail design in India.

‘It’s no longer just about aesthetic spaces’

Sunita Reddy, Chief Architect at ACME Designers: 

Retailers are no longer just looking for aesthetically pleasing spaces. They want designs that can drive footfall, enhance customer experience, and ultimately boost sales. Clients today are in fact more informed and have higher expectations. They want to see tangible results from their investments in store design. This means we need to deliver designs that not only look good but also perform well in terms of sales and customer engagement.

‘Design must boost profitability’


Navath RahinHead Designer at Ahanas Design for Space,  

While retail clients have always focused on timing and budgeting due to their rental agreements and business timelines, today there is a growing demand for designers to demonstrate clear ROI, and retailers are increasingly concerned with the long-term value of their investments. This focus necessitates innovative design solutions that not only meet aesthetic and functional requirements, but also enhance profitability. 

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