Top store designer reveals tricks of the trade

Pete Champion, director of leading London design agency I-AM, has urged KBB retailers to transform their showrooms with “a mix of inspiration and information”.

Speaking to delegates at the kbbreview Retail and Design Conference in Birmingham, Champion (pictured) said dealers should “create a venue not a showroom” and that “the trick is to think about the brand experience from the customer’s point of view”.

I-AM has worked on retail showroom design projects for the likes of Armani, Diesel, Adidas, Carphone Warehouse and Costa Coffee, as well as high-profile KBB brands including CP Hart and, most recently, Hansgrohe’s London ‘Water Studio’.

But Champion said the common thread to showroom design was that consumers still base their buying habits on an emotional response.

“Despite technology, we’re still all human beings with the same five senses,” he said. “The showroom is still the most immersive multi-sensory experience for people. Key things to remember are that it’s as much – if not more – about the people as the product. Ask yourself what your target audience really values. Rather than saying, you need a showroom for people, project yourself into their mind-set and ask what they need.

“The attract stage is ever more important, but don’t flood your windows with product displays. Be open and draw the eye inside. Create a useful working space – the ultimate ‘play zone’ for whatever you’re presenting.”

Champion used the example of Hansgrohe’s Water Studio as a showroom that “brings the physical and digital together”.

“We wanted a mix of inspiration and information,” he said. “We needed the right balance between the two. So we had working areas where architects and designers could engage. The key thing is making a platform for your brilliant people in the showroom who know so much. It’s about bringing that technical knowledge and expertise to life. You’re getting digital information about flow rates as you’re watching and listening to the water flowing through the shower head. It’s what we call ‘making the invisible visible’. Only the showroom can bring that to life.

“Don’t create a museum fixed in aspic. Create a venue for things to happen. Technology is your friend – use it to expand the possibilities. And don’t be obvious – embrace the irrational. Art with a message will get talked about.

“The key thing is don’t be just functional – it’s unemotional and you commoditise the experience.”

Champion insisted that even small ‘husband-and-wife’ showrooms on tight budgets could benefit from his advice. “Use all this very directionally,” he said. “It’s a bit like a theatre show or a play. Sometimes they’ve deliberately put hardly any stage set in – but some of those performances are the most impactful and memorable you’ll ever see. That’s because the director has decided it’s about human interaction and human conversation. For me, it’s the same point. Think about the human conversation you need to have and only build a stage set around it for as much as you can afford. The trick is to cherry-pick a hierarchy of what’s going to matter most to people.”

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