Retail Design – An accident waiting to happen

In the world of retail there is a specialty known as Store Planning. This niche design discipline concentrates on generating the most dollars per square foot through innovative store design and display design concepts.

 All too oten Interior Designers and Architects take on the challenge of designing a display or store without paying attention to the dynamics that make up a successful creation. Safety first was taught to me in my Architectural Education and I incorporated that mantra into every display and store design that I did over a thirty-year period of practice.

 There is so much more to a retail design besides color and making it pretty. Capacity, customer interaction, employee interaction, constant usage and strength are all considerations necessary to address before the manufacturing or construction starts.

 In my years of designing of product vendors and retailers I have generated 3000 concepts all of which were manufactured and distributed to 2000 stores across the country. With 30 plus million dollars of produced displays and stores I have seen it all when it comes to liability, how instructions are misinterpreted and accidents can be avoided.

 My concern today is that safety in design has made way to bottom line decisions, which has opened up a Pandora’s box of liability issues. No longer is the strongest material, positive connection, clear accessibility, human dynamic needs or safe guards becoming the number one objective in retail design. An attitude that whatever concerns the designer or vendor or retailer might have for a potential hazard is no longer dictating the final product.

 What is unfortunate is that through sound design and paying attention to detail there is no need to sacrifice safety over price. Both can easily be achieved with proper value engineering, competitive bidding, and partnerships of all interested parties. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and it is beholden that designers hold their ground when evaluation the risks created in marginal design details.

 My success has been based on an understanding that you leave the ego at the door when it comes to following other expert opinions. Whether it is a manufacturer, contractor, retailer, vendor or consumer their opinions count. All too often designers get caught up is their art and forget that form follows function. Safety before beauty, Safety before profit. One legal action will wipe out your bottom line quicker than you can say “now on sale”.


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