Placemaking and the retail developments of tomorrow

Globally, 28% of customers shop at retail stores less often because of Amazon

– PWC Total Retail 2017 (24,471 respondents across 29 territories)


The way we live, work and socialise is changing dramatically.

Most shopping centres were originally based around the idea of convenience – a one-stop-shop where you could buy everything in a single trip. But today, if a customer can order everything online, why visit the High Street, mall or retail park?

The market place – the shopping centre's ancestor – was never just a place to shop. It was a place to socialise, be seen, do deals; a place of identity and community. Public spaces that do not foster human connection risk irrelevance and ultimately dying out. Because no matter how convenient online shopping becomes, we are still sociable creatures who crave human connection and interaction with others. 

At Kinnersley Kent Design we have been working with developers, architects and brands for 27 years to create customer-centric spaces that drive footfall, dwell time and spend. Here, we are sharing some of our recent work and thinking on how to create the retail developments of the future:

Making Places into Destinations

Reinventing Retail Developments

Technology and Tomorrow’s Spaces

Designing a Healthier Future

Creating Community Spaces



1. Making Places into Destinations

Today, we need to transform retail spaces into social destinations – unique locations that offer experiences that could never be replicated online. In making places that people want to spend their leisure time, we increase asset value whilst breathing life into public spaces.

In this increasingly competitive landscape, each development needs its own unique identity and point of difference – this is what helps places remain relevant over time. To do this, we need to design concepts that are sensitive to their locations, avoiding the cookie-cutter approach. The customer should know where they are in the world.

There are many ways to build a sense of place – through interesting architecture, a unique mix of brands, storytelling, changing spaces and cultural activities relevant to the location. 

Working with Emaar, we have designed a 1 million sq ft expansion of Fashion Avenue within the world-famous Dubai Mall. Our scope of work included designing a food court and a new 60,000 sq ft perfumery concept, Perfumery & Co – a pavilion evoking the intricate craft of the perfumer. The exclusive, seductive and multi-sensory destination will offer hospitality services and bespoke fragrance experiences. Given the huge cultural importance of scent in the Middle East, it’s a deeply relevant addition. 



2. Reinventing Retail Developments

Lifestyles and shopping patterns are in flux. Disruptive new brands are stealing traditional companies’ market share (e.g. Amazon Go), and successful online retailers like Missguided are moving offline. The competitive landscape and advances in technology are raising customer expectations to a level higher than ever before. 

Boundaries are blurring across all sectors from food, retail, restaurant and hotels to leisure and culture. This is now so endemic that new building types are evolving to accommodate this, such as co-working and co-living spaces. Retail spaces and shopping centres need to be agile to stay ahead of the competition and appeal to the new customer.

Grosvenor Estate development at Eccleston Place in Victoria, London.  Credit:  Buckley Gray Yeoman , Architects  

Grosvenor Estate development at Eccleston Place in Victoria, London. Credit: Buckley Gray Yeoman, Architects  

New builds should be designed to be inherently flexible from the outset: ready to evolve, grow and work for a variety of purposes and to function differently at different times of the day. For existing sites that are losing relevance, we need to think creatively about both how to repurpose and rejuvenate them – developing and future-proofing redundant buildings and spaces to accommodate for the new ways that customers want to shop, work and live.


While traditional retail spend is declining, consumer spend on eating out is growing
– forecast to increase 17% to reach £103bn by 2021

– Cushman & Wakefield, 2017


We are working with our client Central Working to repurpose under-used spaces and to move into new builds. By selecting a careful mix of workspace members in each location, they are creating communities and a halo effect that draws other businesses back to the area. Our design approach is based upon creating concepts which respond to the architecture of each site to create something unique to the location, while remaining identifiably Central Working. Taking a location-sensitive approach, we have designed everything from the workspaces and meeting rooms to an events space, a private members' club, a chill out room and a sleep pod. 

At the Grosvenor Estate development at Eccleston Place in Victoria London, we worked with Central Working to refurbish an electricity substation into 25,000 sq ft of co-working space. The site is a complex collection of buildings set around an internal courtyard, and the focus on the development is about bringing together high quality independent retailers and operators to somewhere with its own unique feel and identity. 

1st_Club lounge.jpg


3. Technology and Tomorrow’s Spaces

With mobile devices and a retailer’s full inventory available online anytime, anywhere, the purpose of the physical store has changed.

The store is no longer the customer’s first interface with the brand or necessarily the place where the transaction is made, yet the trend of Amazon and other e-tailers moving into physical retail demonstrates the store's staying power. Physical spaces offer a sense of human connection that is difficult to replicate online – and an unrivalled opportunity for brands to build emotional connections and loyalty with target customers.


“The internet has become our mega-mall” 

– Appear Here


The store is becoming ‘media’ – a place for retailers to showcase a streamlined collection; experiential places where customers interact with products and staff, and build a relationship with a brand. This is increasingly including Virtual and Augmented Reality experiences, as brands seek new immersive ways to engage and entertain customers. The impact of this is that the requirements and types of spaces retailers need is changing. Developers must be both responsive to this and rethink the role of the shopping centre or development. 


Stores should play a key role as part of a cross-channel retail strategy, but they don’t need to mimic the online experience. Technology should be used as an integral part of the retail experience and a solution, not just as a gimmick. We need to view technology in a human-centric way – seeing it as an opportunity to increase the amount of time we spend with customers, friends, family or colleagues. Therefore, one of the best uses of technology is simply to facilitate transactional, ‘low-grade’ interactions, such as taking payments or ordering up stock from storerooms, so staff can focus on interacting with customers. 

Longer term, drone delivery and driverless cars are set to have a huge impact on how we design not only retail developments, but entire cities. With Uber, Tesla and Google all aiming to roll out their driverless cars in the near future, we need to think about the social, cultural and ethical impact of a world without drivers – both from the perspective of human beings, but also on our communities, buildings and cities. 


We have been working with several of our clients on the impact of technology and rethinking how retail spaces and developments function. Recent projects have included a new Click & Collect format for a womenswear retailer at a travel interchange targeting commuters and local workers, and a ‘Store of the Future’ project for leading high street large format retailer, challenging how customers navigate the store using beacon technology or what the fitting room experience of the future could be.  



4. Designing a Healthier Future

Health & Wellness continues to be one of the most influential consumer trends worldwide. Beyond just physical health, there has been a shift towards holistic wellbeing. This means customers are also looking for beauty from-the-inside-out, and for products and places that nourish the soul, mind and body. 

Skinny Genie, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi :   We developed Skinny Genie from a wholesale company to an innovative customer-focused brand, targeting health-conscious millennials with great-tasting, gluten-free food.   The first Skinny Genie café has just opened in Masdar City, the carbon-neutral development designed by Foster + Partners. 

Skinny Genie, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi: We developed Skinny Genie from a wholesale company to an innovative customer-focused brand, targeting health-conscious millennials with great-tasting, gluten-free food. The first Skinny Genie café has just opened in Masdar City, the carbon-neutral development designed by Foster + Partners. 


"Consumers – especially city dwellers – are beset by a rising awareness of the toxic impacts of their environment"

– Trendwatching, The Future of Betterment Report, 2016. 



Technology and our ‘always on’ culture mean mental illness is on the rise. Despite constant online connection, many of us feel disconnected. Numerous studies have highlighted how a greater connection to nature significantly decreases stress and improves wellbeing: viewing trees helps people become less stressed, and the more trees, the bigger the effect (University of Illinois, 2016).

The understanding of this connection between nature and wellbeing explains the rising popularity of biophilic design – concepts that feature greenery, natural light and materials that reflect the natural world. 

4 out of 5 British adults feel stressed during a typical week 

– Axa, 2017


The concept we designed for House of Fraser at Rushden Lakes shopping centre features a Living Wall made of over 2,000 living plants, natural light, pops of greenery and design details specific to its location next to the Nene Wetlands nature reserve. It has a BREEAM sustainable design and a 50% reduced Carbon Footprint compared to existing HoF stores of a similar size, thanks to its energy efficient design and operations.

The Living Wall brings nature into the heart of the building, helping to improve air quality and customers’ sense of wellbeing. 

We’re excited to say that House of Fraser Rushden Lakes is trading 50% up on target across the whole store, and was a finalist for Best New Store at the Retail Week Awards 2018.



5. Creating Community Spaces 

As developers, brands and designers, we need to think conceptually about how we can help to create ‘The Third Place’ – a location away from home and work which provides a welcoming space that cultivates social experiences.

The Donkey Sanctuary community stores:  The social store concept we designed for the charity incorporates a café serving cakes from local businesses and a retail area selling souvenirs and pre-loved donated goods. The stores also host special events and   have become community destinations. 

The Donkey Sanctuary community stores: The social store concept we designed for the charity incorporates a café serving cakes from local businesses and a retail area selling souvenirs and pre-loved donated goods. The stores also host special events and have become community destinations. 

Shopping centres, coffee shops, gyms or retail stores can all become 'The Third Place'. Ultimately, this means designing spaces or experiences that our customers or guests relate to emotionally. This applies whether we are conceiving a small boutique, 5-star hotel, restaurant or entire shopping centre. The design of shops, malls, restaurants and hotels must respond to the individual needs of their communities by intentionally facilitating human relationships and interactions. 

“The development of an informal public life depends on people finding and enjoying one another outside the cash nexus.”

― Ray Oldenburg, The Great Good Place, 1989

The new flagship store concept we designed for Sports Corner in Qatar is a social place where customers can meet, play and compete. It will offer community spaces including a healthy bar, and a basketball court that doubles up as an events space, an indoor skate park and immersive ‘stadium’ football zone. In a part of the world where it is often too hot to exercise outside, the flagship will provide families with a fun, immersive and healthy leisure destination.


Other Relevant Projects

River Street Mews
Islington, London

Identity and interior design for a luxury residential development of six contemporary houses in the heart of Islington. The scope of work included designing the interiors to ensure that each house harbours its own unique character, creating a brand identity for the development, art directing the photoshoot and designing all marketing collateral and signage.


alf4094po-213510-Splash Pool - Evening-Med_square.jpg

Aloft Hotel
Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium Development, Al Ain

We localised Marriott-owned hotel brand Aloft by adjusting its US concept to meet the regional and cultural expectations of the UAE. This included designing new VIP suites, a fresh all-day-dining concept and stylish rooftop pool bar – the only one of its kind in the ancient city. The pool bar is already proving popular with locals and tourists alike as the place to be for the sunset.