James’s thoughts – Retail Design Expo Panel Discussion ‘How can shop fitters best work with designers?’

Retail Design Expo

Jon Tollit, from Gensler chaired the discussion and was joined by Simon Clark, from Lumsden Design and Richard Lennox, from Itab.

This somewhat lively debate began with the acknowledgment that historically, the relationship between designers and shop-fitters wasn’t great. Designers working in concepts and shop fitters in reality can often fuel heated battle over accountability.
The panel all agreed that these perceptions were changing and a move away from ‘pointing fingers’ or ‘passing the buck’ was welcomed by all the panel, if not all the audience!

Better collaboration and involvement of all parties; designers, shop-fitters and clients from the outset, and working together not against each other on a project was seen as the way to achieve a best outcome.

Duplicated drawings was a valid point raised by Richard Lennox. Designers will often produce technical drawings and pass them on to their shop-fitter, only to have the shop fitter produce their own set of technical drawings. Better communication and involvement would prevent unnecessary duplication of work! This is certainly something we at TRC will be more aware of and strive to lead on in future when approaching our retail projects.

The lack of skilled workforce and the poor perception of the shop fitting industry as a career path was also discussed, with the panel concluding more needs to be done to promote itself as a career. The rise of automation and computers was the main cause with Simon Clarke noting that skilled cabinet makers are now CNC programmers. They all agreed that there are many benefits of CAD/CAM however there is still a need for a skilled workforce.

The discussion about sustainability also proved interesting, with Simon Clarke admitting that the shop-fitting industry has a particularly poor record when it comes to recycling and sustainability. Too often things are ripped out when they could easily be refurbished. Vast amounts of materials and fixtures are usually not sent to landfill when recycling is perfectly possible. The possibility of a charity shop recycling scheme gained several nods from the audience. Richard Lennox also rightly noted that it isn’t just down to the shop-fitters to recycle saying;

“You cannot post fit sustainability, we should design in recycling at the front end”

James Hodson
Retail Designer & Store Planner