Nostalgic Notes: Days Gone By

Why sentimental design concepts mean so much to retailers
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Posted July 31, 2017

Throwback Thursday (#TBT), Flashback Friday (#FBF), and endless options to apply a filter to a photo to resemble "days gone by" are at everyone's fingertips. The concept of nostalgia is proven to engage an audience and have them linger on a page a bit longer, so it’s easy to see how the same principles can be said to improve dwell time within a retail environment. The retail nostalgia formula is quite simple:  Fond and happy memories equal positive and engaged responses and increased dwell times within stores.

Think of the number of times a specific song came on and instantly transported you back in time to that dance in the high school gym. That same trigger that evokes a small grin and warm feeling can be used, physiologically, to captivate a potential consumer. But what if that high school dance had some not so pleasant memories attached to it? Of course! Not all memories of days gone by are happy, sugarcoated ones, so it is important to note that using nostalgia can also be a bit risky. And, at times, if not done in a true, authentic way, the consumer may see right through it, and in turn, may not be too impressed. No retailer can be all things to all people, so having the right amount of hints of nostalgia in a retail space, when done in line with a brand, can produce valuable results.

Analytics and data offer concrete evidence that something is working, or when it isn’t working. But that need for good old-fashioned one-on-one time, when the retailer actually meets the consumer face-to-face, is something that has made all the difference in the success of a brand, one that has immediate results. Being able to share stories and fond memories can quickly translate into an opportunity to ask for feedback and tailor individuals’ personalized shopping experiences. Nostalgia is a tool that can be used to help bring that opportunity forward. It doesn't mean covering a room top to bottom in shag carpeting (in hopes of having a big sit-in where everyone hangs out in the space for hours and hours talking about peace and love), but perhaps that new expansion has hints of wooden paneling that are reminiscent of a 1975 rec room. It needs to be something subtle, authentic, and above all else, fun, while making an impression … or a new memorable moment.

Nostalgia can make people feel that their lives have roots and continuity. It can make them feel good about themselves and their relationships. It provides a texture to life and gives strength to move forward. Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. We urge retailers to tap into the endless examples of iconic symbols from each era of the past, and perhaps taking one and using it as a jumping-off point for the next store interior, store refresh or full redesign, may just be a winning concept!

Don't miss Karen and Diane's session at VMSD's International Retail Design Conference (IRDC), Sept. 5-8, in New Orleans. Their hands-on workshop, "Nostalgic Notes: Think, Pair, Share," taking place Thursday, Sept. 7, at 1:35 p.m., will focus on an audience-centric design challenge using the idea of "nostalgia" as the main ingredient. For more information about their session and others, visit irdconline.com.

Diane Spiridoulias is a passionate professor in the Visual Merchandising Arts program at Sheridan College in Canada. As a seasoned art director with over 18 years of experience, as well as maintaining a proven track record for translating complex ideas into slick, and successful designs for the beauty and fashion retail sectors, Diane is skilled in developing external client relationships, graphic design and styling. The diversity of her work reveals her ability to apply design skills in innovative ways that elevate brand and design excellence. Previous work experiences include Seven Continents and Sirens, a division of YM Inc. Diane holds a diploma from Sheridan in Visual Merchandising Arts and is currently working towards obtaining her Bachelor of Professional Arts Communication Studies at Athabasca University.

Karen Kritzer is a professor at Sheridan College where she is also part of the Program Support Team for various design courses. This career path has allowed her to balance teaching alongside freelance work, keeping her up to speed with the industry. As a small business owner and freelance visual merchandiser, Karen can relate to the everyday challenges that retailers face. Working with both top name brands and small independent retailers has allowed Karen to create unique action plans that achieve results for her clients. Just shy of 10 years with IKEA Canada, she worked as part of the Communications and Interior Design Team. Recently her work with CanGift Toronto as a seminar host, paired with retail consultations, has allowed her to keep in contact with entrepreneurs and retailers from across the country.