In only its second year, the Retail Design Expo, held March 9-10, proved to visitors and exhibitors alike that there is a strong demand for an event of this caliber in the U.K. The show, which was co-located with Retail Business Technology Expo and Retail Digital Signage Expo, drew more than 15,000 attendees to London’s Olympia Conference Center – an increase of 28 percent from its inaugural year in 2015.
The show was divided into two sections: visual merchandising and retail design. Digital technology was front and center with interactive features displayed in abundance; one exhibitor showcased its artificial intelligence technology in the form of a virtual monkey that was able to hold full conversations with visitors.
Student work was also on display in both pavilions as part of the newly launched Retail Design and VM Student Awards competition. Students from four local colleges worked with U.K.-based retailers including Browns Fashion (London) to design a mobile pop-up store, as well as Topshop (London) to create a multisensory retail experience for Speedo, intended for use at the Olympics. Winners were announced during champagne ceremonies, where students could be seen proudly taking selfies with their submissions.
VMSD Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Acevedo moderated a panel on digital integration with Jeffrey Fisher, Sunglass Hut/Luxottica (Milan); Peter Jeun Ho Tsang, The Dandy Lab (London); and Stuart Taylor, Kinetic (London). The discussion centered on best practices for retailers and designers when adding digital to their arsenal and offered real-world examples of how digital can enhance the customer experience both in and out of the store.