The Well-Being of Retail

We must recognize technology as a communication tool in retail environments
Posted January 21, 2016

If you hold a mirror to the face of retail, the reflected image would be us. As our society and cultures evolve, retail is always quick to respond. Visual merchandising and retail design are bookmarks of our times, and as such, the effective retail designer must have their finger on the pulse of our society and the rhythm of our culture. 

While it may seem technology rules the day, it’s merely a tool to help us realize the things we really want, and on top of that list of wants, needs and desires is a sense of well-being. While trends may come and go, well-being is not merely the inclination of the moment, but has instead become a way of life for today’s enlightened consumer. 

As the relentless march of technology pushes the reach of the digital world into our physical environments with enhanced levels of connectivity through social media platforms, search engines and an infinite number of photos captured and shared every second of the day -- technology is supporting, and in fact, fueling our desire for heightened levels of well-being.

Retail design, and any design endeavor for that matter, must take its cues from our surrounding environment: from art, music, current events, fashion, and of course, the latest and greatest technologies. And it must be noted that advancements in technology and product innovation have also given us new materials and enhanced building techniques. With this in mind, today’s designers are better equipped to respond to lifestyle choices such as an increased desire for well-being.

A sense of well-being revolves around a secure and comfortable physical space, healthy sources of sustenance, embellishment of body and soul and a vibrant and energetic lifestyle.

Even as spectral digital images and information feeds engage our physical realities, designers must continue to create positive and uplifting consumer experiences within processed retail environments. Today there is a fine line between digital and physical realities. By recognizing technology and the information highway as tools of communication and ultimately engagement, retail spaces can be designed for human consumption and human interaction at the human scale. Through textural experiences, surface treatments, appropriate color palettes and the integration of art, designers can create environments that support consumer yearnings for a sense of well-being that transcends all ages and socioeconomic demographics.

Eric Feigenbaum is a recognized leader in the visual merchandising and store design industries with both domestic and international design experience.  He served as corporate director of visual merchandising for Stern’s Department Store, a division of Federated Department Stores, from 1986 to 1995. After Stern’s, he assumed the position of director of visual merchandising for WalkerGroup/CNI, an architectural design firm in New York City. Feigenbaum was also an adjunct professor of Store Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and formerly served as the chair of the Visual Merchandising Department at LIM College (New York) from 2000 to 2015. In addition to being the Editorial Advisor/New York Editor of VMSD magazine, Eric is also a founding member of PAVE (A Partnership for Planning and Visual Education). Currently, he is also president and director of creative services for his own retail design company, Embrace Design.