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WAKE UP! TIME TO BUY!
9 December 2014

WAKE UP! TIME TO BUY!

Sephora's pre-opening message on their new Pitt Street Mall store read:

ENOUGH BEAUTY SLEEP SYDNEY. IT'S TIME TO WAKE UP.

I am sure that message hasn't been lost on Australian retailers. In the space of months international retailers have not only set up shop but are changing the game as they do so. Uniqlo has reinvented basics. Sephora has reinvented beauty.  Zara and H&M have set a new bar for fast fashion. 

Being a designer I tend to look for what it is in their stores that make them look different, better and authoritative. 

Uniqlo have a huge range of colours per item, which they colour block and light the hell out of. There is reassurance that the technical specification of the fabric will get you through a Sydney summer. The familiar Australian faces of Claudia Karvan, Adam Scott and Hoppo from Bondi Rescue are prominent in store. The apparent ease with which they have localised the offer is astonishing.

Zara's stores are deceptively simple. Materials imply quality but fall back into the background. Fixturing is functional but elegant. Unobtrusive lighting is there simply to make the merchandise look great. And their use of mannequins is exceptional. But it's really all about the merchandise.

Sephora have taken beauty from the slightly intimidating domain of the department store and placed it in a fun, highly organised, self service and affordable environment.  

For all of these concepts the game is obviously to drive online shopping habits by creating positive brand experiences in three dimensions.

Far from killing local retailers, it's my belief that international concepts like this will add stimulus to the marketplace and get jaded Australian shoppers out into the streets and malls. What we can do now is create our own uniquely Australian experiences to pick up on this additional traffic, and grab our own share of the resulting online sales. We can use our unique local conditions- high cost of rent, low market size and high minimum wage- to create the parameters that will provide the brief for the design of these experiences.

Like all difficult briefs, it will push our creativity in new and exciting ways- and that's a good thing.

Gary McCartney is the owner of McCartney Design, an integrated design studio with all the skills and experience to help you create new benchmarks in your category.

9 December 2014
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