Customer experience are the words on every retailer’s lips in 2019. Retail design aficionados Akin Atelier show us what a successful customer experience looks like.
August 30th, 2019
As competition for consumer spending continues to intensify, the emphasis being placed on customer experience is increasing. And there’s possibly no place where this resonates more strongly than the suburban shopping centre. Within this heady environment of bright lights and seemingly limitless opportunity, brands are in danger of being overlooked and that’s not a good thing. However, retailers have been quick to realise they need to offer memorable retail experiences that not only attract customers, but keep them coming back. They understand good design can add value to their business and consequently, the newest Australian retail fit-outs are highly evocative, next-level interiors that exhibit an astute branding awareness.
For Akin Atelier, a detailed approach and uncomplicated philosophy around creating engaging customer experiences has informed all of its retail designs to date for fashion house CAMILLA AND MARC, established in 2003 by siblings, Camilla FreemanTopper and Marc Freeman. The Sydney-based studio’s fit-out for the recently completed Westfield Bondi Junction store is especially significant because it’s a major shopping destination within the fashion designers’ hometown. “Both Camilla and Marc place a lot of importance on understanding and respecting their customer,” says Akin’s director Kelvin Ho, who likewise hails from Sydney. “So it was imperative we deliver a space that reflects a degree of modern sophistication, while also being welcoming.”
Creating an immersive brand experience within a fish bowl-like site may have posed some challenges. But the resulting scheme addresses the exposed nature of the triangular shaped ground-floor tenancy by providing an all-encompassing environment that’s in stark contrast to the shopping centre’s busy thoroughfare. Lush materiality and exquisite craftsmanship characterise the new fit-out, drawing customers in via a change of visual pace, which enables them to directly connect with the brand. A sequence of partitions break down the interior’s expanse, making for a semi-open plan that ensures a sense of intimacy. While the combination of timber herringbone and Palladiana terrazzo tiling (featuring volakas, smeraldo quartz and classic travertine) further denotes the different zones within the store’s front-of-house.
It’s a high-end outcome, although there’s a resounding softness and delicacy to it too. The minimalist colour palette champions a musky green that befits the Bondi setting and the decision to apply the custom Marmorino render to the walls serves to inject the interior with an ambient sense of calm. This floor-to-ceiling finish envelopes the customer, heightening their shopping experience. As Ho explains, “With an established brand like CAMILLA & MARC that has such a strong design sensibility, it was all about creating the best backdrop to elevate the clothing, without overpowering it.”
Despite the cohesiveness of this palette, moments of visual interest also punctuate the space. These pockets of curiosity, including the section of rippled wall that incorporates green smeraldo quartz shelves, are strategically placed to lead the customer through the interior, compelling them to slow down and take everything in. In this respect, the scheme plays on the idea of a rich tapestry that begs closer inspection and perhaps the most curious aspect of the whole fit-out is the highly polished point-of-sale counter and display plinth, both whimsical nods to artist Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture.
It’s a testament to Ho’s meticulous eye that the curved form of these features resonate with the rippled wall, which in turn complements the sensual Nicos Zographos leather seating. Every element has been carefully curated to provide a framework into which a series of fixed and mobile slimline black steel racks are inserted. These allow the clothes to be displayed prominently – behind the counter, around a central column, along the back wall – so they appear to float in mid-air. It’s a considered scheme; perfectly balanced and judiciously edited. Ho and the Akin Atelier team, along with the clients, have ultimately succeeded in implementing a customer experience that’s a clear extension of the brand, making the customer feel special in the process.
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