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How to Use Texture and Finish in Retail Design As the online retailing experience becomes more immersive, brick and mortar retailers can get in touch with customers by employing these smart tips.

While digital display and smart mirrors are eye-catching tools, retailers shouldn’t rely on sight only to make the in-store experience worthwhile. Surface design–from tabletops to shelving to walls themselves–can be the memorable layer that sets your store apart–and sets your sales figures climbing.

To get you started, we’re giving you a guide to putting the finishing touch on your store design.


Play Up Your Store’s Personality

You wouldn’t put a shag rug in your grandmother’s basement, or outfit a baby’s room with Plexiglas surfaces. By this same logic you wouldn’t use the same surfaces in a sporting goods retailer as you would in a health food store. To keep a store from feeling generic or mismatched, choose finishes and fabrics that communicate your store’s personality. For example, cork, bamboo, and other natural materials reinforce can reinforce a store’s earth-centric values, while baseball-glove leather and bright plastics get shoppers’ heads in the game.

warm patina metal_surface design

Remember the Time

For every season, there’s a surface. Switching out floor coverings, changing materials, or adding or removing tablecloths, are great ways to put shoppers in the right mood—whether that’s a summer beach party or a holiday party. Starting in the fall, you can rely on warm, inviting textures like wood and patina metals evoke roasting chestnuts and cozy antiques. And when it’s time to swimsuit shop, move towards shiny surfaces that imitate water and even touches of sand.


Set the Stage

But merchandise and surface don’t always need to match to make for a standout display. Rather, take a cue from the theater world and use surface as a point of contrast. To make high-tech products shine, merchants should consider soft, organic materials. Retail brand strategist Joan Insel points out that, “You can’t feel rich textural surfaces on a screen, so retail stores are moving away from crisp, clean and chemical, offering up the tactile with designs that might include fleecy sheepskin seating, rustic patterned flooring and open industrial ceilings.”

stone-texture_surface design

It’s All in the Details

The tactile quality of surface design gives retailers a great opportunity to make a lasting impact on customers. Ever notice how the feeling of a certain sweater can instantly bring back a memory or transform your entire mood? Touch is a powerful sensation—so retailers should think carefully about the message they want to communicate to shoppers. When waiting at checkout, will the countertop be timeworn stone or frosted glass? Will the wallpaper transport them to a 19th century boudoir or get them dreaming of outer space? It’s your chance to decide!

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