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    The Design Advantage: A Differentiation

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    , Director of the Dehi-based Shark Design Studio, tells how retailers are leaving no stone unturned to create unique shop-fittings that can stand apart in the market and how Indian designs are slowly getting closer to the global standards.

    Q. Retailers in India are increasingly opting for the services of professional shop-fitters. What is your experience on this trend?

    The overall retail industry is evolving, so are the ancillary industries around retail to support the retail infrastructure. The clients are now ensuring that they get professional shop-fitting companies in procuring the best of fixtures and furniture for their stores. Retailers look at a couple of things before hiring the services of professional shop-fitters. First, the quality of furniture and fixtures which the vendor is providing. Second, the scale at which the vendor will be able to support the brand. In India especially, the brands are growing in terms of the retail footprint. For instance, brands such as Puma, , and Diesel will look at companies which have that reach, the supply of fixtures and the speed at which they can put up these because all these companies are growing exponentially in India. These are typically the things that they look for in a shop-fitting company.

    Q. What business model do you follow? Where  are your production facilities located? How many units do you produce monthly/ annually?

    The Shark Design Studio is largely known for its design and manufacturing qualities. We have two verticals. One is where we provide complete design services to various brands as far as the retail store and environment are concerned. We also have a manufacturing set up where we manufacture complete fixtures and furniture for various national and international brands and help them to set up stores in the country.

    We have put up 1 lakh sq.ft. of infrastructure in Greater Noida, including a world-class manufacturing facility to make furniture out of hard wood, panel wood, metal, etc. On a broad estimation, we produce fixtures worth 40,000 to 50,000 sq.ft. every month.

    Q. How can a carefully crafted shop-fit enhance shopping experience and increase sales?

    Shop-fitting plays a very important part in terms of a brand’s retail presence. A fixture or furniture is where the product is actually put up for the consumer to experience, look and feel. I would say it’s not just fixtures and furniture but the overall design of the store that helps brands create a distinct differentiation for themselves and provide a very unique display of their products.

    The fixtures and furniture for a particular brand are created keeping in mind how the products are displayed, what will look best over there, what kind of information is given to the customer and many such factors. It’s an integral part of a retail brand to have intelligent fixtures and furniture in the store.

    Q. What are the challenges that shop-fitters face in India?

    We face day-to-day challenges in terms of rolling out of projects. Sometimes the forecast given by clients, on which we work, are not accurate. We would produce fixture and furniture which don’t get utilised for a longer period of time. Sometime we have to stop production for a particular brand due to uncertainty in terms of the forecast. Apart from this, I don’t think there are any major constraints that we face in our regular operations.

    Q. How do you work with your clients when it comes to developing a design concept?

    We try to understand the brand ethos and features, and based on whatever feedback we get from the client, we create a concept for them and then mutually arrive at a design which would solve all the objectives of a particular retailer. Definitely, our clients give a lot of inputs to reach a design which is apt for the brand. Also, shop-fitting is very different for different kinds of retail categories. For instance, the design of a food and grocery format will be totally different from that of the apparel and fashion format.

    Q. What are the new trends that you are seeing in terms of shop-fitting?

    I think the brands are cautious about the way they are getting represented among the consumers. They are putting money behind the retail store’s look and feel. They have realised from their experience that a good retail design can definitely differentiate them from other competitors. Though you might see some similar traits in terms of certain components that the brands are using, by and large they try to be as different as possible when it comes to the design of the store. The retailers have become very serious when it comes to the designing of their store. This was not the case until a few years back. That’s a very interesting trend which we are seeing. There is a huge competition among retail stores when it comes to being different and standing apart.

    Also, the growth that we have seen in the retail industry in the past five years directly commensurates with not just the growth in retail design but also areas like shop-fitting. As far as design is concerned, clients are willing to spend that extra money to create special store designs. The way things are going, Indian retail design will surely be at par with the global counterparts in the next five years.

    Moreover, Indian design companies are getting a lot to learn from the international retailers which are opening their stores in India. The global shop-fitting trends are being replicated and re-invented for the Indian market. We, for instance, work with many international brands like Diesel, , S Oliver, Steve Madden, and Aldo, and learn a lot about how they have evolved their design concept over a period of time.

    All these global brands have global design standards and we try to help them create the same design here in India when they are opening new stores. We have been able to match the quality, details and finish of the fixtures that they probably produce in Europe or the US. These experiences in turn help us a lot to communicate better for the design projects that we work for, especially for the Indian brands.

    *This interview was originally published in May-June 2012 issue of IndiaShop.