Retail Architects Say Better-Looking Stores Mean Profits

Date: 27 December 2006

Date: 27 December 2006

Edward A. Shriver Jr., a Pittsburgh architect who works in retail store design, encourages architects and retail owners alike to "think outside the box," light years away from the designs that have dominated American retail architecture in recent decades.

The words "new shopping center" typically bring to mind boring huge white boxes constructed in a sea of asphalt. He says there is a growing interest in more interactive spaces and in urban settings, where even results-driven merchants can see that better store design - inside and out - can contribute to better sales.

It's not just funky computer retailer Apple's experiments with a clear glass store on New York's Fifth Avenue that signal change. Even Wal-Mart, which has been dogged by groups trying to block out its mammoth boxes, has begun trying to tailor store architecture to particular neighborhoods.

"Better things are coming," said Russell Sway, an Atlanta architect who serves as international chairman for the Institute of Store Planners.

Retail and commercial space accounts for about 10 percent of revenue reported by firms in the American Institute of Architects, making it the fourth-largest category behind educational facilities, office buildings and health-care sites.

That's not to say it's by any means among the sexiest or most lucrative work architects pursue. Fees don't come close to those paid by major developers looking for signature office buildings. While the field can be addictive with the constant challenge of keeping stores fresh, architects generally strive for something more than an assignment to adapt the same, square box to different terrains.

Still, retail architects wouldn't mind getting a bit more respect from their peers, and with a growing number of chains starting to come to the conclusion that design matters, they may soon get it.

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600450 Retail Architects Say Better-Looking Stores Mean Profits

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