When I say retail you think of shops, right?

When I think retail I see more than shopping – I see customers.

This week we feature the Australian College of Massage (ACM) as one of our newest design projects. Their new premises in South Melbourne certainly don’t look like a shop – but in our minds they are retailers. We say that if your business services customers in a built environment you are in retailing. This simple philosophy has allowed us to apply retail design principles to a range of traditionally non-retail clients and explain to them the importance of designing the customer experience.

The ACM customer is a person being trained in massage and natural therapies so we knew something about their values and attitudes. When they enter the ACM offices they start to see a difference from their first view of it. The interior design is warm and inviting with lots of natural light and materials like timber which are calming and attractive.

We used strong graphics throughout the space based on the human anatomy charts that educate the students daily. By using the human shapes and forms for aesthetic appeal, while providing an educational overlay through the use of colour (which highlights certain trigger points and muscle patterns) these graphics became educational art pieces.

The brand is expressed through the logo and environmental graphics but carries through to uniforms and stationery – and it is all in synch with the look and feel of the space.

This is not just an educational facility, it’s an inspiring place of learning in which the customers (read trainees) learn more than massage skills. They pick up the idea of holistic design in the same way as they learn about holistic health. That’s what retail is all about – not just designing a place to shop – but designing a customer experience.

I am happy to report that retail design principles have helped us design customer experiences for many non-retail clients such as government departments, clinics and medical centres, pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes – even railway stations and airports.

I like to think it is a new school of thought in retail design – after all it’s more about customers than concrete and more about experiences than shopping.

What do you think?