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Retail Architecture

Tim Hortons Legacy Ridge

Legacy Ridge Tim Hortons - Lethbridge

Cochrane Grande Plaza.jpg

Grande Plaza - Cochrane

heritage station.jpg

Heritage Blvd. West - Lethbridge


KFC - Various Locations

Why is Retail Architecture Important?

Retail architecture has never been as important as it is today. With an increase in the convenience of online shopping, fueled further by the Covid-19 pandemic, competition against brick and mortar retail stores is more intense than ever. As a result, retail store architecture has shifted beyond designs simply based on convenience and efficiency, to designs based on retail appeal and environment, making shopping an enjoyable experience. An enjoyable retail experience leads to repeat customers, and repeat customers can be the make or break for many businesses that depend on the local community.

Online retail stores have become so advanced that they use artificial intelligence to target a consumer and tailor their online shopping experience based on their web history. All this is done in order to make the most likely scenario for a sale. 

With such resources invested online, retail stores require the same attention to detail in the design aspects of a retail store.

Retail Store Design

Retail stores still offer many things online shopping cannot offer:

  • The in-store experience 

  • Shopping assistance

  • Touching or inspecting a product before purchasing

  • Testing a product or getting a demonstration

  • Choosing ‘the best of the bunch’

  • The ‘instant gratification’ effect

  • Ease of return

  • No delivery time

  • Exposure to a vast array of products in plain sight


Considering these benefits, there will always be a place for storefronts and retail outlets.  However, their architectural design is of utmost importance to ensure these benefits are maintained.

retail store exterior design

Retail Building Design

Retail stores have gone beyond the old concept of spaces with shelves and rails. To make shopping an experience, modern retail design employs both the store building design in addition to interior design of the retail unit. These days, interior design can be dictated by various factors. These can be due to design aspects that the owner wishes to incorporate, design templates or standards, such as those required by a brand e.g. a franchise, or a theme for a business based around it’s products or image.

Retail Psychology

Modern retail architecture incorporates psychological factors in interior design, many of which are derived from online shopping. An example of this is how less stock on shelves tends to encourage consumers to purchase. It has a similar effect to the ‘limited stock’ on internet sales sites. Spacious designs and long flowing aisles promote browsing and increase the time spent in-store. This is comparable to the online methods of showing the site visitor ‘similar products’ or ‘related products’. A common theme you can notice in modern designs is minimalist stores, with lesser options for products which helps consumers make decisions instead of being overwhelmed by options.


Colours are one of the most important parts of interior design. Proper use of colours can evoke various emotional responses. In many cases, colours are chosen carefully based on what emotional response you want the customer to experience to compliment your environment. 

Colours may also be used to solidify a brand image in the minds of your customers. Think of many brand names you know. Many of them you can associate with a specific colour or set of colours. This can be further consolidated in-store in the interior design.

Retail outlet exterior

Adequate Space

When it comes to customer flow within the store, it is a documented fact that compact spaces with high consumer flow, are locations customers may accidentally come in contact. Areas like these will be avoided. Simply put, ensuring adequate space for customer crossing is important. 


Food retail spaces have become a more open concept design where kitchen facilities are visible to the clientele. In the past, the kitchen was a separate entity but modern designs incorporate a view of the kitchen giving a feeling of openness, transparency, quality and professionalism. 

Impulse Buys

Low cost products are located near the checkouts, in particular, along the checkout waiting area. These items are more likely to be added to the purchase pile without as much consideration as more expensive items. 


Modern retail stores and shopping malls embrace modern conveniences by implementing technology to facilitate the consumer. Conveniences such as interactive maps of shopping malls, product searches and locations, online reservations, wait time reporting, store pickup facilities and many more. Technological evolution is geared toward convenience for the consumer and gives that competitive edge over retailers who refuse to update.

Department Store & Shopping Mall Architecture

Department store architectural design is a major factor for retail stores. Department stores compete for customers on many levels. The draw of a department store is based on more than just the stores it provides, but the experience it provides. Many department stores now have central spaces with facilities for a show or exhibition such as a stage and lights. They invite local and national performances to draw customers to the location. This also helps the department store play an active role in the community and develop a relationship with them.

Retail store exterior design with drive-through

Department store design takes into account factors less important in individual store design such as parking facilities, links to infrastructure, accessibility, entertainment etc. Modern department stores are designed to be places where you can spend a full day. Ease of navigation helps promote a sense of familiarity and comfort. Department stores have become an outing, a regular destination or a small family trip. By providing as many facilities as possible, it can become a one-stop shop.

No matter what products your retail store provides, you have competitors. Architectural design in your retail store can give you the edge you need to remain a step above the rest. Contact Ian Moxon Architect Inc. and discuss your needs for retail architecture. With decades of experience and a team of dedicated professionals, we have the resources necessary to make you a success.

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