State of Retail: 4 Retail Design Trends for 2024

IndependentsJun 10, 2024

State of Retail: 4 Retail Design Trends for 2024

From lighter color palettes to the integration of AR, experts offer inspiration for jewelers in need of an aesthetic refresh.

Swarovski New York City flagship
Swarovksi's new flagship on New York City's Fifth Avenue. In her State of the Majors story, Associate Editor Lenore Fedow highlights Swarovski and other retailers that showcase the latest retail design trends.
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the print edition of the 2024 State of the Majors. Click here to see the full issue.

When designing a jewelry store, retailers are faced with the difficult task of meshing aspirational luxury with a warm, welcoming vibe.

From the fixtures to the lighting, all the elements have to meld together to create an eye-catching environment worthy of the beautiful jewels in stock.

It’s a delicate balancing act. Knowing what to incorporate into the design, whether it’s a complete remodel or a light refresh, can be a challenge.

Light & Bright
Lighting is important for any retailer. For a jeweler, it’s critical, particularly when selling diamonds.

When Kimberly Adams Russell, CEO of Frank Adams Jewelers in Colonie, New York, was designing her new flagship store, having the right lighting was at the top of her list of design needs. (Russell was president at the time of the interview.)

Beyond the light fixtures, it was important for the color palette of the store not to distract from the diamonds.

The previous Frank Adams store, located in the Stuyvesant Plaza strip mall in Albany, New York, was outfitted in a rich cherry wood, which, although aesthetically pleasing, posed a problem down the line.

“Cherry wood is lovely when you first do it and it’s got that beautiful color. But fast-forward almost 30 years later, it takes on an orange color tone. And as beautiful as that is, it really did not serve us well for the jewelry area,” she says.

“We didn’t have a lot of natural light in our other location. So, we were challenged all the time with lighting as how to not have the jewelry look orange, especially the diamonds. Everything always had kind of a brownish hue or a warm tone.”

Russell learned her lesson and this time around, she set up the diamond area in a section of the store that gets plenty of natural light.

She also took lighting into account when making her interior design choices.

“We were very intentional about the color,” Russell says, opting for whites and pale grays for the walls and flooring so they don’t distract from showing and selling diamonds.

“We did this wallpaper in a material that looks like cowhide with a white stone quartzite on all of the cases on the top so we would be showing our diamonds and our diamond jewelry on this white quartzite.”

Grand Seiko Madison Avenue Boutique
The design of Grand Seiko’s new boutique on New York City’s Madison Avenue is meant to evoke an elegant and contemporary feel.

Earlier this year, Seiko Watch Corp. opened its largest Grand Seiko boutique in the world on New York City’s Madison Avenue, utilizing a similar “light and bright” color palette.

The two-story, 6,200-square-foot store is “elegant and contemporary,” said the company, with bright, white walls and light-colored wood accents.

The light wood showcases were an intentional choice, made to show the same “commitment to craftsmanship, precision, and distinctive Japanese quality” as its timepieces.

The store has a muted-beige seating area complemented by gray chairs that emanates the same cozy vibe as the new Frank Adams Jewelers.

“Every corner and detail of the boutique has been meticulously considered to create a unique and inviting atmosphere to explore the world of Grand Seiko,” said the company.

Shoppers will be greeted by a similar color palette and feel at other new jewelry stores.

Brilliant Earth has been expanding its store network in recent years, also bringing a “bright and spacious” feel to its new showrooms where lighter-colored woods mingle with white-colored walls and jewelry displays.

Lugano Diamonds salon on Greenwich Avenue in Connecticut
Lugano Diamonds’ salon on Greenwich Avenue in Connecticut

Visitors to Lugano Diamonds’ salon on Greenwich Avenue in Connecticut, its recently opened seventh location, will find the same light, bright atmosphere.

Michelle Sherrier, founder of consultant group MC Design Collaboration, has noticed the “very clean” look trending in retail.

“It’s a little bit more minimal and the product shines a bit more,” she says.

“Everything’s gone through such a dark period that everyone’s kind of peeling back all that. There is something so refreshing about walking into some of these cleaner stores that have peeled a lot away.”

Nicole Leinbach, retail expert and founder of Retail Minded, has also seen this color palette popping up.

“I do tend to think light and bright is a popular retail footprint because it allows for re-merchandising and allows for layers to be introduced to it,” she says.

“You can do light and bright, but then you can also update it so easily with displays or seasonal changes.”

Swarovski New York City flagship store
Swarovski opened its colorful new flagship store in New York City in December.

Terry Monday, chief of strategy at visual communications company The Imagine Group, also likes to turn to color for easy changes to a store’s look, particularly for retailers leaning more toward a refresh than a remodel.

“When I think about independent retailers, I would start with color. I would think about the color palette that is around them,” says Monday.

“And I would think about, does it highlight the products that are in their cases? How are they promoting the product? How can they use color to make their products the hero?”

“[Color is] the easiest place to start. And the barrier to entry for smaller jewelers is really minimal."— Terry Monday, The Imagine Group

Not all retailers are going to have the same answers to these questions, nor should they all go with a white-gray-beige palette for their stores.

Swarovski, for example, has taken a different approach to color, moving away from the neutrals trend to bright, bold, monochromatic hues, but the end result has the same effect.

“They do that in a way that pulls product forward and allows product to stand against the color. That’s what makes it so interesting; it kind of pulls you into it,” says Monday.

Notably, Swarovski’s new New York City flagship, dubbed “Swarovski on Fifth,” went all-white for its second-floor space showcasing its lab-grown diamond collection, Swarovski Created Diamonds.

“[Color is] the easiest place to start. And the barrier to entry for smaller jewelers is really minimal because if you don’t want it, if you don’t like what the message is, you can easily change it. It’s nothing permanent. It’s not a lot of money,” she says.

As for the lighting component of “light and bright,” the capabilities are more enhanced than the stores of yesteryear.

“We’re seeing great lighting strategies being introduced into merchant spaces. Jewelry, in particular, benefits from that,” says Leinbach.

When lighting up a showcase, designer Sherrier has an easy, cost-effective trick.

“I always love dropping pendant lights above them,” she says. “It’s an easy thing to do and it drops the light. Stores that have big budgets can do case lines that are lit from the inside. But for a lot of smaller retailers, that’s a costly investment, and if you can drop a pendant light above it, you’ll really light it up.

“It also does a second service—it draws attention to that table in particular.”

Experiential retail has been trending in recent years, but “shopper-tainment” takes the concept to the next level.

The strategy, as the name suggests, is to blend shopping and entertainment, with the goal of engaging customers in physical stores.

More retailers have been keeping this trend in mind when designing their stores, intentionally incorporating spots into their layouts where customers can interact with their products.

“What we’re seeing is that all retailers are reformulating and looking at what their market is telling them. The client intersection point happens at the store level because the store is no longer just [a place] to go and browse. The store is [a place] to go and visit and have an experience,” says Monday.

Frank Adams Jewelers interior
A Tudor display in Frank Adams' new store in Colonie, New York

For the luxury industry in particular, Leinbach says engagement, in many cases, is limited due to the higher price points. Customers must ask for assistance in order to engage with the product.

“What we’re seeing now is shopper-tainment offers experiences that allow the customer to get engaged with or without sales associate interaction,” she says.

While jewelry retailers do have to keep security (and insurance policies) in mind, there are ways to engage customers that don’t involve asking an associate for help or customers having direct access to high-end items.

Leather goods brand Coach partnered with augmented reality (AR) fashion try-on company Zero10 at its SoHo store in New York last spring, installing AR mirrors to allow customers to virtually try on its new “Tabby” bag collection. 

Coach continued the partnership through the holiday season to create interactive AR window displays.

“Luxury is finally welcoming [shopper-tainment] into their space because, historically, they were a bit removed from those opportunities, but you’re starting to see more of it,” Leinbach says.

“You can do that as a jeweler, a luxury jeweler, any jeweler. You can incorporate this into your space. You just have to identify what makes sense and how to do it.”

"Create moments of pause that give your customers a reason to want to be a part of your store."— Nicole Leinbach, Retail Minded

In 2022, Signet Jewelers-owned chain Banter, formerly Piercing Pagoda, partnered with digital fashion platform DressX on a limitedtime “phygital” jewelry collection, available to try on through the DressX app.

While trying on styles, shoppers could take pictures or videos of their looks to share on social media for free.

Shoppers could then purchase the jewelry digitally and add it to their avatar’s virtual closet and/or buy select jewels from Banter in their physical form.

While this was a mobile experience, a QR code on signage could bring a similar experience into stores.

In its “2024 Design Forecast,” architecture and design firm Gensler highlighted the importance of melding the physical in-store experience with the digital world.

“Blending, not bifurcation, is the formula for consumer engagement. Experiences are no longer ‘either/or;’ they are ‘and.’ Today, brands must strike a balance and find the right blend to meet consumer needs and create relevance for physical space, [while] also recognizing where other channels can fill gaps,” the report states. As the experiences blur together, finding that intersection is even more important, said Gensler, particularly when trying to grab consumers’ attention.

“Brands are investing in digital experiences that are additive in a meaningful way—introducing ease, streamlining processes, or creating connection,” according to the report.

“In many cases, a consumer’s own device is the best way to generate engagement, providing the choice to have a digitally augmented or totally analog experience.”

When thinking about customer engagement, retail expert Leinbach recalls a recent visit to Louis Vuitton on New York City’s Fifth Avenue where she encountered what she calls “moments of pause,” or opportunities to engage with products.

That can be accomplished with something as simple as having a selfie station in the store.

“You want to make sure you’re engaging your customer through inviting experiences. Get them to stop, don’t keep them moving,” she says. “You don’t want to keep their feet moving too long because that means they’re walking around your store so fast that they leave [because] nothing motivates them to want to stop and get engaged,” she says.

When thinking of interior store design, “create moments of pause that give your customers a reason to want to be a part of your store,” she says.

Retailers know the importance of flexibility but as an interior retail design trend, the concept takes the literal form.

The Imagine Company highlighted “Flexible and Structural” as a trend in its “2024 In-Store Marketing and Retail Design Trends” report.

From showcases to product displays, this trend is about movement and adaptability.

“This trend is about taking the structural elements your locations need anyway and making them multifunctional and much more fashionable, incorporating them into your design vision for a more immersive brand experience,” the report states.

Flexibility can be taken literally, like displays that easily can be moved around, or it can mean having one area serve several purposes, like a counter that doubles as a BOPIS (Buy Online Pick Up In Store) spot.

Having mobile elements within the store can also make for an easier layout change.

“Everybody is trying to recalculate and reconfigure their store regardless of which entry point they are [at], whether they’re a value retailer all the way up toluxury,” says Monday, The Imagine Company executive.

“The adaptability of a store is really about how a store can reconfigure so the shopping pathway can be different, so it’s not always walk in and just see cases.”

Retailers may want to move cases around now and then, like closer to a light source or to group together certain styles.

“[Retailers] want to be thinking about how that adaptability can surround the shopper so that it becomes more experiential.”

When looking at store layouts, it’s important to think about the client experience, says Monday.

"In retail, [space is] real estate and your real estate is dollars."— Michelle Sherrier, MC Design Collaboration

Russell, of Frank Adams Jewelers, was mindful of store layouts while she was doing design research for her new store. That research included visiting other stores to observe where customers headed first after they entered the store.

“[It] was helpful for me really [to understand] the flow of traffic, the way that people walked in the door, which direction they went,” she says.

She noticed most customers went to the right when they walked in, a helpful pointer for merchandising. She also noted how welcoming some stores felt when she first walked in.

For designer Sherrier, the flexibility trend can be a double-edged sword.

She recalls working with a crystals retailer that had set aside a space for readings. Though it was a fun idea, it ended up costing the store sales.

“In retail, that’s your real estate and your real estate is dollars. Flexible spaces are great, but I think what happens is, it absorbs a lot of your profit because it’s the space that doesn’t have a lot of products in it because it’s going to be constantly [transforming],” she says.

She loves the concept, she says, but it’s a trend perhaps better saved for stores with a large space and not enough product to fill it.

Out-Of-The-Box Inspiration
When brainstorming a new store design, jewelers would do well to look beyond the industry and consider what others in the luxury space are doing.

For Russell of Frank Adams Jewelers, she found a happy medium during her store design process, consulting her fellow jewelers while ultimately opting for a home interior designer to craft the look of her new store.

Frank Adams Jewelers interior
Kimberly Adams Russell of Frank Adams Jewelers was mindful of good lighting when designing her new store. (Image credit: Patrick Renzi)

The designer she chose was a local hire who had no retail or jewelry experience—which, she notes, was contrary to the advice she had been given—but aligned with her goal of creating a comfortable, homey space.

“I kind of went out on a limb with my interior designer and, for the most part, that really worked out. I had an image in my head of exactly how I wanted it to feel,” she says.

Russell visited several jewelry stores, mainly in the Northeast, and researched stores that carry similar watch and jewelry brands, like Rolex, Kwiat, David Yurman, and Longines.

While her aesthetic centered on homey vibes, she looked to other jewelers for the more practical elements of the design process, like security.

“It was helpful not only in learning how the showcases worked, [including] the heights of them, [but also] the lock systems, and things like that.”

“The aesthetic part for me … was fun and exciting and something that I sort of did on my own, but the parts about the security and the lighting and the detail-oriented [things], all of the actual architectural structure, was helpful for me to learn from others.”

 Related stories will be right here … 

For Monday, when she thinks about jewelry retailing, she sees similarities to the cosmetics industry.

“I would say that jewelry can learn a lot from cosmetics,” she says, noting that both face the task of highlighting small products.

“If you think about jewelry, the pieces are not big, so you can’t dwarf the pieces. So, it’s about scale and it’s about the light and the color that plays with the jewelry.”

For Sherrier, her inspiration comes from both old-school and newschool methods.

“As pedestrian as Pinterest is, if you really go down the rabbit hole and start using different keywords, there is some amazing inspiration in there,” she says.

Print magazines, however, are her go-to source.

“Digital’s great and Pinterest is great, but if I’m doing store openings or redoing the showrooms, I’ll sit there and start to pull ideas off [the pages], where I can see it all in one sight versus having to go back and forth on digital or create digital spreadsheets.

“It’s just a lot easier for me to pull tears. I’m oldschool though,” she says.

Another great source for retailers is other retailers, she says.

Sherrier is the host of a retail-focused podcast called “The Retail Whore” and invites retailers on as her guests to share their successes and challenges.

“Retail, in general, is very lonely. They are in their stores day in, day out,” she says. “No one wants to talk about what works because it’s so competitive, but [the podcast] has become very much a space where retailers are really learning from other retailers.”

For Leinbach, inspiration can, and should, be found anywhere.

She suggests retailers check out a local spa or favorite restaurant and make note of what they do and don’t like about the design, flow, and layout, much like Russell did when coming up with the concept for the new Frank Adams Jewelers.

“What are they doing right that keeps you consumed as a consumer? And then try to mimic that in your own space because we are constantly able to learn from other industries within retail and customer care,” Leinbach says.

“And I think that can really open up creative ideas for retailers to bring back to their business.”

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