Mason Studio develops a case study for more resilient retail services post-COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted consumer behaviour and retail operations, many small businesses had to adapt to the new reality quickly. Although numerous retail processes can be reinvented in a virtual environment, several shops rely on in-person interaction, physical product demonstration, or the sale and purchase of goods and services to customers in a physical setting.

As a result, Mason Studio developed a series of case studies that reimagines how retail spaces can be designed to facilitate a more resilient customer service model.

Each exercise redefines the business model to provide an alternative product delivery system and customer experience. The approach leverages design and architecture to optimize a retail business’s ability to be flexible, provides several service options that cater to shopper preferences, and offers a more convenient, safe, and enjoyable customer experience than some of the current pandemic “quick fixes”.

Rendering courtesy of Mason Studio

Conceived as a corner shop in an urban community, Mason Studio’s brick-and-mortar retail environment would comprise an exterior, semi-outdoor contactless corridor with inviting shoppable window displays and infrastructure to purchase and order goods. Shoppers can see through the windows to the interior workshop space where staff are fulfilling orders and stocking the window displays. Here, shoppers have four options to purchase goods:

In-store: a customer shops the window display, selecting items to purchase. Selected items are then gathered from the separate fulfillment area and placed in the on-site lockers by the staff for the customer to access immediately.
In-store, home delivery: a customer can experience the goods in the store environment and have the items delivered to their home within a specific time frame.
Online, in-store pick-up: purchases are ordered online, and then the customer goes to the shop to pick up their goods through the locker system
Online, home delivery: for a completely at home experience, for those that can’t get out or do not wish to do so, purchases are made online and delivered directly to the customer at their residence.

Rendering courtesy of Mason Studio

All purchases are cashless and contactless, with no physical interaction between staff and customers. Each window has a collection of goods curated by the shop for specific purchasers in mind. This could be based on different lifestyles, seasonality, or price points. The idea is to give businesses flexibility to curate their offerings with a design that allows them to easily shift and adapt.

Design features like the intricate mosaic floor motif of local flora and fauna provide a traditional element intended to feel more intimate. The pattern also incorporates subtle physical separation guides for a more integrated design approach.

Rendering courtesy of Mason Studio

The mobile retail concept design — envisioned for a barber & tailor shop — centres around prefabricated vehicles, enabling retailers to maintain a footprint small enough to be parked on a typical urban/suburban street, parking lot, or within a loading dock of a larger building, while reducing overhead costs — without sacrificing sales and branding.

Taking advantage of its mobile nature, the design of Mason Studio’s concept considers best practices of retail design. By incorporating integrated product display, branding, and elements such as translucent façades and windows for natural lighting, the mobile service environment delivers customer experience while meeting the business owners’ needs.

Each vehicle can be custom designed and fitted-out to suit any unique independent service model. Businesses can maintain their unique aesthetics while on-the-go, enabling retailers to take their products and services into an aesthetically pleasing mobile offering to reach their customers better. Accompanied by location/booking technology to connect with customers, this mobile concept aims to help retailers reach more customers and do so in a safer, more flexible environment.

With a translucent facade that provides ample natural lighting, visibility, and product display, this is not your average mobile fit-out. Clients enter into a linear, salon setting featuring highly durable finishes, like monolithic flooring, cabinetry, and countertops. A hint of brush brass metal accents adds a sense of occasion to standard salon lighting.

Rendering courtesy of Mason Studio

Expansive mirrors with forward-facing vanity lighting make for beautifully illuminated treatment areas with rotating chairs. Window merchandising displays provide product visibility to the exterior, while wall-to-wall cabinetry with integrated sinks and ample under-counter storage offers a functional yet welcoming space.

In this iteration, Mason’s mobile concept has been envisioned as a boutique tailor shop, demonstrating how the prefabricated vehicle can be altered to suit a specific service, product and brand expression.

Rendering courtesy of Mason Studio

Suspended merchandise racks display garments, utilizing the modular glass façade. When stepping inside the tailor shop, customers are greeted with curved wood paneling with integrated lighting, creating rhythm and cohesion throughout the interior environment. The repetition of this finish creates a delineation of the functional spatial areas including an on-site sewing stations and a fitting area. Able to function with public and private spaces, the mobile tailor shop meets both the customer and the retailer’s needs.

In a Q&A interview by Ashley Rumsey, Mason Studio’s Founding Partner, Rumsey discusses the future for small businesses and Mason Studio’s new retail space visions.

Q: Why was Mason Studio so compelled to create this exploratory new concept to help retailers and small businesses?

A: Fundamentally, we believe design is a tool to enrich experiences and improve wellbeing. We consider how interior design goes beyond the surface to create better systems for the home, for work, for recreation and socialization.

We recognize that retail business not only bring necessary goods and services to the public, they also support a sense of community identity and personal care. As the pandemic unfolds around the world and we see businesses struggling to adapt, we recognize the opportunity for design to help solve some of these challenges to so that both businesses and communities can benefit from their success.

Q: In what ways does Mason Studio see design as playing a pivotal part in helping businesses better reach and satisfy their customers?

A: Design has a role to play in every touch point, experience, and communication with customers. Each aspect of the business needs to be considered; from a brick-and-mortar store, to their online presence, transactional platforms, and delivery system. Design plays a role in all of these functions simultaneously.

The physical manifestations, such as signage, circulation, lighting and merchandising need to be designed to respond to changing safety concerns and customer needs. Of equal emphasis is the design of the business operations and customer experience; how goods and services are produced, marketed, displayed, shopped, and delivered to customers.

Q: How will the pandemic change our typical retail environments in the long term?

A: The retail landscape has been undergoing radical change for some time and the current pandemic is just another catalyst that has introduced more momentum to continual change. We have seen a convergence of programming across all platforms. For instance, our homes are now our offices, hotels now based in our residences, and restaurants are performing like retail stores. In the retail landscape specifically, we will continue to see this blending extend to goods and services. Retailers traditionally focused on selling goods may also expand to deliver services to add value to their brands.

Additionally, consumer needs will continue to become decentralized forcing goods and services to find their way to customers, rather than relying on customers travelling to fixed retail spaces. As a response to this, we will continue to see more temporary, mobile, transformative and collaborative physical installations to make products and services more accessible to customers.

Q: How does Mason studio see this concept as helping retailers to be more resilient beyond the current pandemic?

A: Our case studies considered the direct issues we are facing with the current COVID-19 crisis, such as physical distancing and touching of communal surfaces etc. However, we also explored additional factors that could cause other implications, and how our design interventions could allow for businesses be more resilient through these challenges be it climate change, economic or societal shifts. The pace of change, regardless of the pandemic, is so rapid that businesses need to continually look to design for flexibility and innovation in their built environments, operational and experiential systems.