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Interview of the week: Mark Gascoigne - on the retail revolution

Mark Gascoigne

Mark Gascoigne trumped this year’s 2010 RED (Retail Design) Awards winning 8 of the 18 categories. How has he cornered this neck of the design woods so neatly? We gave him six of the best.

Who the heck are you?

I’m an architect with Gascoigne Associates. I mainly do interiors, mainly retail – because it’s an opportunity to do something creative, beyond what’s been done before. I do retail chains, lots of malls, reimaging of superstores like the Warehouse. Last week I signed up Whitcoulls and Borders. I’m also doing lots of stuff in Australia for Rodd & Gunn and a huge new, completely different, over-the-top store for Glassons in Newmarket. I helped roll out the Telecom stores with the controversial sparkler imagery – lots more. 

What inspires you?

I really like seeing things that people do really well, whether they’re musicians, great writers, whatever – and really good design. I like things that are strong and interesting and work well within their context. I’m a big fan of Apple products – they’re so nicely designed and they work well for the end users.  

Photo: Stephen Goodenough, stephen@stephengoodenough.co.nz

What makes your work stand apart?

We manage to do something unique that really targets a particular customer. People see it and think – ‘I can relate to that’. It’s about having a nice, clear statement rather than making it complicated or talking down to customers. 

Essential retail ingredients?

The right product, the right price, the right people, the right premises and the right promotion. Everything must align and be consistent. It must be part of the same story. If it’s out of line, people don’t feel confident being there and they’ll leave.  

Photo: Emily Andrews, emily@emilyandrewsphoto.com

Which retail interiors should be bombed?

One of my hobby horses is people who think they know retail and they don’t. Banks, car dealers and travel agents are the worst. Often designers put offices in there and expect people to walk in and give them their business when they’re not really retail spaces at all. Some designers make so many mistakes. You can’t expect people to stand in queues with a person at the back of the building hidden behind a metal screen. Many people don’t get it right and it annoys me.  

What's the future of retail design then, smarty pants?

Superstores are the way of the future. Also small, specialist stores that have a strong, clear message. We’re doing lots of superstores that are really exciting. People know they can buy the cheapest books from Amazon so you need to design bookshops that give them an experience. It’s the same with food stores… you’ve got to make them amazing. Overseas, people go to a shop and come away having had a great experience. The Apple stores are incredibly successful. People shop for entertainment – shops can’t be boring. Despite the recession, people are spending more wisely now; they’re more selective so you have to personalise spaces to make them enjoyable. The best thing about retail is you get an instant measure of success – the till rings if you’ve done well!  

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