18 July 2018

Designing for the future: retail destinations 2030 and beyond

In March this year, we joined forces with the Architects' Journal to launch a new and exciting architectural competition, asking what retail destinations might look like in 2030 and beyond.

From a broad range of entries, capturing everything from sustainable design, to diversification of use and innovative tech, we shortlisted 12 practices who presented their ideas to an expert judging panel. The six finalists then joined us to take part in a creative charrette session, exploring how their ideas might be brought to life as part of our portfolio.

Jo Francis, Head of Retail Operations for our Regional portfolio, reflects on the competition and how forward-looking designs can shape the retail future.


Jo Francis, Head of Retail Operations for The Crown Estate’s Regional portfolio

Bulky units, large customer car parks, big name brands and fixed-term leases have long-since been the defining features of retail parks across the UK.

But as the first generation of smartphone natives hits the shops - or fails to - both retailers and landlords recognise that they must evolve to keep pace, ensuring that bricks and mortar stores remain a relevant, compelling part of the shopping experience. 

As part of this, we at The Crown Estate are challenging ourselves to look ahead, thinking differently about the expectations of retailers and their shoppers, out to 2030 and beyond. 

This competition, in partnership with the AJ, has been a great opportunity to explore some fantastic ideas from a broad and talented mix of architects, on everything from innovative ways of introducing more green space and sustainable design, to new thinking on how we can build in flexibility and create a greater sense of place.

One thing that is clear from all of the ideas on display is that the future of retail destinations will require both property owners and retailers to work more collaboratively, to do more.

At The Crown Estate, we’re already seeing the benefit of delivering forward-thinking destinations. At Rushden Lakes in Northamptonshire, launched last summer, retail and restaurants sit beside over 200 acres of stunning SSSI wetlands reserve, managed in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts. Here, shopping is just one part of the visitor experience, with outdoor discovery in the form of nature trails, cycling and canoeing, becoming a real visitor attraction.   

As we shape our portfolio for the future, we want to go further, continuing to adapt the offer for shoppers and embrace new trends and technologies. In whittling 60 fantastic entries down to the final shortlist of six, we explored an impressive breath of ideas for mixed use destinations, from taking a more proactive role in logistics, through shared servicing strategies or warehousing, to an expanded role in curating the retail mix, with traditional anchors sitting alongside smaller pop ups or local traders. Through the course of this competition, it has been fascinating to explore how forward-looking design could influence not only the look and build of schemes, but also how we manage our places moving forwards.

Clearly investing in great design and place making will be key and since it’s impossible to predict the future with complete certainty, so is the need to build in a degree of flexibility, enabling these destinations to continue evolving to meet changing expectations over time.  

Retailers are working hard at this too, exploring what more they can do to boost the experience for shoppers by investing in their stores, offering bespoke experiences and embracing new technologies, including a seamless online offer. Across our own assets, we are already seeing retailers experiment with new options, from pop-up stores at new locations, to in-store beauty bars or integrated click & collect pick up points, connecting internet browsing with collections in-store.

As we move forward, we are focused on continuing to work in close partnership with our retailers, our local communities and the best architects to create thriving destinations, where people can enjoy shopping and spending time. 

The future is about so much more than retail parks as we know them today.

Link to video


Shortlisted practices

  • AEW Architects & Designers
  • Brian Connolly and Anna Prajs
  • CarverHaggard
  • Chapman Taylor
  • Duggan Morris Architects
  • Friend and Company Architects
  • Leslie Jones Architecture
  • Make Architects
  • Neubau Architecture
  • Richard Faith Architecture
  • Bureau Weston Williamson + Partners
  • Whittam Cox Architects
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