Maplin, Cambridge

Jim Thompson, managing director, 20.20, talks to Shop Spec editor, Can Faik, about the new Maplin store design in Cambridge...

Strategic design consultancy 20.20 has worked with leading technology retailer Maplin to change their retail proposition in Cambridge. They have created an omni-channel experience, bridging the gap between the physical store, where customers can fully engage with the latest Smart Home technology, and Maplin’s new online offering.

The 20.20 team has transformed the 290m2 space at the city’s Beehive shopping centre, designing distinct departments to showcase the benefits of smart technology for the home. The brief was to position Maplin as the go-to retailer for Smart Home products, attracting and engaging with a new type of customer, whilst retaining the retailer’s loyal customer base.

When analysing the customer research and market data, 20.20 recognised that advice in the dynamic Smart Home sector is being provided by brands rather than retailers. This insight allowed Maplin to target an already active customer base and take ownership of the sector by enhancing the expertise of their in-store colleagues.

The central area of the store is transformed into a ‘Smart Life’ hub, with a distinctive LED lighting feature above it. Products are set up and displayed on tables, ready for customers to try out. By playing and interacting with the different brands and devices customers are able to see the benefits the technology can bring to their lives. Tablets allow customers to browse product information, helping them make decisions at the point of sale, while knowledgeable store colleagues are on hand to offer more expert advice. A new consultation space has been created where customers can further discuss their requirements, and arrange home audits and installation services.

At the heart of the ‘Smart Life’ hub is an interactive table, where customers explore how products and brands link together, demonstrating a fully-integrated Smart Home experience.

Away from the ‘Smart Life’ area, 20.20 have ensured the retail transformation across all categories. Store adjacencies have been reimagined to improve shoppability – from CCTV; to a new Gaming experience; to easier and quicker shopping for Electrical and Digital components.

A new in-store communication system has been designed to enhance the product stories. The idea here is to connect with customers on an emotional level and engage them according to their shopping behaviour, leading to a seamless and confident purchase.

The new store concept has been a fantastic success, with trading significantly outperforming the rest of the chain, and Smart Home sales increases of over 130%.

20.20 are currently developing the Smart Store concept for a further six sites.

Five minutes with...
Jim Thompson,
Managing Director,

Tell me about your role at 20.20 design
As managing director of 20.20 I get involved in most aspects of the business, from managing client relationships, to speaking at conferences, to ensuring we stay at the forefront of our industry.

How is the current economic climate affecting the retail interior design market? Has 20/20 design felt the effects?
In the UK retail sector, there has been a level of uncertainty since Brexit, and therefore many clients are more cautious about how they spend their money, and tactical about where they improve their business. But they continue to look for businesses they can trust, to deliver results in difficult market conditions.

How important is it for the store to be current in trend with the market?
That depends on the customer. We design for the people who shop the brand, or motivate new customers to engage with the experience. You have to understand the trends that effect the sector and customers you are working for.

Are you noticing any trends in clients’ requirements?
The changing way customers’ shop continues to transform the sector, innovation is all around us, but it is hard for retailers to know where to invest, to stay ahead of the game. That’s why 20.20 are perfectly positioned to help retailers change.

What’s important to you when choosing the right Shopfitter for the acquired job?
It’s an overused term, but we look for collaborators. People who will work with us to achieve the best results. To be a partner to the client and designer.

How do you think physical retail will develop over the next few years?
There will certainly be less big chains in every town; Brands, who previously relied on retailers for access to consumers, are now taking control and defining their own retail experiences; It will become more and more difficult to operate a department store without a destination F&B offer (and cinema?); Our high streets will continue to struggle with empty units, unless innovative councils and local businesses start to create more local, independent retail networks.

Maplin, Cambridge