September 30, 2020

In order to ensure a proper transition into post COVID-19, Epstein's architects, engineers and designers have been generating design guidelines to provide clients with new secure and efficient resources. Finding a balance between optimizing operations and keeping people safe, the strategies tackle the built environment that surrounds us, from restaurants and outdoor dining, to streets, offices, and retail.

Our Patrick Carata, senior design architect, and Marcin Rysniak, design professional, created a short animation that serves as an example of what Epstein's designers can do to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in a commercial environment.

Here are just five of their design guidelines for a safe post COVID transition for retail:

The Showmanship of Retail:

  • It’s no secret that consumers are craving experiences they can share on social media. As AdWeek put it, “These days, if consumers can’t Instagram a store, it’s almost not even worth going.” This is particularly evident in the younger generations, such as Gen Y and Gen Z. These consumers are digital natives, many of whom have lives that are well-documented on social media. To captivate these audiences, one must provide a social media reason to check out your retail center and shops. A recent design by Epstein addresses just this subject by creating a main entry composed of organic shapes derived from the forms and teachings of Constantin Brâncuși, a revolutionary Romanian sculptor. The result was an Instagram-worthy backdrop - a show stopper - that also functioned as a billboard for the project attracting the attention of onlookers.

E-Commerce Testing:

  • While online shopping has increased sales by 75 percent, online retailers were, with plans to remain, utilizing brick and mortar stores to showcase and test their product. They are also seamlessly blending the physical shopping experience with the digital one by providing quick in-store digital comparison tools, price matching, and avoiding the need for checkout lines by introducing purchase tracking technology. The future of the physical store isn’t about the purchase transactions; it’s about creating events, experiences and, ultimately, brand associations. This, in turn, helps create memories – and loyalty – for the customer. Not only will this make you want to stay longer, you’re also more likely to post about it on social media, creating an electronic word-of-mouth effect.

Health and Safety:

  • Creating comfort and a feeling of safety is paramount in a post-COVID world. Indoor malls have suffered from health and safety fears; a recent Forbes poll identified that more than half of the population is not comfortable shopping in indoor malls. On the other hand, outdoor shopping centers are faring better, as they reduce customer's psychological anxieties and provide a higher perception of safety than their indoor counterparts. Current data sourced by shows outdoor malls in 2020 are recovering 30 percent faster than indoor malls.

Keep it Flexible:

  • Traditional retail design is based on retail footprint modules that cater to stores such as Adidas, GAP, Urban Outfitters and other major retailers. Large anchors are placed at strategic places in the mall to create foot traffic, and food and beverage areas are congregated together, as if feeding must occur in an efficient factory-like setting. This formula must change. With increased anchor store bankruptcies and the hybridization of food and beverage with retail, this design model is no longer a viable strategy. Keeping the shopping center design flexible and thoughtful, creating a genuine shopping experience that feels more like a town center than a carefully-crafted machine, can improve the shopping experience and allow tenant stores to flourish. Additionally, 10 year refreshers are a thing of the past; retail turnover and refreshers should be planned for a 2-5-year cycle Thus, planning flexibility is crucial to accommodate the different needs of fluidly-evolving retail.

Store Appointments:

  • As part of the increased health and safety concerns that shoppers have, and the undeniable convenience and hassle-free experience of online shopping, stores are turning to creative and data driven solutions to improve safety and the shopping experience. Shopping by appointment and digital cues ensures lines or waiting times do not exist. Furthermore, population control in stores by tracking and announcing the number of shoppers at any given time, minimizes overcrowding, health anxieties and wait times. Occupancy data can also be collected and used to see traffic patterns in real time. Analyzing this data allows changes to be made to store locations, amenities and events, potentially improving the mall operations and achieving improved shopper traffic patterns.

Patrick and Marcin's strategies use an architectural and engineering framework based upon recent public health information. While the Coronavirus pandemic's impact on global wellness has forced organizations in every industry — including our own — to flex and evolve, we are committed to understanding and implementing how design can play a role in making the world a healthier place.