The Future of Commerce: Is this an exciting time for interior design professions?

With Covid restrictions on the decline, the interior design industry now looks forward to the landscape legacy we’ve inherited. Across the country, the high streets have been deserted with empty office blocks, boutique hotels foreclosed by lenders and reduced product options while manufacturing was forced to slow down production capacities.

Shifting business models

As one door closes, another three more open. It is now time for the visionaries, the cash investors and the next generation of the industry take your seats; a new era is upon us. A blended online and actual business is stepping up and taking over. The new economy is linked with and partnered with social media platforms. Many of the worlds most successful companies don’t even own products – Uber is the world’s largest taxi business, but it doesn’t own a single taxi. I could provide so many examples, but in short, the wealth and opportunity potential for these online businesses is enormous.

Impact on the fashion industry

Without an online presence, a business will get left behind. So I’m watching Primark with interest as one of the newer low-end market entrants in the clothing industry. It has been a considerable threat to several high street chains – but now it faces several challenges of its own; no online vending website in 2021 presents considerable risks. It’s also at the bottom end of the market with a high volume production of disposable low quality garments. The ‘wear it and throw it’ fast fashion recipe conflicts with those supporting more sustainable business practices in the pursuit of minimising environmental impacts and reducing carbon footprints. So other than manufacturing issues, limited sales channels and the shifting industry attitudes, the current climate of the fashion landscape presents several high-risk problems which could be problematic for the brand. I will watch, wait and review!

Retail and hospitality 

How will retail and hospitality fair from May 17th, when the country reopens from a year of almost total business lockdown? The main area of loss people complained of was the lack of social interaction with other people. As humans we do need to mix with other people as part of our mental health and wellbeing. Hospitality has, in many cases, taken the past year to reorganise, reconfigure and renovate. While we couldn’t socialise, travel, go on holiday or eat out, designers were still extremely busy reimagining retail and hospitality spaces in light of the new interior design needs and considerations. Fit-out specialists were also engaged, while many suppliers ran out of stock.

When we all return to restaurants, cafes, hotels, clubs, bars and cafes as the nation unlocks and the public (albeit masked) returns to a life they remember as normal, we will see how this industry and its investment has adjusted to address the austere, clinical chill that screens and segregated booths put in place.

What does this mean for the interior design profession?

Whilst the work is there, returning to trade shows in Italy to source, specify products and network may take a little longer… and the industry needs them! It is a nervous time for many, but business is booming for the I.T. industry and interior design profession!

Designers in all geographical areas and across all price-points and specialisms have reported a massive increase in enquiries and commissions. These projects have crossed all existing business types, but some of our top designers say that they are seeing a lot more interest coming from nations previously unknown to them.

Interestingly, suppliers are still reporting a nervousness about the immediate future.

Therefore somehow, we have an industry disconnect!

We will need to unravel this dilemma quickly, and I hope that the delay by designers in raising purchase orders for products is solely based on lead times and project planning times. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding! Whichever way you look at our industry, properties will trend towards altering its function to suit new increased or decreased demand. Many change-of-use planning applications will precede confirmation of contractors, specialists and designers in the recruitment for reconfiguring properties for adapting business formats in a new world of trading online. When we can, we want to return to the very best trade shows, expos and Meet the Buyer events.