What does future department stores look like? – the big question that underpinnes the new Edgars Fourways store design.

The biggest challenge for big retailers and department stores is that it has become a mass-experience tailored to no one. This is especially a challenge in a time where customers can do anything anywhere and get personalised real-time experiences from other places both online and IRL. It forces a shift for retail practice and environment beyond just transaction towards setting the stage for meaningful and memorable experiences.

In order to thrive in the ever evolving retail landscape retailers alike are purposefully rewiring themselves to participate in the experience economy. Edgars is no exception to this.


Beyond the brief and list of requirements, the store design ambition was to design for experience that engage shoppers and complement the hybrid nature of retail today. Rooted in the idea of Placemaking, the in store experience aimed to embody principles of – ‘Hospitality’ ‘Agility’ ‘Wellness’ + ‘Pride’ –  creating PLACE which results in a sense of welcome, belonging, driving culture and ultimately brand loyalty


It is critical today that people feel a sense of welcome in every domain. For Edgars this translated into two key principles, accessibility and comfort. It was important that the store architecture conceptually set out to be a public space. It called for a review of the traditional department store principles of shopfront, entry, driver aisles and escalator wells and instead think these elements as thresholds, public squares and liberated floors. Paired with this retake was the strategic inclusion of ‘areas of comfort’ where customers could either relax or engage, making a physical statement about customer service being at the heart of the new Edgars brand.


Retail is always needing to adapt to market and customer demands, the store environment had to be adaptable to follow suit. The ambition for Edgars was to design an environment that enables adaptability and experimentation with ease, bringing newness and relevance to the heart of the customer experience. The result was a ‘comprehensive and economic ’ kit- of parts’, that enables the brand to adapt to changing business  and brand direction in store with minimal resources. This is a great departure from the traditional ‘heavily’ shop-fitted Edgars stores that take a great amount of time and investment to change.


Today wellness is becoming a key expectation for all environments. The ambition for Edgars was to create an everyday space accessible to all that slow down the usual retail pace. The store environment finished with predominantly neutral, tactile and natural materials help establish the ‘slow’ and friendly experience along with considered lighting, and accented by moments of discovery and delight.


As part of building brand love, the Edgars store experience had to ultimately build a halo of pride for customers and staff through the culmination of store design, in-store messaging and product range. Key to this was a fresh new identity, bold three dimensional displays, tactical brand messaging while still positioning the product as the hero, and supporting conversion through considered customer service spaces.

The net effect is that the store environment marks a significant step change for the brand to ‘show up differently’ in the landscape of South African department stores. While the scale of department stores will always prove to be a challenge, the innovation of the Edgars Fourways store is that it is designed for change, enabling Edgars to advocate South African culture and personal expression through their product, embrace experimentation in store to deliver newness to build on an ever evolving Edgars experience.

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