Exclusive insights from Kmart Group’s head of store design


“The role of the store is going to change very fast in the near future. Just from witnessing the return of physical stores and the response from our customers, it’s become more obvious that they love to shop in person – seeing, touching and having a genuinely engaging experience with the store,” Staton said. 

“Expectations are now higher, so we are constantly evolving the store to meet those expectations and deliver. For the smaller retailers, it will take a little longer to catch up, but within the next five years, we will see some really interesting new formats.

“There are two key drivers that are going to force retailers to rethink their role in the future.

One is customer expectation. The process of purchasing is now very easy because as we know, every phone is the biggest shopping mall in the world. Therefore, when you go to a store, the expectation is for that store to offer and deliver more.

“The second is the fact that shopping centres nowadays don’t refer to themselves by the traditional term, instead, branding themselves as places of leisure, places where people go to be entertained.”

Why Kmart and Target will never have a flagship store

“In terms of store design, we usually go and see what is happening around the world. The retail benchmark is very high, but we are very aware of who we are and who our customer is,” he said.

“You can take inspiration from anywhere. Taking a look at the Nike flagship, for instance, we ask ourselves whether something like that would work in a Kmart environment and whether that is suitable for our type of retail.

“Everybody is a Kmart customer, not everybody is a Nike customer – this is where it’s important to be broad. We’re not conservative, but we need to remain relevant to our customers.

“We have never done a flagship and never will – if any innovation works, it has to work across every store in every town, all across Australia.”

Why there’s no ‘magic formula’ for good store design

“People keep talking about this magic formula that Kmart has, claiming that we have a secret code in our stores. This isn’t the case at all, it’s just very subtle,” Staton explained.

“The colours on the walls match the colours of the boxes, so whilst there is a code system in place, it’s just a subtle nudge for the customer to make that journey a little bit easier, alerting them where the category starts and stops. Not to mention that it’s incredibly helpful for team members as well.

“We try to make the journey around the store almost intuitive. For instance, customers come in looking for kidswear – from there, it’s a natural flow that goes into babies, followed by nursery, nursery toys, then toys, bikes, outdoor, and eventually into active.

“It’s not a revolutionary approach but sometimes in its simplicity may seem sophisticated.” 

What the biggest lessons from the pandemic have been

“The introduction of digital made a lot of people talk about the death of stores but now that we are back to the new norm after three years of distributive headwinds, everybody (including the tech giants) is recognising the importance of stores through a true omnichannel experience – something we would have never heard five years ago,” Staton said.

“Hopefully, in the next year, we will stop looking at these physical in-store shopping experiences and digital as two separate entities and just embrace this concept of omnichannel. We need the two to coexist.” 

Which retailers are doing store design well

“Nike, Lululemon and Ikea have all been on this journey for a long time but what they are able to do is have control over the supply chain and embed that smart technology,” he said. 

“In the next three to five years, we will see some exciting concepts that will be genuine integrated experiences that exist on a broader scale and are not only found in these huge flagship stores.”

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