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Architect Alfred Carandang + Lei Duanan
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Architect Alfred Carandang, design director of one of the country’s leading retail architectural firms, lays out the best practices of retail design in the era of e-commerce.

Beyond just creating good-looking business establishments with aesthetically-pleasing displays, retail design has always been a well-thought-out professional move to set up a store in a certain way to boost sales. This is to acknowledge that the way a store is set up can help establish brand identity as well as serve practical purposes such as protecting against shoplifting, fires and accidents, and the likes. From telling your brand’s story and creating immersive shopping experiences, to putting together head-turning window displays, the devil really is in the details in retail design.

Architect Alfred Carandang, design director of one of the country’s leading retail architecture firms, shares his best practices to help retail designers thrive in the digital age.


Retail design is a highly specialized discipline with a lot of considerations in terms of space, ergonomics, and interior design. What are some of these considerations, and how does a budding specialist prepare for them?

Arch. Carandang

Retail Design is the combination of three key ingredients: Architecture, Science, and Enterprise. Architecture translates to Space Planning, as well as other architectural considerations which includes a good understanding of the utilities and other trades in the store built environment. Science in Retail Design is more than just functionality; it is a deeper understanding of the reasons behind why people buy, their needs, and their considerations and/or perceptions that lead them to do the actual purchase.

Here are some considerations we need to take note as retail designers:

1. Shop facade or window display

As part of the bigger in-store analytics project, we need to understand the impact of window displays to consumers. A study conducted by Sen, Chandran & Block: “store entry decision is related both directly as well as indirectly to the acquisition of observed, store-related information from window displays.”

3. Interactive store environment

Customize wayfinding by using multiple screen systems scattered in different mall areas or inside the store. Also consider the use of custom retail apps that direct the customer to specific interactive space or modules.

2. Lighting and its impact to store performance

Lighting can affect store and zone traffic, pass-by vs capture, dwell times, visit duration, conversion and sales. Here are a few helpful facts:

• Lighting changes increase consumer number by 3.8 points and sales by 21%

• Lighting changes decrease interior exposure to zones with same engagement rates (more productive shopping visits and better sales)

4. Experiential store

There is a plethora of available tech upgrades out there that you can invest in (e.g. 3×3 video walls or other type of LED wall display, interactive displays, etc.) to attract customers.

5. Passive store

Think of creative on how to provide your customers the best live experience e.g. creation of video walls to attract passersby, use of floor and home theater seating displays, etc.


What drew you to take up retail design as a specialty? Kindy share your history with retail design and how you found success with it.

Arch. Carandang

I was drawn into this specialization since 2000. I was very much interested in the constant change of the trade, and studies a designer should understand to adapt to these changes. I understand that retail business, as a whole, has the opportunity to think about its relationships with people differently, through our actions as designers, we have the ability to change people’s attitude about our brand and perception towards our store.

Retail design speaks of what matters most to consumers. Advocacy, Relationship and Corporate Soul have the biggest impact on Brand Actualization scores. They are the “meaning or message”. People want retailers who truly understand them. They want brands that listen to their feedback and respond meaningfully. They want brands that give back and live by clear beliefs that align with their own. With all these in mind, we (the designers) should consider the physical environment and enhance it using technology. Technology, as cliché as it may sound, is really magic! Its invisible approach makes moments extraordinary for consumer. A physical store that allows customers to interact with the products or services they intend to buy communicates that the store shows its genuine personality. Keep in mind that customers can spot a fake!


What were some of your favorite retail design projects? Conversely, are there any brands or retailers you’d want to work with?

Arch. Carandang

As my team and I put a lot of heart in each of the projects, it’s hard to choose favorites. I love every single one of them; and that goes the same for the brands and the analytics that go with it. I love the challenge of elevating someone’s emotion while shopping—while they traverse from store front-up to the cash register, and how this affects them positively before they made the final purchase. What I like most about working with both big local and global brands is the process of realization of my client’s brand, actualized through our designs.


What is the current state of retail design? As online stores and retailers are becoming more popular, how does retail design compensate and contribute to improve sales figures?

Arch. Carandang

Can a true bond be made without physical contact with the object of your affection? Sure, attraction is a must and distance and time create anticipation and excitement. But do these provide fulfillment? Speaking as a retail architect and designer, my answer is no. The physical retail store should stay, as it is constantly evolving in terms of architectural design. The consumer’s love for shopping in an actual physical store utilizes the same concept of playing hard to get in the attraction game. Restrictions keep things interesting!

A journey to a real store is nothing compared to sitting in front of the computer and ordering things you need or want


Looking forward, what is the future of retail design in the Philippines?

Arch. Carandang

The future of retail design comes with challenges. The challenge for retail designers in the digital era has always been to give solutions on how people and brands interact through the physical store. But the exciting part is that it also provides opportunities for the pros to apply their best practices. I’ve summarized some below.


  1. To effectively tell the brand story
  2. Create a more personalized shopping experience
  3. Introduce a brand into a new market

Best Practicies (Planning The Solutions)

  1. Branding Guidelines: Colors, Fonts, Etc.
  2. Purpose/ Objective: Reason for Digital Media and interactive technology incorporated in the store
  3. Omnichannel Research: Mobile, Web, Broadcast, TV. Etc.
  4. Relevancy: Based on Who, What, Why, and When
  5. Traffic Flow: Dwell Times/ Traffic Patterns
  6. Hardware: Interactive Retail modules, Screens, Fixtures, Gear
  7. Site Survey: Surrounding – Audible/ Visual

So, what’s next?

Brand Actualization

  1. How people use brands
  2. Brand Utility and Brand Power
  3. Brand Actualization: what is it and why it matters
  4. Leading retailers and things they have in common
  5. What Matters Most to Shoppers
  6. How to improve Brand Actualization through engagement

Indeed, the modern world is a very interesting period for retail design. While online trading provides ease of access, bricks and mortar retail provides the more genuine and diverse experiences. People, especially us who live in a cramped city (in high-rise buildings and small apartments) still deserve excellent (and real) experiences – things that the online experience doesn’t offer. D+C

Ar. Alfred Geoffrey C. Carandang, UAP, SFRIA, ASEAN Arch, APEC Arch., EAROPH is the president and principal designer of Kasa Arkhitekton Inc. or KAI, a design and build company that specialized in retail and hospitality design and construction management. You may contact him via any of the contact details below.

Unit 201, APC Bldg. 1186 Quezon Ave. QC

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