With the popularity of online retail squeezing the high street more than ever before, it’s absolutely imperative that traditional retailers create inspiring, memorable stores to entice customers away from their Amazon Prime page.
Increasingly, retail brands are teaming up with art curators to make their physical stores a lot more compelling. This could involve letting an artist take over the design of a store or even just hanging a statement piece on the wall in order to generate intrigue and attention.
Bella Cramer is the co-founder of Cramer and Bell, a London-based art consultancy practice that specialises in sourcing art to transform everything from restaurants to fashion stores. Appear Here caught up with Cramer to ask what retailers can learn from the art world and whether entering the curating mindset is something more brands should consider.
You guys only started the business a year ago, right? What is your mission statement?
We want to bridge the gap between the art world and our clients. The art world can be a pretty tricky area to navigate so we want to make it as easy as possible for our clients, who could be restaurants, hotels or retailers. We’ve got a huge database of artists and collectors to source from, and we basically take care of every step of the process from the initial meeting to sourcing the artwork and curating spaces by installing the various different pieces. The company was founded on the belief that the right artwork will enhance any space, no matter where that might be.
Would you say retail brands have underestimated the value of utilising art?
Definitely. It’s still such a niche thing and so many brands don’t understand the value of putting art in a retail space. There are now so many bricks-and-mortar shops competing with online retail, which has obviously boomed. You now need to think outside the box and create a more dynamic space for customers to walk through. You need to create more exciting stores. Art can be crucial to achieving that. We recently worked with Cecconi's, the Italian restaurant in London’s Soho. They wanted to find old-school 1960s posters and prints. This work is a good example of how a brand can elevate the feel of a retail space with artwork – the prints we sourced for them gave the restaurant a strong sense of credibility and brand identity.
British consumers are strapped for time and cash. Therefore, many want a retail experience to be quick and easy. Do they really notice artwork on the walls?
Consumers need more choice and an easy shopping experience, sure, but they are increasingly demanding for this to be in a more aspirational setting. Places like Dover Street Market have realised they need to provide a more dynamic shopping experience and their use of art has helped them to achieve this. It’s no longer enough to just say here are some clothes, please buy them. You need to make your store feel like a real experience or people won’t come back.
What impact does seeing artwork have on the consumer?
You can tell a story about your brand through artwork and this engages the consumer. It provokes discussion and debate. Paul Smith does a lot of collaborations with artists at his stores and this creates a real buzz. Apple also recently hung art on its walls in store, utilising photos taken on iPhones. This created authenticity and a link with their users through emotional storytelling. I would say seeing artwork enhances your mood and gives you a boost. It can be incredibly inspiring to see and make people more likely to buy something.
Do you expect more brands to give up control of retail spaces to people in the art world?
Visiting an art gallery can be an intimidating experience, so getting art into places on the high street with heavy footfall can really benefit both parties. Brands should be thinking about finding an upcoming artist and bringing them in to curate and getting their stuff on the walls. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but supermarkets would be an interesting experimentation as people would be genuinely surprised. I was recently at Westminster hospital and they have thousands of paintings on the walls due to their arts fund. It elevated this clinical place into something warm and had such a positive effect on me as I was walking through. If a big entity (like Tesco) did that it could have the same positive effect.