Creative Retail Awards: An Insider’s Guide

Jun 25, 2018 | Awards, Insight & Trends

Our Creative Director Helen was thrilled to be a judge for the inaugural Creative Retail Awards, which recognise creative talent across the full spectrum of retail design and display. With the winners recently revealed, she lifts the lid on that process, what makes a winning entry, and shares her top picks.

These days many awards are judged remotely, but not so with the Creative Retail Awards, where dialogue and debate amongst the jury is held in the highest regard. Cue to an intense Monday morning in a cosy Covent Garden basement café where Retail Focus editor Lyndsey Dennis led myself and four other judges in pouring over dozens of entries in 14 categories. It was a fun and truly inspirational start to the week.

What captures a judge’s imagination, and what’s doomed to failure?

One major challenge when judging creative work is the risk of being too subjective, so the first order of the day was to review the judging criteria. Successful projects needed to marry the brief with a great design idea and then with impeccable execution – bringing everything to life and as the team envisaged.

The entrants’ main chance to shine is through photos or videos, so it’s vital that you take time to encapsulate the story you want to tell, capturing the attitude and essence of the brand design. Without imagery that tells a compelling story, your entry is bound to be overlooked.

Then there’s the written part of the entry. Remember that judges are reviewing dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of entries, depending on the awards scheme, so there’s no room for War & Peace novels. They simply don’t have time to read everything, so keep it simple – a concise description that gets straight to the heart of the brief and solution. Treat the copy as you do the photos – a short, succinct shot of the project.

And the winners are…

I was overwhelmed (in a good way) by the sheer volume of fantastic entries – it was ever so encouraging to see so much great thinking and innovation in retail design. You can have a look at all the winners, but for me the main standouts were:

  • Tiptree Shop & Tea Room by HMKM: Winning Best Independent Store Display, this is a super smart showcase for what is essentially jars of jam, executed in a calm and rational way that celebrates this much-loved brand.
  • Superdrug Cosmetic Carcass by Arken: It’s damn difficult to give order and clarity to the bright, noisy world of high density, mass market makeup. This display system does just that – and it’s entirely made from sustainable materials! A worthy winner of the Best Sustainable Display Product category.
  • International Currency Exchange, London Luton Airport by Brace Studio: A touch of the unexpected wins Best Use of Surfaces/Finishes In-store. Why should getting your holiday currency be boring? The faceted, organic façade gives great standout in a busy airport retail arena.
  • Topshop Splash by YourStudio: Winner of Best Use of In-store Technology for the launch the retailer’s S/S swimwear collection – the sheer crazy drama of this waterslide themed VR content and installation got my adrenaline going just looking at the photos!

But the real winner was…

Impressed as I was by the entries and winners, for me the real ‘brand experience’ success was the awards ceremony itself, held at Bunga Bunga in Covent Garden, which describes itself as an immersive Italian experience.

Shunning a formal dinner where everyone’s trapped at tables for hours on end, the evening’s entertainment alternated between award winners’ presentations and some fantastic theatre acts. Plus how nice it was to stand up and mingle whilst being served pizza and champagne – a great way to network. A world away from all those stuffy awards events held in anonymous hotels, this was so refreshing and fun – and very glamorous!

More reading:

Innovate to Win in Retail

Small but Mighty: How Small Retailers Can Improve In-Store Experience

Case study: Te & Kaffi

Case study: Gló Restaurants