Embracing DEIA in Retail Interior Installation

Learn retail design strategies to enable belonging, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility

Sarah is excited to visit the new retail store for her favorite clothing brand. Until now, she could only shop for this brand online, so she’s excited to see the clothes in person and spend time browsing in the new destination store.

Sarah walks into the bustling store with bright lights, loud music, and crowded aisles. Immediately she feels overwhelmed. She can’t focus with the collision of sounds from customers, music, and promotional announcements.

Feeling her anxiety levels rise, Sarah looks for a quiet corner in the store where she can sit down, get away from the sensory overload, and relax. But she can’t find anywhere in the store to get some relief.

Sarah is feeling increasingly trapped and exhausted, so she escapes and leaves the store, without buying anything. This experience makes her drained mentally, physically, and emotionally and extremely disappointed. Sarah feels let down by her favorite brand, who she thought understood her and what it’s like to be neurodivergent.

Unfortunately Sarah’s experience is not unique. For so many of your customers, it’s not easy for them to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. They may be overwhelmed by the noise, lights, and colors like Sarah, feel excluded because the store is difficult to access, or not see themselves represented in branding and marketing.

It’s crucial for retailers to recognize that not all customers are the same. Like Sarah, they may have hidden needs that make it challenging for them to visit your store or to feel like accepted by your brand and store employees.

Your approach to retail interior installation plays a large role in ensuring people know they belong in your store.

Thinking differently about lighting, change room design, signage, sound, colors, seating, the use of interactive displays and technology, and store layout goes a long way in making people feel like they belong in your retail store.

What is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Retail Installation?

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in retail installation refers to using design,
installation, and store lay-out practices to create inclusive and welcoming retail spaces for all
people, regardless of their unique needs or characteristics.

  • Diversity in Retail Installation: from your marketing materials through to your window displays, mannequins, product displays, and complete retail design and installation, diversity matters. Use inclusive and diverse imagery, messaging, and language that is free from stereotypes and assumptions and represents all identities.

    For example, your window display is the first thing customers see. Make sure your display uses diverse imagery representing different ages, genders, body types, abilities, and ethnicities. This is your opportunity to clearly communicate a message of belonging.

  • Equity in Retail Installation: ensure your store provides equal access to your products, services, and retail space for everyone, including people with visible and hidden disabilities.

    Consider the store lay-out, width of aisles, retail fixture heights, and accessible seating and change rooms. Use graphics, signage, and interactive technology to support people with hearing loss, visual impairment, or neurological differences.

  • Inclusion in Retail Installation: means every person feels welcomed and supported by your retail store. It’s important to create a retail environment where people with differences can browse and shop seamlessly without drawing unnecessary attention or feeling singled out.

    Gender neutral and diverse graphics, signage and mannequins, designated quiet hours with dimmed lights and reduced music, round tables, wide aisles and doorways, and interactive displays to help people communicate with store staff are just some examples of inclusive retail interior installation options.

  • Accessibility in Retail Installation: is about more than wide doorways, ramps, tactile signage, and easily reachable shelves and checkout areas.

    Accessible retail design and installation goes beyond the physical, recognizing that people have non-obvious differences and needs including neurodiversity and sensory.

    Ensure all of your retail touchpoints including your customer service team, branding and marketing, products and services, and retail installation clearly welcome and support all individuals.

The Facts on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility for Retailers

Imagine Alex walks into your store.

They see posters and advertisements featuring models who look very different from them. As Alex browses, they feel increasingly out of place and unwelcome, not seeing store staff who they can relate to. They quickly feel invisible and confused about your store, brand, and who you welcome. Alex leaves your store without buying and posts on social media about their experience.

And Alex isn’t the only one who feels this way.

  • 50% of surveyed shoppers leave brands and retailers when they do not offer products for diverse and inclusive needs.

  • 41% of surveyed shoppers would pay more to buy from a retail brand committed to diversity and inclusion.

  • 66% of younger millennials choose and prefer brands that demonstrate inclusivity and diversity with their in-store experience, product range, and marketing.

  • 27% of the U.S. population lives with a disability.

  • 54% of surveyed younger millennials believe retailers have a responsibility to address diversity. (Disability Inclusion In Retail, 36 Eye-Opening Inclusive Marketing Statistics, How Diversity in Retail is Affecting Market Research)

Your customers speak with their feet – walking away from your brand when they don’t feel seen, heard, represented, or welcomed. And they do share these experiences on social media and with their friends and community.

Retail Interior Installation Design Strategies for DEIA

No one should feel like Sarah or Alex when they enter a retail store – invisible, anxious, overwhelmed, forgotten, or unwelcome.

Use these retail interior installation strategies to help ensure your customers feel valued, included, and supported in your retail store.

  1. Window Displays, Graphics, and Signage
    Remember that your window displays, graphics, and signage aren’t for you – they’re for your customers. You have about two seconds to grab attention and make it clear that your retail store is welcoming and the right choice.

    Create window displays and graphics using diverse imagery, including people of all ages, abilities, and body types. Take advantage of high-contrast colors and accessible fonts to ensure people can read and understand product and in-store signage. Use your window displays and in-store collateral to communicate your brand’s position on DEIA and belonging.

    Follow the example of Expo City Dubai who installed a tactile map at the Museum for Expo 2020. This tactile map included braille translations for all written information, an audio tour and descriptions of the site, and a 3D model to support people with visual impairments and neurodiverse people with multi-sensory support.

  2. Retail Fixtures and Millwork
    The design and types of shelves, racks, product displays, tables, and other fixtures determine the quality and enjoyment of any shopping experience.

    Think of Maria who uses a wheelchair. While it is easy for her to move around your store, it’s impossible for her to reach products on your display racks and shelves. And although your staff are super helpful and attentive, she cannot access your changerooms located down a narrow corridor. Maria leaves disappointed and feeling invisible.

    Your retail fixtures and millwork are an extension of your customer service team and branding and marketing. Do not forget that your store needs to be easy for people to use.

  3. Retail Store Layout and Design
    No one wants to feel crowded, rushed, pressured, or overwhelmed when browsing and shopping. The more space people have to relax, breathe, and interact with your products – the better.

    Focus on minimal design, wide aisles, and clear sightlines. Incorporate seating and quiet areas for people to relax and get some downtime.

    If your store has change rooms, be aware that the change room experience can be stressful. Offer gender neutral change room options, have seating for customers and their shopping companions, and include interior mirrors. Incorporate change room technology such as screens that allow customers to communicate with store staff, personalized lighting, music, and fan controls, and adjustable height seating.

  4. Lighting, Sound, and Color
    The use of lighting, sound, and color are important visual merchandising strategies used to highlight products and bring your retail interior to life. However, for people who are neurodiverse, visual or hearing impaired, or who live with neurological differences such as PTSD, Tourette’s Syndrome, or ADHD, light, sound, and color can be overwhelming, triggering, and stressful.

    Create sensory-friendly zones in your store with dimmed or natural lighting, reduced noise levels, sound-absorbing materials, comfortable seating for decompression, and minimal visual distractions and color.

    Follow the examples of Walmart, Lidl, Carrefour, Cole, Asda and their designated store times when the lighting is dimmed, checkout beepers and music are turned off, there is minimal visible staff, and there are no store announcements. And consider learning from LEGO who is taking inclusivity, belonging, and accessibility further.

    In April 2024, all LEGO stores in the U.S. and Canada were certified as KultureCity® Sensory Inclusive™. KultureCity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accessibility in public spaces for people with non-visible disabilities and sensory needs.

    Customers of LEGO stores in Canada and the U.S who are neurodivergent have access to sensory bags containing fidget tools, noise-reduction headphones, strobe reduction glasses, visual cue cards to help them with non-verbal communication and a badge that identifies them as a KCVIP. Additionally, staff in these stores are trained to understand how best to support people with differences.

  5. In-Store Technology
    Integrating voice-activated and touchless systems literally opens doors for customers with physical, visual, hearing, or neurological differences. For many people physical and human interaction is challenging, causing them anxiety and stress. Look for ways to integrate technology to reduce these challenges and enable independence for your customers.

    Using motion sensors on your front and change room doors or to activate self-checkout processes make it easier for people to access and move around your store without requiring help or drawing attention to themselves. Voice recognition software integrated into your store or mall wayfinding and maps, product search, and checkout help create a more seamless shopping experience.

    The change room experience can be stressful and challenging for anyone. No one likes standing in line, feeling cramped in the change room stall, and then going through the hassle of taking off and trying on clothes. Integrating virtual try-on mirrors with augmented reality goes a long way in creating a more pleasant, accessible, and relaxing clothes shopping experience for all your customers.

Think about what it’s like for a busy parent with two children to shop for themselves in your store. Remember how you felt as an awkward teenager and being embarrassed to ask for help with sizing for a new pair of jeans. Think about how you feel when stores are overcrowded and noisy during holiday shopping periods.

This is exactly why it’s so important to approach retail interior installation from the perspective of your customers.

It’s simple really – retail stores are for everyone – and it’s up to you to make this happen with accessible and inclusive retail installation, design, and store lay-out.

At Dynamic Resources, our unique combination of IN-HOUSE offerings makes us your single source provider for all your retail design and installation needs. No one understands retail installation better than we do.

Contact us to learn how we handle any aspect of your business – from an individual installation to a global roll-out.

Learn More about DEIA in Public Spaces and Retail Environments

Make sure you’re compliant with your national, federal, or regional requirements for DEIA in public spaces and retail environments.

These websites may provide you with more information:

Consider consulting a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) who has expertise in disability and accessibility for architecture and the built environment, consumer and industrial design, transportation systems, and web and other digital technologies.