Retail space planners create the vital link between your customers, your products and your buildings – but where is the recognised career path and formal qualifications?
In my experience the space-planning team within a retailer sits best alongside the property team. I’ve seen clear benefits where this relationship is close and the two teams work well together.
The chartered surveyors and RIBA architects in the retail property team are responsible for delivering a well-lit and well-designed building, car park and service yard which customers and deliveries find easy to access. They ultimately provide the best possible environment for a customer to meet and purchase a product.
Alongside the property professionals are degree-laden interior designers who consider and design the look, feel and branding of the shop.
We then reach the need to plan the store where unfortunately both the macro and micro space planning teams are lagging behind without any formal qualification to recognise this important role.
It’s the career you end up in by luck or happy accident rather than by following a formal educational route.
Hardly anybody, in my experience, leaves school intent on retail space planning career because there is no recognised route to the job such as a degree or NVQ.
Instead, (and if we are typical at CADS), we recruit individuals who have studied architecture or design and can also offer AutoCAD skills.
We then spend months training them ourselves to become experts in retail space planning and help them understand concepts such as the customer journey, product adjacency and add-on sales opportunities.
The skills we require encompass cognitive thinking, mental visualisation of a store and high-level learning, and so, perhaps it’s time for the retail industry to recognise this and help to design suitable courses, qualifications and a recognised career path?
Space planning is such an important role that is sometimes underestimated. This is best illustrated by the wide number of job titles we see at our various customers.
Fundamentally similar roles can be described as store planner, space planner, format planner, concept designer or micro planner which perhaps mirrors the lack of formal qualifications in the industry.
Our customers tell us that it would be incredibly useful if graduates were offered a course that combined studying the site / building and the selling-space design together.
Having no recognised career path or qualification means the role can sometimes be devalued or put in the hands of agency staff with little or no retail experience.
Hopefully, increasing recognition of the role might be accompanied by a new generation of specialist qualifications in space planning? This will benefit the retail process and the industry as a whole.