Retail interior designer Bhumi Zaveri says the role requires you to think like a consumer.  (Photo: Nandan Dave/Mint)

Have you ever noticed in a retail shop how the light seems to play up certain products on display? May be a recently launched watch or a classic perfume? And the soft music in the background which never overtakes your conversation while you wait outside the trial room? These are not coincidences. A retail interior designer has actually worked hard on making these things take shape inside the store.

Interior designing for a retail space is one of the hot vocational jobs of the season. According to a recent study by HR service provider TeamLease, these “hot vocational jobs also make for better long term careers, compared with long-tail institution-based engineering and MBA.”

“Retail interior designing is all about influencing the consumer experience and behaviour. The role requires you to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and understand what they are looking at and what they might need after this,” explains Bhumi Zaveri, 33, a retail and interior designer, who shuttles between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

Zaveri studied interior design from Mumbai’s Rachana Sansad and followed it up with a more specialized post-graduation course in retail and exhibition design from Pune’s MIT Institute of Design. During her post graduation, she did an internship with advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and joined their retail design function. She then moved to Dentsu Aegis Network as creative group head for Hyperspace—a shopping marketing agency. “My aim was to create an experience for the customer, starting from when they step into the store to when they walk around the aisle,” she says.

The demand for interior designers in retail has continued in spite of sales moving from the offline to the online sphere. Salaries can range from 4-5 lakh per annum for a fresher, to 15-20 lakh a year for someone with 10 years of experience.

But the shift towards online has meant a change in the perspective for retail interior designers. The idea now is not just to make maximum sales but to give the customers an experience to remember the brand by. “Think of walking into an Apple store. A retail interior designer would make sure that the brand idea gets reflected, with clean lines of white and grey, a non-cluttered showroom. They know that the people who are walking in are mostly not buying a product right away. They will think about how the customer will behave after this experience. Because most people now prefer to do their research, and then come to stores for a touch and feel of the product and then finally purchase it online,” says Zaveri.

The retail format itself has seen changes because of the shift in the shopper’s behaviour. Earlier, people wanted to see few products and buy it right then. In most shops, some items would be displayed, and most of the floor space would be utilized for storing the stock. People now want to see more products even if they don’t buy it. “We have to redesign the retail space to accommodate more for display now, even if the stock is less,” she explains.

Zaveri quit her job at Dentsu Aegis in 2015 and turned to freelancing. But a freelancer’s role in the industry is full of hurdles. “Really big brands do not want to work with a freelancer. Smaller, stand-alone brands will work as long as you come with good recommendations. So in this industry, word of mouth works pretty well,” she says.

Another challenge that Zaveri faces now is that she has to manage end-to-end execution, as opposed to when she was employed by a company and different teams would handle different stages of the client’s project. “Timelines in this case are more dependent on vendors and cannot be shifted much, like they can be in non-retail projects. Because the malls would be charging them rent from the day they have taken it, whether the space is ready or not. Not to mention budget constraints, where we go with the vendor who can stick to the specifics given to him at the lowest cost,” she explains. It is a fine line that requires good patience, an eye for aesthetics and understanding of shopper psychology. But once you have that, the profession can be quite rewarding.