The last two years has seen a shift in high street activity from consumers, and the retailers are having to adapt.
The budget of the consumer has generally tightened and the impulse purchase has been in decline. People are considering purchases more carefully and planning spending more diligently.
For example, the downturn (lets keep this positive) in 2008 saw an increase in turnover for the lower end of the retail sector for brands like Lidl and Aldi.
So this does beg the question are the recent rebranding of Argos, Waterstones and Walmart, lead by a design trend, or by the shift in retail behaviour.
From the design trend point of view, rebranding is a constantly evolving process, year on year the large multinationals will tweak and adjust their brand, generally speaking a rebrand, reshaping, restyling is nothing new, but the above mentioned have made a relatively dramatic shift.
Some take the view that the high street at present is competing more on price than quality and it could be seen that these rebrands are distancing themselves from the high end and appealing to a larger sector with less to spend per head.
Let’s be honest Walmart and Argos have never appealed to the high end of the market, that is what Harrods and Marks & Spencers are for. By mirroring the change in the customers pocket Walmart and Argos may just be reaffirming the bonds with existing customers, and at the same time, appealing to consumer sectors who have gone down a pay grade or two, looking to spend a little less week in week out on compulsory purchases.
The shift for Waterstones then, is a little more dramatic then with a move from a Serif typeface to a Sans Serif. Not only given the typical educated, aspirational, audience the brand once targeted, but especially given the typographic implications of such a move. Pick up any novel you care to read, you will find the copy in the main to be a Serif, surely the serif is in the lifeblood of book culture?
With Waterstones, we see a possible shift to appeal to, and to cater for those looking to buy books by Jordan (or Katie Price) and Peter Andre, whilst carefully not alienating those mainstays of the book world. A rounder friendlier W and typeface is a subtle change but one that may endear the masses a little more.
I think in these cases instance we have seen three indicators of a general change in an overall philosophy by retailers, making the brand more friendly, rounder, and more accessible to wider audiences, whether its intent is to consolidate with existing customers or to actively pursue new audiences.
We must remember a brandmark a company does not make, the shift in brand needs to be reflected in customer service, marketing, and of course price.
Design trends and changes in our culture are codependent as these rebrands prove.