How PAVE Global Can Help Retailers Build Next-Gen Store Design Teams

A group of young employees in a store design team sitting around an open office space talking and collaborating. Backs turned to the camera.

Talent acquisition and retention are a top challenge for organizations across many industries, but retailers in particular are struggling to fill their talent pipelines with young professionals that have the strategic and tactical expertise they need to evolve and differentiate their brands. For example, retailers are increasingly seeking young and diverse talent to support their store design teams, which are navigating new challenges and requirements for success.

According to the 2023 Retail TouchPoints Store Design & Experience Survey, store design teams are:

  • Collaborating frequently with marketing (79%), operations (77%) and IT (73%);
  • Prioritizing sustainable materials and building approaches (68%) to align with corporate mandates; and
  • Struggling to adapt store designs to new shopper expectations (42%).

Organizations like PAVE Global are supporting retailers in their talent acquisition efforts. Founded in 1992 as The Planning and Visual Education Partnership (PAVE), PAVE Global is an educational foundation for the retail design, planning and visual merchandising industry, and gives brand practitioners a unique opportunity to support young students and expand their talent pools.

Designing for Younger Shoppers’ Expectations

This accent on youth is especially critical as Gen Z and Gen Alpha grow their spending power, and it’s why many retailers are focused on winning younger talent who are just entering the job market. The hope is that they will look at physical stores through a fresh, more digitally integrated lens.

“Students are looking at shopping in a very different way, not only with online shopping but through experiential shopping opportunities,” said Mark Mappala, Associate Professor of Interior Design at Bellevue College in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Students who are in touch with brands that offer online and brick-and-mortar merchandising will be more suited for retail design employment.”

Can Tech Connections Complement In-Person Interactions?

Many retailers still face the challenge of employees not wanting to return to the office, according to Cynthia Hirsch Ortiz, International President of Retail Design Institute. But “for creative positions, it is so important to be able to have face-to-face interaction to spark creativity and idea flow.”

While retailers should strive to build a workforce that thrives off of this in-person collaboration, they also must realize that many new and rising executives want flexibility — in their hours and in their locations. Organizations can technology, and guidance from organizations like PAVE Global to expand their horizons.

“With more Zoom meetings taking place and more presentation decks being sent for design reviews, these students are very savvy using technology,” explained Glenn Sokoli, VP of Creative and Marketing at Bernstein Display. As a result, “retailers and design firms can now tap into talent across the country more easily.”

Empowering Young Designers to Thrive in the Retail Workforce

While PAVE Global helps retailers and design firms build their brand positioning and identify possible talent, the organization also has become a recognized advocate for design students. According to its website, PAVE Global focuses on “illuminating the diverse range of pathways available to students in the creation of consumer environments,” and offers a range of mentorship opportunities to help these emerging leaders acquire the skills they need to be successful.

“Upcoming designers are craving mentorship and community involvement at all levels,” said Mappala. “Brands and retailers need to acknowledge this and provide opportunities for growth and change internally and externally.”

For example, Mappala noted that retailers should train incoming and current employees to be creative generalists who understand how to design with empathy. Both are critical as brands try to develop environments and experiences that align with new customer behaviors and expectations.

While many young designers can create these spaces using 3D design software and know how to render these spaces, they “are at times unsure of how the designs can actually be produced,” noted Sokoli. That’s why he believes that material, building and construction knowledge are critical as well. PAVE Global helps close these skill gaps with its educational programming, events and design competitions.

Real-Life Test of Design Skills at RICE 2023

“PAVE Global has done an amazing job at bringing students together with industry professionals ranging from architects and designers to vendors and retailers,” said Hirsch Ortiz. This year, PAVE Global is bringing this design challenge model to the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo, taking place June 13-15, 2023 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Students are tasked to design a floor display unit for a 10×10 trade show space, including brand stories, merchandise, and storage. Developed in partnership with goodMRKT and Vertical Ledge, the challenge encourages students to design a concept that is visually compelling, socially responsible and drives customers to purchase from goodMRKT’s assortment of brand partners.

Vertical Ledge will work directly with the students in a mentoring role to turn their concept into a prototype, which will be displayed prominently in the PAVE Global booth at the event. Winning students also will get to attend the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo with flight, hotel and per diem covered.

Learn how you can get involved with PAVE Global, contribute to the cause or participate in its various networking and mentorship opportunities. Attend the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo this June to attend the PAVE Global Bash, network with industry peers and meet the rising stars of the industry.