Sustainable Design – The biggest retail trend of 2019

Last year was the first year when ethical living really went mainstream. The vegan diet became all the rage, BBC’s Blue Planet was a hit and by November #sustainability hashtag had nearly 2.5 million posts. As consumers became more knowledgeable and aware of the impact of their lifestyle on the environment, they also became more conscious and purposeful in their choices.

In direct response to this, sustainable design is fast shaping up to become the biggest trend in retail design in 2019. Shopping centres and high street stores shed the temple of consumerism society label. Instead, position themselves as beacons of energy efficient and sustainable lifestyle. To stay relevant, brands incorporate ethically sourced materials into the store interiors and create environments which promote health and wellbeing.

Wooden furniture, plants and lighting at IKEA's most sustainable store in the UK in Greenwich


At the beginning of the year, Ikea opened its most sustainable store yet in London. The first new full-size store in the capital in 13 years has been built using renewable construction materials. It employs many green technologies such as solar roof panels, a wildlife roof garden, rainwater harvesting, geothermal heating and LED lighting. The store has only a limited number of parking spaces available, to encourage both customers and employees to commute by public transport. It also offers minicab, electric van and courier bicycles as home delivery options. Informative displays installed throughout the space, show what materials are used to make the Ikea products and how different technologies can be used to make customers’ homes more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger’s new sustainability concept store which opened recently in Shoreditch has been fitted out using recycled plastics. 60% recycled ceramic tiles, eco paints, marine waste table tops and recycled aggregate flooring. Timber signs from old stores have been repurposed to create a visually striking feature wall. Smart MEP solutions have been employed to capture and filter the heat generated by the fridges and channel it into the over door heater while the condenser water from the air-conditioning unit is used to water exterior plants.

House plants in the IKEA Greenwich store, IKEA's most sustainable store in the UK

Luxury brands and sustainable design

Luxury brands, traditionally slower to embrace new trends, have also stepped on board and are working to make their stores more environmentally conscious and prove that sustainability doesn’t mean compromising on luxury or style.

Stella McCartney

A new Stella McCartney boutique on Old Brompton Street that opened last year claims to be the most sustainable store in London. The interior incorporates handmade, organic and ethically sourced materials such as recycled foam and papier-mâché wall panels made using waste paper from the company’s London offices. Biodegradable mannequins are used in visual merchandising displays. Informative messages on sustainability interject the interior in forms of signage and projected moving images to further communicate the brand ethos to customers. The brand also worked with Airlabs to design an air-conditioning system that uses nano carbon technology to make the air in store as clean as possible. Give visitors and staff a respite from London pollution.

Interior of Stella McCartney's new sustainably designed Old Bond Street Store in London
Exterior of Stella McCartney's new sustainably designed Old Bond Street Store in London
Curved shoe wall in Stella McCartney's new sustainably designed Old Bond Street Store in London


Versace recently opened a sustainable boutique in fashionable Sloane Street in London. The first LEED-certified store in this iconic location. Sustainably sourced materials are used throughout the store with climate control systems designed to save both water and energy as well as promote health and wellbeing.

Retail properties have relatively short life cycles due mainly to the ever-changing trends and market environments. Spaces can be continually reimagined and adapted to keep up with consumer demands. This means fixtures, fittings and finishes are often completely replaced and layouts changed every couple of years. This fast adaptation culture naturally carries with it the responsibility for dealing with waste and end of life management of products. Plants can be incorporated into the store interiors to improve air quality and wellbeing while green walls and roofs can help optimise buildings thermal performance. But that’s not all. Retail spaces can also become education hubs promoting healthy and sustainable lifestyle using brand products and services. This is something that Ikea does exceptionally well through their Learning Lab where customers can learn how to prolong the life of products, up-cycle and grow their own food produce. Customers want to buy from brands they can identify with and that hold the same values. By incorporating environmentally friendly initiatives into the store design, retailers can enhance their reputation and build a loyal brand advocate base while also reducing costs and helping the environment. Everybody wins!

Biophilic design rock centre piece in the new Stella McCartney Old Bond Street Store in London