Retail Loves Hotels | Interview with María Callís

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Taking part in the event Retail Loves Hotels in Barcelona, MiND had the opportunity to talk to María Callís -Retail Strategy & Design Consultant at Alpenstock- about her background and the latest hospitality’s trends within the retail sector.

Showcasing different personalities from the retail world, the second edition of the RDI’s Retail Loves Hotels took place at Simon 100 -a revolutionary immersive space- with the collaboration of Cicat and ALU, which provided its display fixtures to support the event organization.

María Callís -Retail Strategy & Design Consultant at Alpenstock- talking at Retail Loves Hotels in Barcelona. Photo by Héctor Milla.

Among the speakers at the event there were also Miquel Àngel Julià, Vice-president of RDI and Strategy and Design Director at Grup Idea who was the moderator of the event; Marius Sala -Art Director & Creative Knock Brand D- and Natali Canas del Pozo -Creative Director- who talked about hotel branding; Marc Morillas -CEO Morillas Branding Agency- and Alfred Batet -Global Strategic Digital Manager Simon- who talked about cyborg hotels and the digital channel; Daniel Isern -Architect Isern Associats- who talked about hedo hotels and how to innovate shopping experiences, and Gisela Steiger -Architect & Lighting DesignerLight Squad S- who talked about the intangible materiality of light in the creation of experience.

Retail Loves Hotels’ speakers. From left to right: Alfred Batet (Simon), Domènec Biosca (Educator), Marc Morillas (Morillas), Miquel Àngel Julià (Grup Idea), Marc Paredes (Simon), Natali Canas del Pozo (El Equipo Creativo), Daniel Isern (Isern Associats), Gisela Steiger (The Light Squad Studio), María Callís (Alpenstock), Xavi Morón (The Hidden Barcelona), Elsa Yranzo (The Hidden Barcelona), Bru Marsé (Música Divina), Marius Sala (Knock). Photo by Héctor Milla.

Maria has been working in the retail field since 1996. She is a Master’s professor and president of the Retail Design Institute -the first and largest non-profit association of professionals specialized in the design of commercial spaces founded in North America in 1961, and existing in Spain since 2011. According to Maria, the Retail Design Institute’s mission in Spain is to educate future retail designers and distinguish them from “just” designers. “When you hire a retail designer, you are hiring a person who communicates through stores”, she affirms.

During the past three years, Maria has travelled all around the world organizing events, during which she started noticing a change in the hotel industry. Entrepreneurs started to integrate retail sales possibilities into the development of hotels and companies with an international weight, like Ikea and Muji that started entering the hotel format.

María Callís during her interview with MiND at Retail Loves Hotels. Credits: ALU dispaly fixtures. Photo by SOFIA FERNANDEZ STENSTRÖM

According to Maria, retail is a form of communication that can be applied to different areas and fields, be it a store, an office, a workplace or a hotel. Nowadays, the retail and hotel industry must start integrating also another form of communication: technology. However, the concept of technology itself has been seen as only a tool to get more customers instead of a form of communication and the opportunity to create a real brand experience. Companies should learn to integrate technology when they are defining the point zero business model, and not when it has already been defined and applied.

“Retail is a form of communication and can be applied in different fields and different ways”

Nowadays, as a consequence of the ever changing modern times, the new trend is “fusion retail”, which means that brands invest in different fields, minimizing their financial risks. Sectorial companies have no reason to exist anymore. Ikea, for example, has different sales points but has also started investing in the hospitality field. Maria believes that the step companies should make is to understand that retail is a form of communication and who understands this form can apply it in different ways and fields. For example, Stance Socks -an American brand that makes socks- has understood how to communicate with the customers and how to communicate the brand, not only in stores, but also in offices and on social media.

Round Table at Retail Loves Hotels. Photo by Héctor Milla.

Another element that, according to María, has started making its way in the retail world is video gaming, and its application within the digital world and digital purchase. This world knows how to entertain their players. It is important for a company to entertain their clients and create a different experience inside online stores. Buying online is convenient: no queues, no need to get up from the couch, you can see all the assortment without browsing the physical shop. But there is no emotion in all this. This is where the world of video gaming comes in: to create experiences and emotions online.

For the offline experiences, companies and brands start talking about dynamization. However, not many companies are able to apply this concept correctly: as for technology, organizing in-store workshops and events requires a valuable strategy and a good business plan to avoid risks. Thinking and writing down a good strategy is the key element for a good brand reinforcement.

Miquel Àngel Julià, Vice-president of RDI and Strategy and Design Director at Grup Idea and María Callís -Retail Strategy & Design Consultant at Alpenstock. Photo by Héctor Milla.

Another key factor of the retail field is the CSR –corporate social responsibility. Few companies have started to integrate sustainability in their strategy, but many do it in a non-competitive way, by pursuing social actions but without really believing in the message they are sending. Customers are more and more interested in sustainability and social responsibility so companies should start working more on this aspect through their business model.

MiND would like to thank Marìa Callìs for sharing her opinion on this topic and the Retail Design Institute for inviting us at the event and we hope to see you at the third edition.

Interview by Lisa Zanon & Carmen McIntosh