A new generation of optical retailers have reacted to the competitive environment of the high street with innovative retail environments and a unique perspective on design. Clodagh Norton highlights three stores which opened in 2017.

What are the new directions in store design?

There is clearly a new generation of independent optical retailers, and a rise in boutique-style stores designed by interior designers and architecture practices. The new luxury stores in Europe increasingly focus on a store design that fully reflects the individuality of the independent brands they offer combined with impeccable service and state-of-the-art eyecare and testing. In terms of design there are many variations in styling and interiors if we are talking about new store openings, but the underlying theme is always the same: optical retailing has gradually fallen in line with fashion retailing, and new stores are increasingly striking and creative – enhancing the shopping experience and re-evaluating the relevance of the eyewear itself as a personal ‘style’ accessory and object of quality and design.

Give an example of a store in Europe that illustrates this new direction.

It is difficult to highlight individual stores as we are seeing many different “looks” in terms of retail interiors, but a minimalist décor which highlights the eyewear collections with clever displays tends to be a successful design formula. Natural materials such as wood, stone and concrete and open and accessible displays and shelving create an environment that is both chic and tasteful, whilst highlighting the quality of the collections and their provenance, for example. Optica Veneta, which opened in Madrid in May 2017 perfectly combines that focus on design and style with state-of-the-art eyecare.


Optica Veneta, Madrid, owned by Raffaele Loffredo: a beautiful minimal store offering exclusive international collections


Which stores can you highlight in the UK that are part of this new wave in your view?

There are more and more and that is exciting to see. I have several favourites including Sinead McGurk Opticians, the architect designed independent practice in Magherafelt, a market town in Co Derry, Northern Ireland.  This is a spacious interior and meticulous care has been taken over the fittings and details such as the furniture.


Sinead McGurk: a luxurious, welcoming setting in a rural market town – designed by McGurk Architects


And in London, have there been many new stores opening in the last 12 months?

There are several new high-quality independent stores in London and that’s great news. It is becoming easier to find some of the best independent brands in eyewear in London; things are definitely changing for the better. The boutique style practice – The Eye Establishment - opened in August. The shop, owned by Nadeem Rob, has a modern welcoming interior and fashionable design – and is one of London’s first optical stores to feature a coffee bar. There is also the newly opened Aston & Woods, which has an impressive, high-end design by Dean Waugh of Retail Experience Design. This shop, run by Sona and Keval Thakerar, is selling some terrific exclusive artisan collections that are hard to find elsewhere in the UK. It also has very impressive clinical consulting rooms with state-of-the-art equipment and a VIP Style Suite. The attention to detail and service is impressive.


Aston & Woods, Fitzrovia, London opened in October 2017