No one's better equipped to serve as the director of global retail design agency Sheridan&Co than Freddie Sheridan. Aside from the fact that it's his family's business, he's worked for the company for nearly 20 years, and perhaps most importantly, he's worked in every single department across the entire company. We caught up with him to better understand the luxury retail space from an international perspective, plus what the retail store of the future might look like.
What does Sheridan&Co do?
Sheridan&Co is a global retail design agency. Essentially that means that we support the brands we work with in any way necessary to ensure that retail becomes a successful channel for growth. Our services span Strategy - Brand & Retail Strategy; Design - Brand Identity, Packaging and Retail Design and; Deliver - Concept Management, Design Development (Engineering), Procurement & Project Management, Manufacture & Installation.
One thing that all of our relationships have in common is they start with an open conversation about a brand's aspirations and how our skills, relationships and experience can sit around their own in-house capabilities to start a journey towards success.
We enjoy working with brands to really define how they are connecting with and engaging with their consumer as much as we do oversee the more practical challenges that lead up to opening a physical space. We work with a range of brands at different stages of their expansion into physical space and offline experiences, from international corporates with multiple retail touch points across the globe, to startups beginning to explore how their brand identity will translate into their first standalone store.
What really gets us out of bed is those moments in which you get to sit back and watch from a distance as people pour into a new space to find the product that is going to make them feel like the best version of themselves. No matter the context or the industry, we are essentially driven by playing an intrinsic role in connecting people with brands that inspire confidence. More than just displaying products, we aim to help brands be actively engaging, immersive and open about their values to create communities that exist in both the physical and digital realm.
What was your career trajectory leading you into the role you have today?
Sheridan & Co is my family business, so there has always been a level of involvement, but I’ve also explored and worked for other companies that have given me valuable experience that applies to what I do today.
Outside of Sheridan&Co, I worked at a global concierge service which gave me experience in marketing on behalf of a B2C service-based business. It gave me direct insight into how relationships with luxury brands really work. I left with the knowledge that any energy that goes into understanding your customer is not wasted and to find true, sustainable success, your brand experience and product must genuinely satisfy their wants or needs.
I also had a brief stint at an international digital agency. Working with a range of brands to help users navigate key differentiators between products, the company was focused on advertising attributes. From unique and simple products to more complex ones, the commonality was using clear communication, logic and influence to help customers make choices that were right for them.
Inside of Sheridan&Co, over a period that spans nearly 20 years, I have worked in every single department within our business. Without going into detail on every single one, they range from internal administration or IT support to working in the factory and long stints on the installation team fitting in stores overnight. Most recently, I was an Account Manager before taking over the directorship of first the London and now the New York team.
This gives me a unique perspective when it comes to understanding the considerations that make our process successful. I have enough understanding to be useful when considering the detail, as well as an insight that gives me respect for every single one of the skilled specialists that make up our broad-ranging team.
What does your role as director of the London and New York offices entail?
If you had to categorize my current role it would really break down into management and business development. I also work with our talented and varied team across marketing, industry research, strategy, creativity and product development, as well as process, efficiency and quality standards when it comes to our service.
Working across different markets means I am also responsible for ensuring that no matter where a specific project is situated, it gets the right attention and focus from any area of our international team. This could mean anything from asking a craftsman in our own factory to validate a local supplier's decision, to ensuring that brands we work with achieve consistency on a global scale.
From a customer perspective, I work to ensure we have an in-depth understanding of our clients' ambitions and we use that knowledge to mould the services that we offer around their individual needs. Whereas my internal role consists of ensuring that our team has everything they need to carry out their individual roles, as well as operate effectively as part of our overall process.
Sheridan & Co is a family-owned company. Was it always your aim to join the family business? In your personal experience, what have you found to be the benefits and challenges to this?
My mother and father started the business together and for as long as I can remember I was always fascinated by Sheridan&Co. I can remember waiting up for them to come home so we could walk the dog together and I could hear about what had made up their days at work. I was always intrigued by this and sought to learn about the industry.
Over the years my involvement in the company grew and I saw a huge opportunity to build on the existing strengths to expand the services to include brand and retail strategy. It has been a great privilege to be able to continue to grow with the business and see it go from strength to strength.
Working with people to whom you are directly related gives an interesting insight into how unique each family member is, and how complementary skill sets help us grow as a family and business. Our individual experiences and the way you impact each other as you grow to mean that when you come to the table with the intent to achieve something as a group you all have valuable perspective to offer.
There are certainly challenges but thanks to some family business advice and counseling we have learned that most can be addressed by defining clear boundaries and individual responsibilities as well as learning to and being committed to acting and communicating professionally.
What have been some of your career highlights to date?
We are lucky enough to have many, many stories. Some of the more recent moments include working with the founders of Morphe and the Elevate team to develop branding, packaging and retail concept has helped them to retain their original and hugely valued followers, as well as connect with many millions of other customers.
Working with the legendary Pat McGrath and seeing her incredible vision in action.
Playing a role in the initiative that led to Fenty Beauty becoming the most successful launch cosmetics in history.
Passing tissues to wipe the tears of one of the team at Puig as we unveiled a Carolina Herrera retail concept that encapsulates many months of hard work and passion.
Supporting the team at Anastasia Beverly Hills in launching a concession that became their most successful ever individual location.
Working with Douglas to develop the 2019 European Flagship Store of the year.
Looking back to see what started as a belief that there was more to retail than designing beautiful stores evolve into becoming our unbelievably comprehensive and effective strategic offering.
As the retail industry continues to undergo a huge change, how is your company adapting and turning this into an opportunity for your business?
History teaches us that many of the greatest accomplishments are born in the face of adversity. We believe that what was referred to as the death of retail for many years was its greatest challenge. You only have to look at the many amazing examples of brands bravely pushing experience harder, in the belief that their customers will be inspired and respond positively to big and meaningful initiatives.
Brands are also pushing thoughtfulness further and striving to understand what their customers need from them. This is leading to the creation of considered communities that offer customers far more than the products that the brand sells. They come to explore and be part of something bigger, with others with whom they already share something in common.
You only have to look at humans' instinctive need to learn and explore to see that the intention of this challenge was never to destroy the channel but to make it question itself, what it is and what it needs to be. What are customers wanting when they come to meet a brand in its physical space?
Today we are looking to use this belief as fuel to explore how brands can strive to offer their customers more in physical space. We want to take what makes a brand truly unique at its core and bring these values to the surface. We strive to apply best in class learnings from the last 35 years combined with true creativity to create initiatives that help brands stand out and connect deeper with customers. We want to support brands as they move past transactional relationships and allow them to have a positive impact on the lives of their loyal fans.
Other recent developments include supporting brands we work with in a more holistic sense. Whereas traditionally we thought in terms of projects; for example a brand needs a POS system or a store, today we think about how that fits into a brand's wider growth strategy and the strategic, brand and logistical implications.
We also understand that as our brands are thinking so globally, we need to be able to support them wherever they need to come to life in physical space. There are not many countries in the work that we have not worked in and when we are talking about new territories, we understand what it takes to deliver consistency and reliability.
Are there a few key retail strategies you can point to that ensure a brand stays relevant to today’s consumer?
The consumer is at the heart of every initiative keeping in mind their wants and needs, concerning what makes them unique as well as their common interests. Though everything we do revolves around reaching a customer, the conversations with brands are usually centered around their specific needs or requirements.
Logistical challenges are those framed as a practical requirement, for instance, “We need to create a mechanism that will allow our brand to achieve consistency in all of our physical locations.” Or “We have a loyal following but we need to find an effective and sustainable way to reach those consumers wanting to interact with our brand.”
Creative challenges are usually born out of a brand realizing that they are not happy with the look and feel of something within their retail estate. “It has been three years since we updated our Retail Identity and it is in need of a makeover”
Strategic initiatives are born when a brand is already realizing that a challenge runs deeper and they are thinking about how they want to improve engagement. “We have opened or had a presence in many stores already but we needed to think back to how we drive their individual and combined performance”.
Having such a depth of experience partnering with many of the world's leading brands allows us to stand and see the picture from a wider perspective. If these three types of challenges are not already linked at the moment that a brand comes to us for our support then moments after the initial project is complete they will be.
Take consistency for instance. If we focus on this purely as a logistical issue then the moment we see success in this light we have to immediately start thinking about how we can improve engagement. Consistency without engagement is nothing.
In our latest study, we are looking at the lifecycle of a brand in depth. From its birth to the greatest potential peak, we are exploring every pivotal moment on the pathway to success. From there we are layering in best in class case studies and success stories to build what will become a patchwork for the ultimate growth path of a brand.
Using this map we will look at each key moment and analyze it from a logistical, creative and strategic perspective. At this moment we will be in an incredibly unique position to offer brands a truly comprehensive, three-dimensional answer to overcome any challenge that they are currently facing.
In instances where the brand is open to a wider conversation, we will be able to answer much bigger questions and overcome various hurdles in a single initiative. We believe that at this moment, more than ever before we will be able to play a more intrinsic role in a brands growth. Helping a brand to connect with more people who will be happier thanks to the use of their products, the experiences that they offer as well as a result of being welcomed into their community.
Your company has offices in 3 continents; do you find luxury retail trends are the same globally?
Global is the trend. Social media has created a platform that can allow a brand to become a global phenomenon way before it will ever have the physical reach to “meet their consumers where they are,” which is a phrase used by many investors encouraging founders to explore or challenge retail harder as a channel for growth.
Firstly we have to consider whether an initiative is driving awareness or striving to keep up with it. When building strategies for brands, whether they have a local focus or expand across multiple territories, we look to align the principles behind the brand with local nuances to enhance success no matter the location.
These nuances can be as cultural as they can be practical. They can impact the way that we deal with privacy or testing products, the height of a stool, visual cues or the way that we communicate a key value. When working on international projects we aspire to respect the relationship that someone has with their roots, with wherever they currently call home and at the same time what inspires them to be part of a global community.
If you can understand and align personal values with those of the brand you can bring to life an environment that is most likely to create an emotional connection that's both impactful and scalable.
What are some of your current projects you’re excited about?
As we more often than not are working with a brand to shape what will become their next pivotal moment, we can very rarely talk about the project before its release. In terms of projects that have not yet launched some recently rewarding moments include the following:
-Watching our design team bring to life a concept that will become our largest ever individual location and will almost certainly have a lasting impact on the way that the banking industry views its physical spaces.
-Watching a founder's reaction as we successfully translated her vision for her wellness brand into a retail concept that will help her to connect with her customers no matter the location or format.
-Supporting a beauty brand to adapt what has so far been an ad hoc approach to retail into a comprehensive retail identity that will allow them to efficiently and cost-effectively bring stores to life in a way that will enhance their performance.
What does the retail store of the future look like?
We have often considered a store of the future project as an internal challenge or a publicity initiative. The thing that gets in our way every time is respect for the fact that every brand is intrinsically different. When we work on projects we never feel like we are applying pre-invented ideas because a “here's one I made earlier” approach would create a dangerous disregard for a brands identity, values and principles. By starting our process with getting to know the brand intimately all ideas are born from its unique perspective.
We will constantly strive to give people a reason to get up from behind their screens and come and interact with brands in real space. Spaces that are designed to give those people a unique insight into the heart of the brand and help them find products that are genuinely right for them.
These spaces also provide an opportunity to create a community with like-minded people on both a physical and digital level.
As long as we are lucky enough to continue walking into rooms with brands to embark on an open and collaborative journeys that lead to innovative, successful stores opening we will be designing the stores of the future.
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