RIIS Retail have more than 25 years of worldwide experience designing, developing and furnishing stores, restaurants and offices. We have interviewed Mette Rødtnes and talked about their one-stop strategy, the movement from global to global and Archicad as a software platform.
RIIS was founded in 1965 as a carpentry company, and from the early beginnings good craftsmanship has been in focus at the company. Not that surprising, since both the founder Søren Riis and his son Kristian Riis, that has taken over the management of the company, both are trained carpenters and have brought the pride of the craft and love of wood to the company. But RIIS Retail has been through a rapid development since their early beginnings, and the concept of ‘good workmanship’ has been expanded to include a wide range of other competencies.
Strategic design solutions
RIIS Retail develops strategic design solutions, and based on deep insight of their customers' needs, they design stores, produce furniture and build individual stores. They go beyond full service by also assisting their clients with negotiation of leases and other elements that has to be taken care of when opening a new store - elements that are usually conducted by the operation department. “This way, we become the customer's one-stop partner and ensure that the design supports the customer's strategy, but also that everything is ready when the key is handed over. We are experts in this type of rollout of stores for our customers, and through our global network of partners we can open 5-6 stores a week, no matter where in the world they are located", says Mette Rødtnes, architect and design manager at RIIS Retail. We have visited Mette Rødtnes for a corona-friendly and distance-safe interview in her private home to get a better idea of how RIIS Retail relates to an ever-changing retail industry.
Until now, RIIS Retail has mainly made shop fittings for some of Denmark's largest brands, including Bestseller and Joe & the Juice. The company delivers 500-600 units per year, and each designer usually submits one project per week. The retail industry has been challenged in the last couple of years - not least because online shopping is booming. "There aren’t being built as many shops today as before, and the cities are generally undergoing transformation - they are changing from shopping centers to entertainment centers, and this places new demands on retailers. It is a general challenge in the retail industry to crack the code of what it takes to attract the younger customers. They have become accustomed to having the world's largest shopping center available at the tip of their fingers 24 hours a day, and you need to give them a good reason to get up from the couch and walk down town”, Mette Rødtnes explains.
From Global to Glocal
There is a growing tendency for shops and interior design to be more and more unique. The trend is called Glocal: “The big chains are challenged to meet new demands and to be relevant, local and present to their customers while being in a global context with many stores in a complex set-up. The close values have been emerging, but the process has speeded up wildly with the Corona pandemic, and this challenges retailers. We are committed to helping our customers meet these new demands from consumers so brands become relevant for their customers, and stores should offer more than the opportunity to exchange products for money. The physical stores provide a great tool for a brand to connect emotionally with their consumers. We are busy contributing to that”, says Mette Rødtnes.
Pursuing new potentials within space planning
With all this in mind, RIIS Retail has an increased focus on office furniture, which until now has been a small business area in Riis. But the interest also comes from outside. "We are experiencing a growing interest from this customer segment, and it seems that we have knowledge and expertise in some areas that the traditional consultants in office design are not so good at". There are some interesting overlaps between the requirements for interior design within hospitality and retail, and some of the new requirements for office interior design which opens new potentials for RIIS Retail. "In retail and hospitality, there has always been a focus on creating spaces that people want to stay in, and they have now also seen the trick in doing this in workplace design". And there's good reason for that. Research shows that beautiful, comfortable and identity creating frameworks are important for job satisfaction, stress prevention, productivity and attraction and retention of employees.
With her background in office design, organizations and companies, Mette Rødtnes is concerned with how we are affected by the physical environment, and how to create a physical environment in which people thrive. She works from an evidence-based approach and bases her advice on her deep knowledge of how aesthetics and interior design can be used as effective tools for organizations that want happy, healthy and productive employees.
Foyer, conference room and canteen in Munkebjerg Business Park
Munkebjerg Business Park in Odense is a good example of the new types of interior design projects that RIIS Retail will focus more on in the future. The project was inaugurated in the spring of 2020, and RIIS Retail has designed a foyer, conference room and canteen for Barfoed Group, which is the developer and now also operates the project.
“A developer like Barfoed Group would normally hire a designer or architect who specializes in office design and have another company do built it. With us, they get a partner that has profound knowledge regarding how to create atmospheric spaces, and in addition we are able deliver the whole package, just like when we make shops. This means that we also put bulbs in the lamps, candles in the candlesticks and place a stack of coffee table books on the shelves. At Barfoed Group, they have a unique understanding of the importance of aesthetics, and they had an ambition to offer a framework that creates value for the tenants and contributes positively to the employees' everyday lives. Barfoed Group is really a very cool customer to work for, and now the employees also go down to the canteen to work or hold meetings, because it's nice to be there - with a fire in the fireplace and references to nature ”.
In Munkebjerg Business Park, RIIS Retail worked to ensure a relaxed atmosphere by, among other things, adding elements that create nice associations with users. “Tiles on the wall may create associations to your grandmother's kitchen and evoke special emotions, while a long table creates associations to family gatherings and having friends over for a big dinner. It is about the physical and factual versus the aesthetic and emotional. That is why it has also been crucial for the dialogue with the client that we have used a 3D model for all meetings, which we have moved around together”, she explains.
The sketching starts with the floor plan, hand sketches which explore different ways of disposing of the space are prepared, and the first proposals for custom furniture are tested in quick sketches. "But it requires a 3D model to see if it works in reality and understand to the overall context, where everything is included - the dimensions of the room and the other furniture and spatial elements", Mette Rødnets explains. She has become totally dependent on seeing the spacious visualizations in 3D. These can be ceiling heights that are difficult to assess in a section and in addition, 3D is a great help in capturing things that are difficult to see when working in plan, sections and facades.
Mette Rødtnes is in charge of all RIIS Retails projects, and she is very active in the early phases, where ideas are developed and the cornerstones of a concept are formed, and less so during production and completion. For Munkbjerg Business Park, she initially made three different floor plans in Illustrator with accompanying mood boards and hand sketches, and then the chosen proposal was drawn up in Archicad immediately.
“My biggest concern with customers is that many people react very emotionally to first-hand impressions. It is fascinating for me as an architect to see the first sketch proposal in Archicad, but the roughness and unfinished expression of the 3D model can also make it difficult to communicate the right mood and feeling to the customer. But Barfoed Group are fortunately professional real estate developers, and they are used to looking at early 3D sketches. When we work with customers who do not have the same experience, we often spend disproportionately many hours on photorealistic visualizations. So if we can get a little further with the look directly in Archicad it is a big advantage. All our designers only work in Archicad. As soon as we get a store, it is modeled up in Archicad and the furniture is put in as BIM objects. Production drawings for custom furniture are also made in Archicad, so that the entire documentation is gathered in one place”, concludes Mette Rødtnes and is looking forward to developing more offices and homes that ensure employee well-being and homely ditto.