Edge is a leading design agency and architectural practice, offering clients the best of both worlds. Founded in 2005, and based in London, Edge works across the retail, workplace and leisure sectors offering holistic solutions through brand strategy and communications, interior design and architecture.
Winning numerous awards for its work, both domestically and internationally, Edge has worked on a number of major retail projects with high profile clients such as Costa, Waitrose, HSBC, Tesco and The National Gallery.
Keen to catch up on some of Edge’s most recent work and find out what makes it so successful, Premier Retail sat down with Director and Project Principal Michael Fern.
As a company, what is it that you specialise in?
“We’re actually a mixture between a strategy design led agency and an architectural practice. What set us apart from a lot of our competition is that we understand how to take brand values and apply them to a physical experience.
“Our retail and leisure clients span a broad range. At one end we have hotel chains and hotel groups and at the other we have large scale, multi format retailers. The common thread across all of them is about understanding how to take a customer on an experience and finding out what is unique about a brand so it can be amplified.
“The fact we have both architectural and design strands means we can hold a client’s hand for a long project, from initial ideas to architectural details.”
How would you describe your day to day role?
“I am a board level director but the majority of my time is spent with senior client teams and board level executives on how to listen and understand the challenges they face as a business and organisation. I then lead multi-discipline teams within our studio to deliver the work.”
You recently worked with Costa Coffee on a ground-breaking concept for the brand. Could you tell us more about that?
“The primary brief for this project was to create a store experience which helped customers revaluate the brand and their passion for coffee. Costa is the largest coffee chain in the UK and scores highly for the quality of its products. One of their challenges, as such a large brand, is to avoid the negative connotations of a brand which is just rolling lots and lots of shops.
“The site in Wandsworth Old Town was an opportunity to really create something that felt truly part of the community and allows people to get a little bit more of the experience Costa is associated with. First and foremost they’re a roaster of coffee and then they create a signature blend that is delivered through baristas. A lot of the stuff to do with the environment was about how you could tell people this story without forcing it down their throats.
“Rather than feeling like just a large brand landing on a little London high street, it needed to feel like part of the community, responding to a specific type of customer. This is quite unique for costa because they don’t typically do that. They’re used to rolling out large quantities of stores through a design matrix system which in theory creates a unique store every time but they become very formulaic, very quickly. We took the opportunity to create something with a little bit more craft and a bit more quality.
“At the moment we’re learning a lot from the store and understanding how we can take the principles of something that is a bit more personal forward. We are looking at how to create spaces that feel more relevant, authentic and are warm and joyful.”
You also have a longstanding relationship with the National Gallery. How did you first get involved with them?
“When we first came on board one of the key drivers was maximising the commercial revenue opportunities of the shop from the large numbers of visitors each year. Although the store had a high level of footfall, this wasn’t being reflected in the sales figures. There was a very clear objective set in terms of growth through sales.
“One of the main things we looked at was how to make the store space feel more like an integral part of the gallery visit. We worked a lot on merchandising principles and range densities. We managed to get the Gallery to trial successfully was reducing the stock holding by about 10%. This meant the store felt easier to shop and interestingly maintained sales despite the reduction.
“One thing that had to be met was that the store itself had to repay the set-up costs within a financial year, which it managed to do.”
It must be great to have clients come back with more projects that you can work on?
“Yes, absolutely. I think with a lot of our clients who we do build longer term relationships with, it’s about really listening and understanding what their key objectives are. We talk internally about 100% effective design, which for us is not just about looking good. We also look at the return on investment for the client, whether that is changing brand perception, increasing dwell time and converting more people to shoppers. Once we complete a job we’re about making sure our clients are left with something which has 100% effectiveness.”
What do you pride yourselves in as a company?
“One of the things that we’re really proud of is that our clients become strong advocates of Edge. We often encourage our prospective clients to talk to existing and previous ones about the experience of working with us. We’re humbled that when they do that they get some really good responses.”