Tower of London – The White Tower Gift Shop
The Tower of London is one of the most popular heritage attractions in the UK. From its 11th century origins as one of the great Norman palaces to the modern day, The Tower of London has always played an important historic role and continues to do so as a must-see destination for both domestic and international tourists.
As with most attractions of this magnitude, merchandise sales play a significant role in generating crucial income that helps the Tower maintain and improve its visitor services. In line with this, last year saw the opening of a revamped and revitalised gift shop in The White Tower – the oldest building in the Tower of London ensemble.
On average of 7,000 visitors per day pass through The White Tower, all of whom exit through the gift shop. Having decided the previous store design was no longer proving an adequate solution, award-winning consultancy Kinnersley Kent Design was brought on board to redesign the area.
Kinnersley Kent Design has enjoyed a long relationship with Historic Royal Palaces, the charity in charge of the Tower of London and has a strong idea of what they are looking for. The brief for this particular redesign had four key aims: firstly, to create an exciting and engaging retail experience; secondly, to improve customer flow and circulation; thirdly, to take a sympathetic approach to enhance the natural theatre and character of the building; and fourthly to facilitate product merchandising, using individual or grouped product narratives.
The new concept for the store was inspired by the aesthetic of The White Tower itself and the building’s innate theatre and character. Rather than cover its natural assets the new concept sought to reveal and celebrate the building’s structure.
Speaking to Premier Retail about the project Simon Krapf, Senior Interior Designer at Kinnersley Kent Design, said:
“The previous fit out of The White Tower shop was carried out in the 1990s and was no longer really fit for purpose in terms of design and customer circulation. It needed refreshing with a contemporary look & feel, and rethinking in order to cope with increased visitor numbers.
“The key challenge of the project was working within tight restrictions due to the building’s Grade I listed status. This meant the fabric of the building had to remain untouched, and nothing could be fixed to walls or ceiling. Also, due to its popularity with visitors, the shop could only be closed for a short time at the beginning of the year for the refurbishment.
“From a design point of view, the new store has a much better atmosphere and is more appropriate for the space. Feedback from the client and customers has been really positive and there has been a strong sales uplift following our redesign. Personally, it was a really interesting project to work on – firstly because the Tower of London is such a famous and historic attraction, and secondly considering that its architecture couldn’t be altered. This was fun design problem to solve, which meant putting emphasis on the details and coming up with clever joinery solutions.”
Highlights of the new design include bespoke new modular display units that are made up of blackened steel structures, with oak units plus burnt larch tops and brushed brass detailing. The central circulation route has also been freed up to improve the in-store customer journey.
The overall result is a dramatic, warm and practical space with a robust and authoritative aesthetic – one that’s authentic and appropriate to the historic location. The store boasts a warm atmosphere thanks to the lighting, and natural but authoritative materials, with a premium feel that befits its royal location.