COVID: A CATALYST FOR CHANGE - taken from our BDS article of Oct 2020
Launching a new creative partnership during a pandemic lockdown was ambitious to say the least, but Tanya Reynolds & Paul Symes are insistent that there is no better time for many brands to make long overdue changes that will ultimately make them stronger, revitalised and more ready for a positive future.
The dynamic behind Reynolds/Symes isn’t to be simply another creative agency, but to conceive fantastic, inventive retail presentations by thinking outside the box; and they are well placed to do this. They clearly understand the fundamental ingredients needed to deliver an exceptional shopping experience, having a wealth of knowledge behind them from working with renowned brands such as Selfridges, Jigsaw, Marks & Spencer and Fortnum & Mason.
Tanya & Paul both agree that strong visual presentation will be a key factor in getting our stores and the retail industry back on its feet - image M&S press show
Both Paul & Tanya share a similar career path, having starting as ‘junior dressers’ and worked their way up through the ranks to eventually hold senior management and director positions. They firmly believe that starting at the bottom and learning from more experienced colleagues is a great way to begin a career in visual merchandising. ‘You learn the basics through personal tuition, even if you do end up holding the pins and changing the lightbulbs for two years’.
Coincidentally, Paul and Tanya both attended day release classes at ‘The College for the Distributive Trades’, with Paul travelling up to London from Tunbridge Wells (where he worked for the local House of Fraser store) and learned how to cover a panel in felt and create a vaguely interesting panel display from plastic cups and saucers! ‘Our tutors used to call them ’Kitchen Boutique’ displays’ Paul recalls. He adds, ‘I think it’s where my love of interesting grouping started’, ‘Even when I was at Fortnum & Mason I was happiest when sitting crossed legged on the window floor, shoes off, grouping products together’.
Tanya’s route into the industry came via an apprenticeship in fashion buying at Selfridges, ‘The display team looked like they were having much more fun, so I pursued them until they gave in! I loved the intensity of the day-to-day training and the camaraderie of working in a ‘creative family’. Some of the team I still consider close friends today.
Tanya & Paul both agree that strong visual presentation will be a key factor in getting our stores and the retail industry back on its feet Starting as a junior apprentice and learning on the job is a great way to really understand and develop your skills in order to progress your career in the industry.
Starting as a junior apprentice and learning on the job is a great way to really understand and develop your skills in order to progress your career in the industry - image Fortnums' Shard atrium installation
Today the retail news seems to be all doom and gloom; with recession and the move to online both creating uncertainty and pressure for the future of physical retail.. Tanya states, ‘It is clear that the next few months will be tough, as we steer our way out of the pandemic and continue to struggle with the incursion of online retail. Rather than battening down the hatches, retailers need to be bolder and more decisive to weather this storm’.
There is no doubt that shops and stores will need to use every trick in the book to get pounds in the till and hold on to their market share. Great store ambience, exciting product presentation and oldfashioned customer care are really key to enticing customers back into physical spaces’. Paul explains, ‘It is a fact that excellent product presentation by good visual merchandisers increases brand awareness and as such adds significant value to the bottom line’.
Having worked together (and through recessions) at both Selfridges and Jigsaw, Reynolds/Symes are not put off by the inevitable budget cuts that accompany retail downturns. Paul sums up, ‘Brilliant displays are not simply about throwing money at a project. Creative windows and excellent product presentation can actually cost very little; its more about using our extensive creative skills and imagination, dovetailed into the brands’ DNA. We have both had ample experience in this way of working which creates unique results’.
Despite the backdrop of Covid and recession, the pair are resolutely upbeat about their future. ‘We have seen the retail climate in dire straits many times before and have a strong belief that retail will come through this trying period changed, but stronger and more prepared for the ‘new normal’.
The original article can be seen at https://issuu.com/creative-download/docs/vm_spotlight_