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Retail Lab


The Retail Lab works with businesses to identify research and development needs.

When developing a retail environment or product, how do you evaluate the factors that impact on performance?

We measure the relationships between consumers, products and environments. Using expertise in design, consumer behaviour, usability, environment metrics, marketing and technology leadership.

Our unique approach to conducting research and development places the consumer at the heart of our research investigations. We do this by using the latest technologies to measure relationships between consumers, products and retail spaces in bespoke test environments.

Our approach to contemporary retail design considers sustainability and resource efficiency through the research and development process, from concept evaluation to market-ready testing.

The knowledge we have acquired is then used to inform design and development processes in support of commercial and research goals.

One of our strengths is in our multidisciplinary approaches, we work across the disciplines to ensure an informed outcome. This ensures our work is supported by ground-breaking areas of the university, such as; The Institute for Creative technologies (IOCT), The Usability Lab, and The Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD).

Our diverse areas of expertise span lighting, architecture, textiles, fashion, packaging and product design, as well as business and law.

Key features

Our solutions

  • Understanding performance early in the product and service realisation process.
  • Knowledge of the underlying factors and development surrounding sustainability and efficiency.
  • Understanding of the importance of evaluating the impact of developments in the business environment.
  • Consideration of a wide range of factors such as economic, geopolitical, ethical and environmental aspects, the increasing pressure from the government and EU, legislation including taxation and waste management, currency exchange rates, standards such as ISO14000 series, and carbon foot printing.
  • Understanding how these factors impact on resource costs and add pressure to the supply chain.

Business benefits

Working with the Retail Lab can benefit your organisation in many ways, including:

  • Enhancing organisational performance
  • Lowering development costs
  • Improving profitability and increasing ROI
  • Creating speed to market opportunities
  • Understanding future opportunities
  • Improving economic and environmental performance and reducing waste
  • Working collaboratively to bring together expert researchers from across the University
  • Creating user-informed design solutions
  • Continuous performance evaluation

Our experts

Professor Peter Ford has specialised in assisting Small, Medium and Large Enterprises make effective use of design within their businesses strategies, and more recently, on the benefits of being resource efficient in the design and development of these products. This has extended to advising Governments in the UK, Oman and Indonesia on the role of design in industry.


Retail Lab is a state-of-the-art research and development facility located at De Montfort University (DMU).

The facility aims to support development of insight into sustainable and resource efficient solutions for the retail sector and enhance business performance by focusing on both physical and technological infrastructure solutions.

As well as a ‘mock shop’ retail laboratory, the facility also has:

  • A virtual test space for concept evaluations
  • A dedicated area for conducting training and exhibitions
  • A knowledge bank focusing on five specialist areas of legislation, supply chain, build, fit and consumer experience.

Who we have worked with


A national high street and out-of-town retailer wanted a holistic approach to understanding the sustainability and efficiency of its retail model including store level costs.

Working with the Retail Lab and the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, the research team conducted research into energy usage and consumer behaviour in stores. Working with game art, the team has subsequently modelled behaviour in a virtual environment and continues to test design-based interventions.

Florida Group

The owners and manufacturers of the Van Dal shoe brand, based in Norwich, wanted insight into their target consumers’ responses to new merchandising and concept store.

A Usability Lab research team conducted research at DMU's Retail Lab and on-site in Norwich, using mobile equipment. Research findings are feeding into the business’s store and product development.


A designer bathroom company based in Leicester wanted a better understanding of the impact of energy cost saving ideas on their business model.

Working with the Retail Lab and the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, the research team investigated consumer behaviour on-site using mobile equipment.

Findings are being used to improve to product displays and store layout.

Contact us

Peter Ford

Professor of Design, Design Unit Head

T: +44 (0)116 207 8786


Web links

Design and New Product Development Research Group