USA Pavilion Fit Out at Dubai Expo 2020

Top 6 Retail Fit Out Trends for 2023

Fit out is a term that describes the process of making an interior fit for purpose; this typically involves electrical and mechanical installation, through to interior design and furnishings. It is the shop window and retail fit out trends that must initially draw visitors into your shop, event or retail space – which is why it’s important to get your retail fit out right. Any shop, office or temporary structure that shows your branding is a physical representation of your company, and should ideally encourage your customers to want to stay in and return to that space.

Brand identity should be reflected in the architecture or atmosphere, which can alter over time as the brand evolves, or as trends and technologies change. What the brand provides may also change; as luxury brand fit outs are now combining retail with hospitality; offering cafes as an extension of their brand. This clever addition addresses additional customer needs – providing the refreshment and comfort which we expect from a hotel, yet is new to the retail industry.

Whether you are interested in a fresh shop window fit out, an appealing brand activation, or an immersive event experience, the way to start is always by looking at the upcoming trends. This remains the case if you’re after the best mall fit out, best restaurant fit out, or even just the best retail display – let’s explore what is to come in the world of retail fit out.

1. Experiential Journeys within Fit Outs

When creating a retail fit out, event or brand activation, the user experience should be first and foremost. The way in which a customer interacts with your brand can change their perceptions, inspire loyalty, and set long-term memories. The following trends often help to create an experiential journey.

USA Pavilion Fit Out at Dubai Expo 2020 Design by the Thinkwell Group for the USA Pavilion

Every five years, the World Expo sets the benchmarks and trends; showing the world what is possible in terms of art, science, technology and culture. At Expo 2020 Dubai, pavilions showcased their take on interactive, intuitive and atmospheric experiences. Electra worked on the USA Pavilion; its fit out was designed by the Thinkwell Group to immerse visitors within the experience through witnessing panoramic elevator views, getting up close to a life-size replica spacecraft, and captivate users through visual and audio experiences and projections.

The experience was made more relaxing by providing food, refreshment and comfort; enabling relaxation as an extension to the experience. This is a trend on the rise as post-COVID brands look to create atmospheres that are more comfortable and appealing than staying at home.

2. Artificial Intelligence in Fit Outs

This trend has been going strong for years, and continues to grow in terms of accessibility and functionality. Artificial Intelligence has a range of subsets, such as Augmented Reality – created through adding digital elements to a live view – and Virtual Reality, which creates an artificial yet completely immersive experience. AI is increasingly seen within retail, museums and brand activations; creating a more personalised user experience and offering a new way to interact and engage.

AI is a very powerful tool as our memory pathways are strengthened through these immersive experiences and interactions, so it is a prime way to place your brand within the mind of your customers. Increasingly more can be done to create individualised and intuitive user experiences, so it is important to have a retail fit out that accommodates your AI features. Thanks to Electra’s carpentry and steel expertise, we can create the areas or rooms for these immersive experiences. We can create custom-made elements to host the multiple screens and other gadgets involved.

3. Cultural Representation in Fit Outs

Cultural expression is a trend that is being embraced across the world. It not only encourages understanding and connection amongst ourselves, but also opens up our cultures to the outside world, allowing our values, traditions and beliefs to be understood, shared and enjoyed by others from different cultural backgrounds.

Unesco 42nd World Heritage Fit Out in Bahrain

This trend also addresses important cultural places as well as the social aspect of culture. UNESCO plays a key role in protecting land which is deemed to be of cultural, historical or environmental importance, and we are proud to have provided the marquees and interior fit outs at UNESCO 2018 Bahrain where the contemporary Middle Eastern culture was represented and provided the backdrop for these important global decisions.

4. Sustainable Fit Outs

Sustainability actions and goals have become an expectation of the general public, and rightly so. The modern customer values brands who act on protecting the environment, who give back to the land, and who participate in CSR ventures. These days, the presence or lack of these values can have a huge impact on your brand perceptions.

At the COP 26 Conference, Electra pledged to provide Net Zero Carbon Events by 2050, so it should come as no surprise that sustainable fit outs are now more achievable than ever. Electra’s commitment to sustainability actively reduces wastage and energy consumption, from the beginning through to the end of each project.

Increasing brand integrity through consistent efforts to benefit the environment will make it much easier for the modern customer to choose your company with a clear conscience. They will actively feel like they are doing good by backing a company that either benefits the environment, or at least restores the resources that it has taken from the land. Through choosing a sustainable fit out for your store or event, customers are not only more likely to support you, they’re also more likely to feel loyalty towards your brand as it connects with their values and goals. Sustainable fit outs can be achieved from the furniture to the walls and structures themselves, so the option to become fully sustainable is very much possible. Electra prefers using eco-friendly SLIK walls to create sustainable, reusable, modular display walls that are particularly popular with pop-up stores and events.

5. Natural Materials

Neutral tones have been a trend for many years, but it is the natural materials now taking centre stage. Part of this trend relates to sustainability and our increasing connection to nature and the natural world; bringing the outside in as we use less artificial materials. When applied to a shop window fit out, natural materials are easily combined with sustainability, such as through the use of recycled or repurposed items and materials.

One such example of nature-inspired fit outs is the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Atmosphere and drama is achieved through lighting, fabric elements, and the stark wooden outline of the Swiss mountains. Elsewhere, in the Crystal Cave, natural, polished stone is used to reflect the lighting formations all around.

Swiss Pavilion Fit Out Design by Expomobilia for the Swiss Pavilion

6. Instagrammable Fit Outs

As the ecommerce world competes with brick-and-mortar stores, physical venues need to be appealing, comfortable places that customers want to visit for the atmosphere or experience. You want your brand to be seen, felt and experienced by your customers so that they not only remember the experience, but actively share it on social media.

Social media friendly stores and locations seamlessly link the online and offline worlds, creating free advertising. But for it to work effectively, your branding must be consistent, appealing and – at best – experiential. The basics of this trend can be established by providing photo opportunities such as murals, unusual signage, or inviting decor.

Below is an example of an Instagrammable fit out in the Maldives Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. The seating arrangements were designed to represent boats, with props provided to engage visitors, add an element of playfulness, and encourage them to share how much fun they were having on their social media pages.

Maldives Pavilion Fit Out Design by ThinkOTS for the Maldives Pavilion


The retail fit out trends for 2023 include offering experiential user journeys, creating either the most comfortable or the most dramatic atmosphere and environment. They encourage the use of AI, and blend our online and offline experiences, while still providing those social-media-worthy designs and photo opportunities. Yet they also call for brands to be respectful and representative of culture and nature; also to stand up for nature through sustainability, connect us to the outside world by using natural materials, and to continuously give back to the land through CSR acts.

The upcoming trends for retail fit outs in 2023 were brilliantly showcased at the Dubai Expo, for which Electra successfully delivered several cutting-edge fit outs. While not all fit outs will require as much input as the Expo, knowing that your retail fit out contractors can handle the most technologically advanced displays in the world should reassure you that you’re in good hands. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help bring your retail fit out vision to life or click here for more information.

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