By Aimee Chanthadavong

After 53 years in the shopfitting industry, Bryan Sidgreaves from The Sidgreaves Group has witnessed many changes over the decades.

Sidgreaves told Retailbiz that 50 years ago before the advent of sophisticated machinery, it was a labour intensive industry.

“In those days labour costs were cheap but materials were quite expensive and often difficult to procure. Many materials that we now take for granted. For example, laminates, veneered boards and vinyl floor finishes did not exist,” he said. “The reverse applies today. Labour is very expensive and many materials relatively economical.”

According to Sidgreaves, property developers such as Westfield, Lend Lease, Stocklands and AMP have been influential in the development of the retail shopfitting industry.

“I believe that the development of regional shopping centres by Westfield and other property groups has taken our industry ahead very dramatically,” he said.

“They have demanded very high standards of design and fitout and this has brought us to a point where we compare favourably by world standards. We have progressed from what was a fairly straightforward and mundane form of display 50 years ago to what is now a very exciting, glamorous art form – in many instances pure theatre.

“Previously, it was about retail planning rather than retail design. The designers we employed were really only draughtsmen, not conceptual designers. The emergence of retail designers, which is a fairly new profession, has changed all of that.”

Similarly, Sidgreaves’ daughter Louise Sidgreaves, who is now co-managing director of the company, said that Australia’s fitout industry is inline with the global arena due to the influences of international brands and property developers.

“Firstly, there has been a lot of investment in by international brands whether it is Armani, Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss or Coach, all these brands are bringing their most beautiful concept stores to Australia whilst concurrently launching that same concept throughout the world.,” she said.

“Many shopping centres are also global in their approach to shopfitting and their demand for the quality of the store design is high. They have increased the expectations of our industry and taken us a long way forward.”