Jigsaw Duke Street Emporium – A Sensory Review

23 February 2015

Looking at consumer trends in retailing you might start to think that they all going slightly mental. On one hand they like the comfort, ease and privacy of online shopping. Then on another hand they demand brands to deliver surprising, delighting and immersive experiences allowing them to connect with the brand on a deeper level. That combined with the strong accent on the social aspect of shopping pronounced not only in the increase of group shopping trips but also in the growing need to converse with the brand present one huge challenge for retailers.

One retailer that attempted to respond to this brief was Jigsaw with their Duke Street Emporium, a combination of Jigsaw store, curated fashion boutique, art gallery, bookshop and a cafe. Their aim was to return to ‘social shopping’ in 3D. They wanted to create a space where shoppers can connect and friends can chat over coffee while listening to the jukebox or creating and comparing outfits.

So we have decided to visit the Emporium and analyse every small sensory detail from the psychological point of view.


Upon entering you see the coldness of the light, the bare brick walls, the metal fixtures and structural elements. These few aspects don’t create a warm, social feeling we were expecting. However, they are perfect as a canvas for your imagination and creativity. They certainly do not distract from the merchandise but rather enhance it. So on one hand it is cold and bare but on the other       hand it begs to be dressed.

Duke Street Emporium Jigsaw Duke Street Emporium Jigsaw Duke Street Emporium Jigsaw

The prevalence of the art, books and magazines related to fashion and culture allows you to immerse yourself in creativity while simultaneously celebrating British design.

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The various sections of this lifestyle concept are fairly smoothly connected allowing for an easy and fluid journey through the space. But now let us go into a few interesting sensory details and what is that they are communicating to the consumer’s subconscious mind.


The light is incredibly important in any space. The most wonderfully designed environment can be completely damaged with the wrong light. But why is that?

Our subconscious mind has a series of associations with various sensory stimuli including the colour and the type of lighting. Naturally we are partial to a warm, natural light of the sun and we feel most comfortable, cosy and relaxed in such. However, the white LED lighting which is so prevalent in retail spaces is subconsciously perceived as cold and unwelcoming.

A recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that bright lights increase public self-awareness and self-control.

This is why the lighting in the Emporium didn’t really foster social interaction and lingering; except for the cafe where the Edison lamp bulbs were much warmer yellow shade.

20150218_100116 Duke Street Emporium Kigsaw Cafe Lights

But if their aim was for the shoppers to linger around the whole space and connect more with the merchandise and each other, why they haven’t spread the cafe seating and warm lighting around the whole space?

Another aspect of the visual stimulation would be colour. The whole space is very monochromatic creating a great background for the merchandise and not distracting from it. However, where the products need to be accentuated, the colours of the display design came into help like these colourful shelves in menswear section but not in womenswear.

Duke Street Emporium Jigsaw menswear colour shelves display Duke Street Emporium Jigsaw Womenswear Shelves Display

We also liked the cool ‘Pay Here’ design which rather than evoking an avoid behaviour was actually pulling you in with the current and somehow pleasant design. The actual till counter looked more like a working space with a couple of laptops which subconsciously didn’t trigger the fear of parting with your hard earned cash.

Duke Street Emporium Jigsaw Pay Here Sign



Numerous scientific studies have shown many benefits of introducing a scent into a retail environment including higher store and product evaluations, improved brand memory, and an increase in money spent.

However, there was no specific scent in Duke Street Emporium, only a minimal but not continuous scent of coffee from the cafe which people normally associate with friends and social occasions.

It was therefore a great idea to introduce a cafe into this lifestyle concept and take advantage of its natural scent. However, it would have been even better if this scent would have been transferred throughout the space more to foster social connections through every step of the customer journey.



The music was not too loud creating a good background for a conversation. The rhythm was fairly energetic yet relaxed promoting exploration and lingering.

In the cafe area a customer can find a free to play jukebox with an array of tunes selected by Peter Ruis, the CEO of Jigsaw. The idea was to give the shopper some aspect of control over their shopping experience and allow them to co-create it by choosing their own music.

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Great idea in principle as the part ownership over the design of the experience subconsciously promotes a deeper connection with the brand and the space as well as enhances the shopping satisfaction.


Haptics is all about touch. On this aspect the Duke Street Emporium delivered fairly blank and cold canvas, most likely allowing the shoppers to get more haptic stimulation from the actual merchandise. However, the coldness and toughness of the surfaces has been proven in the science to create a perception of less friendly and warm brand personality. So as a canvas for fashion it’s great but as a promoter of ‘social shopping’ not so much.

The floor surfaces do a better job, creating medium soft bodily sensations which subconsciously make you slow down, but just a little bit, so you have time to explore but not to relax too much. It makes perfect sense; they want you to linger but at the same time have an ongoing footfall.


Café seating was hard and did not allow you to relax for too long. There was a study that show that when you are seating in a hard seat while meeting someone you perceive that person as rigid and slightly unapproachable, but at the same time, secure and reliable. I doubt that this is what they had in mind when they were designing a “social shopping” environment.


Even though taste seems like such an alien concept in a retail environment it can have a positive influence on consumer behaviour and shopping satisfaction. Generally the more holistic the sensory shopping experience is, the more the consumer becomes immersed in it which can improve the customer experience; this can in turn affect the time spend in store, the amount of merchandise examined, the intention to return and the word of mouth.

No surprise then that the lifestyle concepts combining standard retail with food & drink experiences are becoming increasingly popular. However, the lessons from studies on other sensory stimuli (e.g. smell, touch) show us that the congruency between such stimuli and the product type as well as the brand personality is crucial.

The choice of Fernandez & Wells by Jigsaw seemed to be a move in a good direction as their brand personalities are fairly similar: cool, crafty, design-led, creative, independent and innovative. Although, I would like to see a more interesting food and drink menu representing the concept of the Duke Street Emporium, perhaps with some signature drinks and dishes.


So firstly I need to commend Peter Ruis and the rest of the Jigsaw team for taking their stamp on the growing experiential trend in retail design and choosing to work with Dalziel+Pow, one of the best designers to interpret this trend.

Could it be better? Yes, potentially but it is really hard to find a balance between experiential and standard retailing as well as include all the subconscious meanings you want in such a space. The biggest danger is the cross-modal interactions between all the senses. It’s easy to say that a simple vs. complex scent can increase your sales by 20% (an actual scientific study) but it is actually not that simple. If the scent is not congruent with the product category, the consumer profile or the brand personality, there might be no effect on sales at all or it might even be negative.

So rather than worrying about all the potential sensory conflicts, focus on the most important subconscious messages you want to communicate in your space and the type of consumer experience you want to create and you should be just fine. This seems to be exactly what Jigsaw and Dalziel+Pow did to create the Duke Street Emporium.