Rena Tom Rena Tom

Point of Sale, Point of Design

Hello everyone! The other day, I visited Vancouver fabric store and sewing lounge Spool of Thread and, as always, I admired their fabulous cash desk made of vintage metre sticks. This DIY beauty made me wonder if the cash desk (or cash wrap, sales counter or reception desk) is fully utilized as a core element of retail design. It took me ages to find images for this post which leads me to believe it doesn’t have quite the fame of store windows or merchandise styling. Or perhaps great examples are just not photographed enough! In either case, I think cash desks have a million great possibilities when it comes to design. Your shop can have exquisite shopping bags or innovative art installations but to me, if the cash desk is neglected design or functionality-wise, the last impression of your shop won’t be as wonderful as it could have been. A so-so last bite of what was a fantastic meal.

While I understand that some retail designers prefer cash desks melt into the background and let the items for sale speak, I think of this area as the heart of the shop and its appearance should speak to that. It is where the shopkeeper lives, where guests are received, where a customer turns that sought-after item into their cherished possession. The cash desk is bursting with opportunity to enhance the look of the store, create conversation and be the final piece to a wonderful retail experience. The point of sale can be a point of great design too. Let’s ponder some inspiring examples of sales counter design! – Chloé / plenty of colour

images via dezeen and trend hunter

I love cash desks that look like artful pieces of furniture whether featuring gorgeous white facets or a smart cement meets open shelving concept. Functionality-wise, it is important to create space that will hold everything you need and not be cumbersome or intimidating for the customer to approach. During the last holiday season, I visited a store that built their cash desk so small that they had to wrap gifts kneeling on the floor. I can’t imagine that felt great by late December! The cash wrap, whether colourful or neutral, can seamlessly blend into the design of a retail space but still retain its own elegance and presence.

Of course, a bold and eye-catching colour is also an option when creating a point of sale counter. Several lit-within and neon examples have caught my attention lately and the look is quite beautiful. I think a vibrant hue can also be a smart idea if your shop often gets very full, your space is huge or your business has products mostly behind the counter (for example, a coffee shop or bakery). This creates a wayfinding system for the store.

images via DEPT Women and design milk

As space is often at a premium in a store, great storage is key to a functional cash area. I love innovative ways of solving this problem like the desk of many drawers above or the fun bins of colour below. Whether a handsome look of texture or interactive displays are your goal, storage can always be made useful and attractive.

images via dezeen, we heart and mwdsgn

Cash desks are a great canvas for unique branding that speaks to the bigger picture and creates a conversation piece. I love how The Sierra Club turned their reclaimed fir reception desk into huge planters of native greens. Cioccolato Bakery has a fun drip of chocolate pouring down the side of their cash wrap while Lacoste used a bold yet subtle embossed logo that speaks to their elegant fashion branding.

image via design taxi

Many stores are embracing a set-like environment and the cash desk can fit right into this approach. Sweet Enough candy shop in Melbourne features a black and white hand-drawn aesthetic that includes a cash area turned kitchen. I love how the colourful candy bars pop against the neutral illustrations. Had a boring white desk been plunked into the middle of such a meticulous design, the look would have been ruined.

If your cash counter is against a wall, you have that additional space to play with. A bold feature colour, striking pattern or just some gorgeous exposed brick can look fantastic. This can be a economical approach as well as a wonderful opportunity to inject art into your retail space. Consider a mural or installation of some kind. I love those simple but stunning letters that create dreamy shadows of typography.

image via Made By Girl

If you don’t have a wall behind your desk, you can always make one in front. I love how Kate Spade created a wall of huge gold sequins. This also allows for more storage and possibly even office space. This might not be feasible for everyone due to space constraints but it showcases how a simple feature wall idea can be dazzling. In front or behind, art looks smashing as a cash counter focal point and will likely be a topic of conversation with your customers.

Another art avenue is hanging elements or a larger shop installation that bleeds into the cash desk. This is a dramatic look that must also be functional. If no one can get to the desk or bashes their head on a swinging art piece, the cash counter loses the “sale” in “point of sale”! That being said, there are many ways art can be applied in small and massive scale ways. For more ideas on adding art to your retail design, pop over to my post here.

A cash counter needs great lighting to both showcase the area and make transactions visible. Lighting installations can fulfill this functionality aspect as well as create an artistic focal point. I love distinctive pendant lights and multiple ropes of single bulbs.

images via brent comber, hansel and dezeen

Up-cycling or using reclaiming materials are very popular and with good reason. Environmentally-minded and one-of-a-kind is a design dream team. Vancouver artist Brent Comber created this gorgeous reception desk out of a red cedar tree stump for the Four Seasons hotel. Similarly, Hansel fashioned a cash counter out of cardboard boxes while Hostem used an antique church pew.

Like I mentioned earlier, I am smitten with Spool of Thread’s use of vintage metre sticks for their cash wrap. I love when shops use an outside-the-box material that still manages to connect to the products or services sold. Delft University of Technology library in the Netherlands used old books to create a colourful and attention-grabbing sales counter while Bahdeebahdu multidisciplinary art studio used thousands of spray painted toys to created a wildly textured desk front. Anything goes creatively but do remember to use durable and appropriate materials. You don’t want to build something impossible to clean or full of unfortunate angles and textures. No one wants to remain at the cash counter once their pants are ripped!

If your cash desk is pre-existing or a change is not in the cards right now, there is still plenty that can be done to spruce up the area. I love how The Doughnut Vault uses this sublime vintage cash register. It must be one heck of a conversation starter! Unique floral displays, rotating art or even an quirky candy jar — some thoughtful details may be all you need to inject some life and personality into the area.

image via cmybacon

I spotted this amazing reception area by Boys and Girls creative agency this week and it certainly takes the cake in the innovative desk department. Held up by specially formed balloons on one side and giant Jenga blocks on the other, this a desk that won’t go unnoticed and makes me sort of drool with design delight. There is no shortage of extraordinary design possibilities for a cash desk or reception counter and I hope some of these images inspire you to take advantage of them. As the heart of the shop and where you live as the shopkeeper, cash desks should be full of design, functionality and welcoming vibes. Until next week, I am off to research furniture-holding balloon technology… – Chloé / plenty of colour

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2 Comments

  1. tanis says:

    This post could not be better timed! I’m just graphing out the specs for our new cash desk today, and really needed a dose of inspiration after staring a oodles of ugly cash wraps online. Thanks as always!

  2. […] that sought-after item into their cherished possession and where lasting impressions are formed. In my latest post for Rena Tom’s site, I focused on the design possibilities of cash desks and the functionality […]

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