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Q&A: Gary Marshall, founder and managing director of Tonik Associates

Gary founded Tonik in 2002 with the sole aim of building a creative business working across multi sectors. Can you tell us a bit about your… View Article


Q&A: Gary Marshall, founder and managing director of Tonik Associates

Gary founded Tonik in 2002 with the sole aim of building a creative business working across multi sectors.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I have honed in on my experience across diverse market sectors and worked as both creator, curator and developer for some of the world’s leading brands. I have over 35 years of experience as designer, creator and developer of inspirational spaces and brands both locally and internationally. And joined the board of Harrods department store in London at 33 years of age and sat on the board as design Director – leading the creation, development and implementation of over 1,000,000 sq ft of prime retail space in-store and worldwide. Part of this process meant that I controlled key international brands including Gucci, Dior, Tom Ford and Prada – giving me unprecedented insight into the workings of brands at a global level.

I also went on to sit on the design advisory group at River Island and was responsible for their special projects from 2009-2014. More recently I was appointed in a strategic retail role for the London Paramount Resort. In addition to this retail experience I have worked with some of the world’s leading hotel brands including Hilton, Marriott and Mandarin Oriental. During my time at Harrods, I was involved in the refurbishment of the Ritz hotel in Paris for Mohammed Al fayed.

What does your company do? / What is your USP?

We are a creative design agency taking a holistic approach to helping our clients to think differently, design experientially and deliver commercially from concept through to delivery and beyond. We work across multiple sectors including; hospitality, retail, workplace and residential and it is this that has enabled us to approach every project as an individual in order to get under the skin of it and deliver results.

As a business we offer multiple services to our clients which means we become a partner or an extension of their team.

What’s special about the platform and your approach?

With every project that we embark upon, we look beyond the brief to unlock its full potential, as a business we are solution driven not sales driven.  Our goal more recently has been to join the dots for our clients and offer a fully holistic approach to projects. We do this by offering multiple services to our clients including marketing and branding alongside interior design, project management and concept development.

What are the services Tonik Associates offer look like and how do you measure success?

You have to keep close to clients to measure success and understand what success looks like to them and what their success drivers are – we align with our clients and stay close to them in order to monitor their success.

We also measure our success by the guests and media’s response, it’s online reputation, recognition and growth.

How are retailers using your services to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like?

Best practice is about delivering solutions that deliver beyond the brief. Our approach of joining the dots and working across multi-sectors means that we can share knowledge. Right now the sectors we work across; retail, hospitality and workplace are beginning to merge which is great as we can bring a multitude of experiences to the table.

Can you share a case study with us?

Simply Zero was a project we worked on in 2020, they were an online brand that were looking to take their brand into the high street in order to achieve a physical connection with their customer.

Simply Zero approached us to help them review their business and evolve it ready for the world of high street retail. This was a brand that had been built purely online through a passion for a zero-waste lifestyle.  Having gained a huge following they wanted to take it to the next level; onto one of the most well-known streets in Cincinnati – all in 6 weeks!

After auditing the existing brand and understanding their vision, it allowed us to better understand where it needs to be positioned in the market, the target audience and how we can look to evolve the brand and create a gorgeous new store design.

Maintaining the identity that had become recognisable, we created a suite of graphics for use in store, marketing, website, social media and a variety of packaging for both online and offline sales.

The store that had been secured was stunning with some natural brickwork and other touches that we wanted to utilise.  Setting the right layout was key as we wanted to make a feature of the new refillery.  Making this the standout feature was key and then we could look to bring other supporting features to life as the customers roamed through the store.  Bringing in some beautiful wood display shelving, an intriguing wall peg board that looked simplistic yet so effective, product displays beaming through the shop front to attract that passing footfall along with some supporting greenery throughout to add a touch of nature.

The overall design is one that we are extremely proud of.

Are there other companies you partner with?

Not currently but we are broadening horizons into the global field through collaborations.

What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2021 / What challenges are retailers facing right now to prepare better? 

Opportunities: the demise of established retail anchors means that there is a really exciting retail opportunity for new retail experiences; both existing, physical and e-commerce brands with huge followings arrive on the high street and shopping mall to develop a new anchor of experience.

Challenges: some existing retailers are still punting out old formats and are not close enough to the new customer base. They need to change their format or collaborate with new retailers that already have a following.

They need to get into the 21st century, focus on new markets (gen z & millennials), who have a different value set.

In order to better prepare, retailers need to be open to change and innovate with it. People nowadays are not so concerned about possessions, they are more focused on value – everything is accessible therefore they value physical items less.

How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?

We are in the process of developing a platform that will connect major space providers with emerging e-commerce that want to get closer to their customers. It’s an interesting approach which we will be launching next year.

What is on the horizon for you as a company?

We’re at a really interesting and exciting time as a company, like many others the pandemic brought challenges, but we used this time to get closer to our customers and learn more about their businesses. This has in turn has brought some interesting new projects to the table.

Any final thoughts?

This isnt the death of the high street, it’s the re-birth.

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