These days, a great-looking, well-designed store puts much more than just a pretty face on your business; it could be a matter of survival.
By Paul Reed
You may have read my previous columns discussing the advantages of a new, upgraded store design, and thought, “Well, that’s great for some auto parts stores. But our store has worked fine for years just as it is. It may not win any beauty awards, but if customers can’t find what they need, they can just ask an employee. Why would I spend $100,000 just to make it look nicer?”
I hear you. But in actual fact, upgrading and reorganizing your store is one of the best investments you can make, especially nowadays.
I have one client who has had us build him several stores over the years, and I asked him if he was able to quantify a difference in his numbers after the upgrade. This was his response:
“Paul, when I isolated the sales movement to ‘cash’ (retail) sales after the retail location upgrades, I noticed an immediate increase of: location a), 27.5% year 1; location b), 24.5% year 1, 7.5% year 2 and 22% year 3; location c) 13.5% year 1, 15% year 2.” That was separate from any other improvements resulting from advertising, product specials or other special sales.
A store’s profitability often has little to do with square footage, especially on a percentage basis. It’s all about efficiency. A well-designed store will move product faster and more easily, simply because customers can locate and pick what they need and get through the checkout faster. This principle works even if you don’t go for a full gut-and-reno job, by the way. Just about every store I see could benefit from a good decluttering.
It usually goes like this: maybe you started out a few years back with a small retail showroom with a few products, and as you grew, your inventory just grew organically. Fast forward to today, and the shelves are overcrowded, there’s no logic to where products are located, and the store is not a particularly attractive or inviting place to be in. (When was the last time you gave the sales floor, and all the products, a good cleaning and dusting?)
Furthermore, decluttering is not a one-and-done thing. Ideally, it should be part of your daily maintenance list, with a deeper reorganizing session on a monthly or perhaps seasonal basis. Straighten up the shelves, give everything a thorough dusting, place products in the department (or near other products) where they seem most logical, and make a note of what’s selling and what’s literally just gathering dust.
Here’s another advantage to a clean, well-organized store – one that can have a direct effect on your bottom line. Recent crime statistics show that shrinkage is on the rise in both Canada and the U.S. In a crowded, poorly organized and poorly lit store, you may never notice someone slipping your valuable merchandise into their pocket, and you might not ever miss it till you notice an unexplained (and serious) dent in your profits. Well-lit, roomy aisles with clear sightlines, unobtrusive mirrors or security cams can help address this problem without making customers feel uncomfortable.
On a more pleasant note, a well-designed store is just a nicer place to spend time in, and customers will tend to stay longer and look around. And if you’ve dressed the store with attractive displays and good signage, they’re likely to pick up a few more items they need. Displaying some useful add-on items at the cash – oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to buy a Phillips screwdriver! – is a time-worn way to not just “build the ticket,” to use the technical term, but provide a genuinely helpful service to your customer.
Employees consistently say they prefer working in a professional-looking, attractive place of business, reducing staff turnover and engendering pride in the job. I encourage my clients to make the extra investment in branded clothing for store staff: polo shirts, button-downs or high-quality t-shirts in your company colours, with your logo stitched on the breast pocket, and perhaps black slacks or skirts. It not only immediately raises the professional image of the store and reinforces your all-important brand, but makes it easy for customers to find a employee if they have a question or are ready to cash out.
Nowadays, every retail industry is facing increasing competition for customers’ business, thanks to the simple fact of online shopping. Giving customers a reason to come out and visit you, rather than just click on what they need, is perhaps the greatest reason of all to present a store environment at its very best. In this sense, it’s not just a matter of improving profits or maintaining an image – it’s a matter of sheer survival.
Your customers chose to visit your store in person, and they deserve the best experience you can offer – whether it’s a consumer needing new windshield wipers, or a professional tech buying a replacement part for a repair. A store that’s well-lit, easy to navigate, allows them to intuitively find the item they need, and that’s clean and a pleasure to be in, is a store they will return to, maybe often. And that’s an opportunity that’s well worth your investment.