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Whether you’re designing your shop or exhibition space, Karyn McRae and Helen Lynch reveal how to make your retail space more attractive to customers, which will ultimately improve your bottom line

So you’ve done your market research for your products, you’ve leased or bought the right space and have your merchandise ready for sale. But what is it that will draw customers through the door? What will make the customer purchase in your store and not the one down the road?

The environment or the ambience of a store plays an integral part in capturing the attention of a potential buyer. The mood, created by your use of space, design and lighting, should also reflect the products on offer. You want a space that makes customers feel comfortable to be in, not intimidated; something that invites or compels them into your store.

So here are some key points to consider when designing your retail space:

Size & Specs. Your design will quite often be determined by how much space you have, so it’s worth making note of the actual size specifications initially. For example, how many square metres of floor space do you have; what fixtures are you putting into the space; what needs to be displayed and how will it be displayed; what is the ceiling height you are working with; can walls be moved or new ones be built; would a bulkhead or dropped ceiling enhance the space; and is there any detailed joinery needed?

Look & Feel. The overall design needs to complement the product, not take over or clash with it, and the space needs to be appealing to the general public. Great consideration should be given to all selected finishes—will you use timber, polished concrete, paint, panelling, wall paper, laminate, glass, stainless steel or reconstituted stone? Of course your budget will determine what finishes you can afford, however with clever, creative and cost-effective design a small budget can look grand.

Lighting. Lighting is paramount yet often overlooked; it should be part of the design process from the beginning. Some of the lighting designs to consider include general lighting, directional, shopfront and task lighting. Correct lighting plays a vital role in the effectiveness of your displays. Different types of globes throw different colours, so it’s worth experimenting with a few different types in order to reach the desired effect. Also consider lighting some places at night to give the space another dimension entirely.


The Big Picture

While the interior design of your shop space is important, it’s just one aspect to creating the overall image of your business. For example, your business name should complement the design of your space and your product. Give great thought to your business name, how it looks, how it reads and even how it sounds. Your name and how it will be displayed should be simple yet eye catching, and should carry through to signage, stationery, business cards and your website, if applicable. Branding is important if you want to stand out and be remembered.

A major part of your store design will be your shopfront. This is how you’ll capture passing trade. Think of your shopfront as a blank canvas, one that you will carefully decorate with your product, one others will enjoy looking at, and one that will evoke curiosity and draw them in.

A memorable shop will be one that catches the eye and stands out from others. It is all about stimulating the buyers’ senses, be it a colour, a shape or even a smell. It needs to have its own individual appeal. Think of the retail outlets that stimulate your senses, and make note. Take a look at the successful retailers selling similar products to your own and re-interpret it in your own style.

If your budget doesn’t allow a complete re-fit, it may simply take a splash of the latest colour, moving fixtures around, or adjusting the lighting to enliven an existing space.

As mentioned before, branding is important as this is from where you can draw your signature look. Branding touches many aspects of your business. There is your name, logo, business cards, website, carry bags. For example, when someone purchases from your shop they often carry out a bag displaying your name. Here is free advertising for your business. Many new retailers make the mistake of copying other well-established retailers’ looks. Be unique and create no confusion.


Product Placement

Whether you’re merchandising for a shop or at a trade show the same elements and principles apply.

No matter what you’re selling the following key tips for effective product placement apply across the board:

• Displays need to be simple, you want your product to stand out and not to get lost in elaborate shelving or display units.

• Ensure your high turnover products occupy the high traffic areas in your shop. These products should not be placed on the top and bottom rows of display shelving.

• Shopfronts should have a theme, such as using colour or a seasonal change.

• Shopfronts should be changed weekly to fortnightly if possible, depending on your product.

• Keep the focal point of a display off centre.

• Group complementary colours and shapes together.

• Work in odd numbers when grouping items or product.

• It is good to be aware of what the key trends are, what colours are ‘in’.

• Always remember less is more, and don’t overcrowd shelving—uncluttered displays are far more appealing and less confusing to look at.

• Remember no matter what you’re selling these key points apply across the board.

If these elements and principals of design are considered it can mean the difference between a good and a bad shopfront, a sale and a customer leaving empty-handed, and it can make the difference whether your customer will tell a friend positive things about your business—and referrals or repeat business is what we all strive for.

Some may feel confident enough to design the layout and look of their space themselves, but given how important these elements can be to the success of your business, it is often wise to enlist the help of a design professional. When choosing the right designer for your needs make sure you check their credentials and portfolio of work, and ask for testimonials from previous clients. You must also have a good rapport with your designer. They will be guiding you and making decisions on your behalf, and they will be projecting your business image to the general public. You must therefore be totally comfortable and have 100 percent faith in your designer. It is a working relationship and one you must be at ease with.

When making the decision to outsource the job, it’s also worth asking yourself, ‘can I afford to hire a professional when I have so many other expenses?’ To answer this question you need to consider whether the time spent designing your shop and running around sourcing samples for the fit-out could be better spent working on the business, seeing suppliers, taking care of staff and sales etc. The money you spend on professional help may well be worth the investment, so it’s worth weighing up your options.

* Karyn McRae and Helen Lynch are directors of McRae & Lynch Interior Design. Visit them at www.mcraeandlynch.com.au

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