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After the hectic Christmas season is over and the January sales end, take advantage of the quiet time to overhaul your shop's presentation. Marilyn Stephens explains how to go about it.

January sales provide the opportunity to clear out overstocks and those product lines that seemed so great at the Trade Fair (unfortunately, your customers didn't seem to think so). But after the busiest trading quarter (October to December) does your store look like you feel – tired, older than you are, lacking energy, just not quite right?


Maybe you and your store need a makeover.

February and March – traditionally quiet times for most retailers – offer the opportunity to give your store a facelift. It may not be due for a full refurbishment, but why not tackle some of the issues that would make the store more efficient and maximise your selling space?

You pay rent based on the size and area of your store. Are you sure you are maximising the return on your investment? This does not mean cramming more fixtures and stock into a small space, but presenting your products to your customers in the most effective way.

Does your store need a makeover? Here is the initial checklist the Facilitators use when we conduct an on-site assessment for retailers prior to suggesting improvements. It may only take about half an hour, but it tells us a great deal about what type of retailer you are and if you understand your business. There are three main physical elements that tell the customer who you are.

* Signage and name of store.

* Windows and shopfront.

* Counter and service area.

This article only touches on a few of the basic elements, but undertaking just these simple exercises could produce an improvement.


Signage and name of store

Tomorrow morning when you come into the store, stand outside and watch the people walking past – what are they seeing? Is the store well lit and inviting? Be realistic and honest.

At a recent seminar the Facilitators held in western Sydney, we were told of a hairdresser who complained that her business wasn't doing well and she wasn't getting customers. Her shopfront awning still had the painted Coca-Cola sign from when it had been a milk bar. How relevant was that to her business?

What is your store name? Is it memorable and does it tell customers what you do? The trend is towards groovy, colourful logos, but unless you really understand what you are going to do with your logo, and how it supports your marketing strategy, and you have trademarked it (see article on page 42), you may be trying to be something you are not.

If you are a new store, make sure your name tells people what your sell. The well-developed retail brands also started this way. Harvey Norman started as Harvey Norman Discounts, Freedom started as Freedom Furniture, McDonald's started as McDonalds Family Restaurants. Over years, as their brand and number of locations developed, they were able to drop part of the name.

Windows and shopfront

Are the windows clean? Is the display eye-catching? When did that display last change? Remember, 'dead flies don't make sales'.

Maybe you don't have a shop window and your doors open right back to make the whole front of store the entrance. Then the whole storefront is your shop window. Are the displays well signed with the features and benefits?

Is your shopfront like the entrance to a maze, making customers feel like they are negotiating the labyrinth? Make it easier for them by allowing a wide entry point. If your customers are parents with children, how easy is it for them to bring their prams or strollers into the store?


Counter and service area

Your counter location should suit your style of retailing. Look at how customers walk through the store, where do they stop, what area of the store do they go to first. Your counter position needs to suit a number of functions.

* Closing the sale. It helps the staff to speak to the customer about their choices and perhaps offer an additional item as an add-on.

* Offering the opportunity for impulse buying. Have a small selection of products that complement your main product categories, eg confectionery for newsagents, but do not create clutter.

* Providing security. Make sure staff serving at the counter can still see the entry and exits, and perhaps the fitting rooms if you are a clothing store. Are the sight lines clear or are they obscured by tall displays and hanging promotional material?

Marilyn Stephens is a store planner and retail consultant in the Facilitators consultancy as well as co-author of the Retail Tool Kit.

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