The Small Retailer’s Survival Guide – Part 8 – The Highs and Lows of Refitting Your Store

If you have decided to refit your store you may consider employing an independent consultant to advise you on the bet layouts an fixtures. A shop fitting consultant may plot the flow of customers around your store. One important factor is to try to marshal your customers past as many product
displays as possible and especially the higher margin lines. By strategically placing staple everyday (low margin) goods at certain intervals around the store, the customers will need to walk past higher profit goods. Many store owners are tempted to put these fast sellers near the entrance of the store as
this is near the checkout area and low stocks are easier to deal with. Perhaps more importantly for some store owners, the low profit stock tends also to be low value and theft of these products is less expensive than losing high value goods, hence why they are near the entrance/exit. As well as finding ways to maximise sales and profit, a good consultant will know all the latest – and the more traditional – methods of reducing wastage through theft and will advise you accordingly. They will also crucially advise on how to have customers use the whole sales space rather than have dead areas where nobody ventures. I often see dead areas, even in large superstores where the normal sales per square foot requirement seems not to apply. Your sales area is an asset that must be made to work for you.A good consultant can cost you a lot of money, but you may find that they add a considerable premium, not just to your sales, but more importantly to your profit. They may also prevent you falling into some of the many traps that are part of the shop refitting experience.Full PackageMany shop fitting companies will employ their own consultants. Obviously they would not be as free with their advice as an independent and they would understandably be in the business of maximising the shop fitter’s sales to you. If the cost of the consultant is loaded into the price of the shop refitting, then make full use of this service. You can always reject advice if you do not like it, but you may find that it’s very useful, even if you have to cherry pick the best bits. You should also bear in mind that if the shop fitting process should go wrong, it is easier to get redress when you are dealing with one company. If you are splitting responsibilities between the consultant and the fitter as two separate parties, then you may find them blaming each other. Even before anything goes wrong you may find that the two parties just don’t get on. If, for example, you ask the consultant to be the specifier and the shop fitter to work to his specifications, you may discover that the relationship between them doesn’t work and you will have your work cut out arbitrating between the two.Customer ResistanceIn part seven of this series of articles, I mainly concentrated on the benefits and pitfalls of refitting from the point of view of your business and crucially whether a refit would do harm or do good to your sales and profits. Store refitting is all about short term pain for long
term gain. You may decide to shut the store down for a day or two (or even longer) in order to minimise and shorten the refit work. When calculating the cost of closing, always consider customer goodwill as well as sales for any given period of time. Yes, you have lost the takings for the closure period but you may also have lost some customers for good. Some may not appreciate that fact that you have withdrawn your service. Others may not take it so personally, but will have taken the trouble to discover another store which will give them the service they need. It is more likely that the former of the two “locked out” customers will return – at least they care enough to be upset. The second
customer may be lost forever. If you multiply the loss of just one regular customer over a few years you may be shocked at how much profit you have turned away. So, when costing store closure for refitting, add a reasonable percentage for lost goodwill.Another very important point is the fact that customers will find products in all the wrong places if you have remerchandised most or all of your product ranges. Older customers, some disabled customers and those in a hurry will not be too happy about this. Most of them will undoubtedly get over it, but a few may not and may reduce their visits to your store or may be gone forever. You may accept the short term pain, but some of your customers may not. It is always hard to quantify this affect, but you must take it into account.MerchandisingAs well as advising on layout and fixtures, a consultant may also discuss
your product range, perhaps suggesting lines that you could introduce while encouraging you to stop other lines. All storekeepers hate to reduce stock to clear, especially non perishable items. Your consultant may persuade you to accept less backroom stock space and give this over to the sales floor. As a result you may need to be ruthless with those ladies slippers that have hardly moved over the past two years. As much as it hurts, accept that these and other stuck lines have failed and reduce them to clear. Your back room stock needs to kept low as the space is required for the sales floor. Once you have cleared the unwanted slippers and other stuck lines, you will have a vibrant range offering products that people want and you should have more total sales floor space. This will allow creative merchandising, using traditional retail shelving as well more innovative designs such as carousels, hanging fixtures and
display rings. You may group some product lines together and perhaps separate others. You will certainly ensure that higher profit premium products are prominently displayed very close to their everyday low profit items. For instance, if you sell milk, then most people will happily pick up the same low priced milk every other day. You can also display higher margin organic milk prominently nearby and, just now and again, your customers may try organic for a change, just because it is right there. This method of having low margin products shine a light on higher margin products is just one of the techniques that are employed when merchandising goods.There is a philosophy amongst some retailers and consultants that a store with a low volume turnover and a large sales floor should reduce their sales space, even going to the extent of erecting false walls. This is only true of fresh foods where sparse and empty displays can be off-putting. If you have a large space to fill – then use it! If you put up a false wall with a empty space behind, the space will soon be filled again with stock that nobody wants. If you cannot extend current product ranges then consider introducing a niche product range or a distant related range. For instance, if you sell ladies clothes only, perhaps it is time to introduce a niche men’s range? If you sell computer accessories, consider having a section that sells audio products or cell phones. You may even consider having a third party use the space as a store-within-a-store concession.LightingFood stores need bright, white lights that are as close as possible to natural light. Darkness is associated with a lack of hygiene. Clothes and fashion stores tend to have softer and colorful lighting. Whatever your product range, ensure that the lighting does not act as a barrier to sales. It is amazing that, if a light bulb suddenly goes out of action in one corner of a store, that corner suddenly looks less inviting. If your whole store has dull lighting, then the whole store is not inviting. Just as a town or street looks pleasant on a sunny day, as opposed to a grey day, so must your store look pleasant through the use of bright lighting.Cleaning and Moving FixturesWhereas older fixtures can be hard to move and hard to clean, modern fixtures are made to a more modular format, so that bits can be snapped off and snapped on, and large items can be moved using castors etc. There are also less dirt traps and less hidden areas where stock can get lost. Shop fitting is mainly about making the products look good and bringing you more profit, but don’t forget that modern fixtures may also save you valuable time if merchandising products, cleaning or moving fixtures is easier.MarketingIt is common for stores to plan a marketing campaign to coincide with a refit. I would urge caution. You need to ensure that you and your customers are happy with the new layout. Trying to bring new customers in at this point may backfire, especially if there are teething troubles and some regular customers are complaining that they can’t find some products. Let’s face it, a refit is big stuff to a small retailer, but it won’t light many fires with most customers. The refit alone should not be the centre of a marketing campaign. A new range, though, is a good enough reason, but you need to be cautious about promoting your store while it is still bedding down all the changes.One thing you should do is have a plan of the store printed so that your customers can find their way around the new layout. This would not be necessary if your store is very small, of course, but an average sized store would need some kind of simple plan for customers to follow. Even if they took little notice of the plan, it is a good public relations exercise as you at least will be doing something to recognise that the change may be inconvenient to customers and you are doing something to redress it.A store refit is certainly a gamble for a small retailer. You must think long and hard before you do it and make sure your reasoning is logical. If you decide to go through with it, make sure you do it well. You only get a very seldom bite at the cherry. It is worth spending extra on a good job rather than doing it on the cheap. You may just find that the gamble pays off.

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