By Larry and Jane McGrath
Want to stay competitive? Then you’ll need to shake things up by freshening your store’s paint, signage and lighting every three years and investing in a full remodel every six years.
One of the reasons, according to Linda Cahan, a retail visual design consultant with Cahan & Company, West Linn, Oregon, is that “a store that hasn’t been renovated in seven years has fallen into patterns and traps. The personnel, no matter how hard they try to do something different, are going to repeat merchandising habits over and over.”
On the other hand, a fresh layout, remodeled endcaps and redesigned signage forces the staff to rethink the entire merchandising for the store. That rethinking, according to Cahan, energizes your sales team and your customers.
So if you’re looking to pump some quick energy into your sales, be prepared to make some changes.
You walk into the store every day, but do you really “see” what is there? Probably not. This is because humans scan for what they know and expect, and ignore all the rest.
To see what your customers see, take photos of everything—parking lot, window displays, entrance (inside and outside), aisles, shelves, counters and walls.
Examine the images for items such as an open trash can in plain view, exposed electrical cords and merchandise blocking an aisle. Check the shelf and endcap photos for dusty stock, shabby signs, “holes” of missing product and sections that sag because there’s too much weight.
Look at the wide-angle photos of the interior for things like too-bright and dark areas, missing signage, and walls with dingy paint or peeling posters.
Now, use what you discovered in the photos to develop your makeover plan.
Develop a Plan
While it’s tempting to just start moving and painting, developing a plan encourages you to prioritize what needs to be done and decide how much you can afford to spend.
In general, you’ll get a good return on any makeover investment. For example, a single change like a new-color coat of paint will a get you a small 4–6 percent sales increase, whereas a major renovation, according to Cahan, will typically generate a 38 percent increase.
Low Cost Basics
Every makeover plan should include the following five basics.
- Make everything look new. Get rid of the eyesores like that open trash can, exposed electrical cord, aisle-blocking merchandise and parking lot trash. Dust and re-stock shelves. Clean lighting fixtures, replace burned-out light bulbs, and repair nicks and scratches.
- De-clutter. Displays with a jumble of merchandise may capture a customer’s attention, but those with a limited number of well-spaced product presentations are more likely to trigger sales.
- Move merchandise. Switching a couple of products or repositioning even one display helps focus attention in new areas.
For example, if you’ve always had safety gear up front, but want fan wear to be a major revenue source, switch the displays. On the other hand, if the T-shirts and caps you stock are primarily decorative, move them toward the back and the safety gear display up front.
- Change window displays. Typically it’s the window design, rather than the actual merchandise, that catches a customer’s eye. This makes it imperative to revamp windows often.
- Create the impulse to buy. Displays that include combinations of two or more related products and show the items in use make shopping more efficient and significantly increase the probability a customer will buy more than one item.
For example, construct a mock ignition system with electronic control parts as well as a distributor that’s open to show internal parts, wires, harness and retainers, and spark plugs with plug thread repair kit.
Update the Color Scheme
A fresh coat of paint is one of the least expensive and most noticeable improvements you can make. But, if you’re concerned about the time required to repaint the whole store, consider less demanding options. For example, paint just one wall with an accent color, or paint a bright color stripe the length of one wall and add that color accent throughout the store.
If you decide to do an accent wall, choose the wall that will give you the best impact or “pop” from the front door. Next, select a color that will add the zing you need.
Warm hues—reds, oranges—tend to make a wall seem closer to you than a white wall. So, painting a side wall red could make the store feel too narrow. But, if your store is long and narrow, painting the end wall red could make the store feel more balanced in size.
Cool hues—blues, greens—tend to make a wall seem farther away. This means you can make a “short” store seem longer, or a skinny one feel wider, by painting an end wall or a side wall in a cool hue.
Once the painting’s done, add a few dynamic manufacturer logos or posters and a couple of product racks to soften the “pop” and you’ve got a dramatic, but not overpowering change.
Change-up the Displays
You can improve your displays without investing in new fixtures by making sure products are placed to the best advantage. For example:
- Move your best selling products at, or just above, eye level, with second-tier products just below.
- Display high-profit items on endcaps with signage that gives the customer all the information needed to buy it now.
- Create a display by the cash register for add-ons, unbranded products or items that are usually forgotten. Rotate the stock frequently.
- Place a temporary rack or table with “new” or “sale” merchandise near the front door every few weeks. It should give your customers a reason to pause, but not create a barrier to entering the store.
- Pull together a “reference section” with comfortable seating and fresh coffee. Put out catalogs and brochures for special-order products, racing magazines, photos of customers’ cars, and a set-up for racing and how-to DVDs/videos.
If you’ve decided you have dollars to invest in improving your displays, consider adding a new fixture to complement your existing system. For example, if you’re using an adjustable metal shelving system, like gondola shelving, you might be able to add a four-way island without having to move existing shelves.
If you want a new look, break up an endless 12-foot-long aisle of shelving by replacing a six-foot straight section with a six-foot curved section. Or, create a vertical display area. This type of display is perfect for placing like-functioning products that create add-on sales. In addition to creating visual interest, your square-footage costs may be cheaper if you go vertical.
Create Lighting Contrasts
Do you still have all-bright lighting throughout the store? Then it’s time to make things more exciting and profitable by introducing some contrasts with your ambient lighting.
For example, if you like your fluorescents because they are inexpensive to operate and don’t generate much heat, use coated daylight bulbs to reduce light in transition areas and stay with the traditional cool-white bulbs to pull people into product areas.
However, if you have incandescent and tungsten-halogen lights, you need to start phasing them out. While they are useful in areas where customers need to see the true color of merchandise like paint, they generate heat and are expensive. Plus, the older incandescent bulbs are becoming harder to find when it’s time to purchase new ones.
If you can invest in new fixtures, some of the newer LED light fixtures operate cooler and consume less electricity. Although the up-front cost is higher, experts say you can easily recoup the cost with energy savings and increased product sales. Plus, your energy-conscious customers will appreciate you being more “green.”
Track lighting and multi-lamps are popular choices because lights can be aimed downward onto tables, counters and displays. But remember: All spotlight settings must have a purpose. You’ll need to re-aim the lights every time you re-merchandise your displays.
As with all the elements in your store, select the design, color and positions of light fixtures that will appeal to your customers. For example, a couple strings of Primal Lite specialty sets with race car and flag lights could boost sales in one store and turn customers off in another.
Refurbish Indoor Signage
Signs are critical to good sales, yet they are often overlooked in a store makeover.
A great, inexpensive way to highlight merchandise is to add shelf talkers and wobblers like “Sale,” “The Winner’s Secret” and “Crew Chief’s Choice.” But, don't overdo them. More signs are not always better.
Another inexpensive change: Grab a computer-savvy member of your team and create some distinctive, logoed informational signs. Often called a “silent salesperson,” make these signs for products or product lines your customers typically have questions about. For example, heat ranges of spark plugs or drill sizes to use with fasteners.
You can also create informational signs for departments. For example, for wheels, you could make signs with the starting price for each category in relation to size, or make a complete price chart. To keep the signs looking good, laminate them and attach them firmly to shelving posts.
Revamping the store’s department signs requires dollars and professional help, but its impact might be worth the splurge. For example, use your accent color and a small graphic on major department signs and complementary gondola/aisle markers and you do more than help customers locate product. You have eye-catching design elements throughout the store.
While your stock of core racing products brings in traffic and pays the overhead, making a few changes will help boost your profits.