Setting Up A Retail Store

So you’re considering setting up a new retail store – and you’re overwhelmed with all of the setup. A simple dream of having a small store has turned into a years’ long learning journey in learning finances, inventory, stocking, customer relations, taxes, permits, loss prevention – and the list goes on. But you’ve completed your business plan, you’ve secured funding, you have a legal business name and permit and you have your suppliers lined up.  Now the real fun begins – choosing a location and setting up your store.

Where will your store be located? What will exterior and interior look like? Which type of displays will you use? What will your customer flow be? What store fixture systems will you use? These are all great questions, and ones that should be considered carefully. We’ve put together some answers for the would-be retailer below.

1.  Finding The Right Space

Finding the right space means finding the right ‘space’ that works for you, but also finding that space in the neighbourhood or location you want. You should already know your customer, so if your customer lives only in areas with specific demographics, then those are the areas you want to focus on. When finding the space, also keep in mind the square footage – you’ll need room for your goods – but you’ll also need room for cash counters, walking lanes, queueing, and of course, storage. It’s best to find a space that already has a storage area for your inventory and cleaning supplies, or has enough square footage that you can build a partition for a storage area.

Building a storage area requires renovation, which is another consideration when choosing a space. How much renovation will be needed? Will you simply add a moveable cash counter and some slat-wall, or will you need to significantly renovate the space. If a space is in the right location, but requires renovations that are out of your budget, don’t give up on it before speaking to the realtor. In many cases, landlords will provide renovations or temporary rental discounts for the right tenant or the right lease agreement.

2.  Setting Up Shop

So you’ve found the right space, you’ve signed the lease, and the landlord gave you an excellent deal on the necessary renovations. Next you’ll need to plan your layout and design before ordering retail fixtures and supplies.  Layout is a very important element in retail. When you go into a store as a shopper, you probably don’t realize that the layout is specifically designed for you. You only really notice a poorly planned layout when there is congestion, awkward queueing at the cash counter, or difficulty in getting to certain products.

The layout of your shop needs to ensure that none of these things happen.  Aisles need to be wide enough that customers can ‘pass’ each other. It should go without saying that customers should be able to browse the entire store and get back to the entrance or cash counter without having to double back the way they came. And of course there needs to be enough space in front of the cash counter for multiple customers – and perhaps for queueing materials like stanchions.

Some other things to consider when setting up shop are product placement, loss prevention and fire regulations. Make sure that while your customer follows your store’s ‘flow’, that they see your best products (most popular, best margins, whatever your ‘best’ is to you) along the way. Make sure that the product displays you choose flow with your store’s design and resonate with your customer. You can find virtually any type of product display or store fixture at Eddie’s Hang-Up. You can read a lot more about this in our loss prevention guide, but in general you’ll want to make sure that you have proper equipment in place, and that the items that are more prone to theft are within visibility from the cash counter.

3.  Organizing For Space

Some retailers find the perfect space that fits their budget, but many times a retailer has to settle for a smaller space in the right neighborhood. This is where product organization and display is key. No one likes to see a cluttered store, so you need to make the best use of your space without overcrowding. There are some excellent store fixture systems that can help solve this problem. Some retailers choose to use slatwall on their interior walls, using hooks and accessories to display products – sometimes right up to the ceiling. There are many other store fixture systems – too many to list – that help retailers display their merchandise in a way that saves space and is visually appealing. If your space is small, consider these systems. You can easily expand them over time and purchase different accessories for displaying new types of merchandise if necessary.

4.  Exterior Decoration & Window Displays

Hopefully your space has a large window in the front with a display area.  If so, make sure to decorate that area in a way that promotes your products and your store’s character. Window displays can literally make or break a store in some retail sectors, so make sure that you adhere to some of the golden rules:

  • Don’t Overcrowd – We know you have a lot of products, and you want everyone walking by to know it too – but overcrowding your window display will just come across as untidy and cluttered. It’s best to either showcase one product, or just a few products that will have the passer-by wanting to see more. 
  • Don’t Let It Get Stale – Sure you spend weeks planning and preparing the perfect window display.  It’s your pride and joy and you always get compliments. The problem is, those people that walk by your store every day, or every weekend, have seen it many times. If the display worked – and customers came in – great. Your offering and customer service will determine whether those customers come back. In the meantime, all of those passer-bys whose attention you didn’t catch can still be lured in – with the right window display. Change it up at least every season to get the most out of your display.

If you don’t have a window display, or in addition to one, there are other ways you can promote outside your business. One is to ensure the decor of your shop’s exterior is clean and portrays the character of your store. In addition, you can put up signs exterior signage, or erect sandwich board style signs.  Sandwich boards are very effective when they have direct imaging and communication. One study showed that a sign with an image of a piece of jewellery and the words “You didn’t forget” put on a sidewalk in New York a week before Valentines brought in over +200% in walk-ins – 95% of which were males. Sandwich boards are a key piece of exterior decoration for any store in a neighbourhood with significant foot traffic (and to some exte3nt, vehicular traffic).

5.  Valuable Merchandise

If some of your merchandise is valuable, it’s always best to position it close to the cash counters.  There are many reasons for this – the obvious one being loss prevention. If you have valuable merchandise you may want to display it in a locking counter display. Acrylic displays work well because they don’t interfere with the display of the product, and often enhance the look of the product when lighting is installed. If some of your items are near the cash counter, but not barred in some way, make sure that you are using good queue management so that your counter doesn’t get too crowded on busy days.

Another reason for keeping valuable merchandise near the cash counter is the sale. Anytime a customer is perusing your valuable items, you can have a salesperson assist them immediately. This is simply good customer service and can increase sales significantly.

6.  Cash Counter

The last experience a customer will most likely have is at your cash register. Make sure that this area is neat and tidy (put your stack of old papers, mail and car keys out of view) and that any products being displayed either in or on counter are easily visible. You’ll also want to make sure that you have proper queueing “cues”. For example, stanchions or aisles that are clearly marked so customers lining up know where to stand. Make sure that there is room to move behind the counter for you or your employees both for comfort and safety reasons.
Setting up your own retail store can be a rewarding and certainly a good learning experience. And while the business plan and financial aspect is important, we hope we’ve helped you understand the importance of setup as well, beyond simple design. In this section, we’ve included (and will continue to add) articles on setting up retail. We hope you enjoy these articles, and remember, Eddie's Hang-Up Display can help with all of your retail supply needs. Proudly Canadian, and in business since 1978.

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