Your Choice of Shop Fitter Could Determine Your Success

By Leon Hayes, Managing Director, Shopfit Central

This article appeared in Issue 3#5 (July/August 2009) of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

Whether you are new to the world of retail or you just want to give your existing space a bit of a face-lift, professional shop fitting is extremely important.  

The look and feel of a store should be attractive and entice potential customers to stop in.  Designing a brand new layout for your shop can be an exciting experience; however it can turn into a real nightmare if you do not know what you are doing.  

Shop fitting goes way beyond good looks and simply choosing shelves, racks, and display units.  There is a real skill to organising a space, displaying products properly, and inviting shoppers to stop in and explore the products you have to offer.  

Hiring a professional shop fitter or shop fitting firm can save you time, money, and offer a great deal of insight into innovative design styles.  By following some simple business processes you will give your project every chance of success.

Prior to hiring a professional shop fitter or purchasing any new equipment for your store, it is important to first take a simple evaluation of your business.  This evaluation will help you clearly identify what areas of the store need to be expanded, what products should be showcased, what current fittings (racks, shelves, etc.) need to be replaced, and if you want to completely redesign the space or just improve upon what already exists.  

A budget should be planned at this time as well.  Having an accurate idea of what you can and cannot afford before any work begins is absolutely imperative.  This will give you and the shop fitter a clear picture of what can be done to give your business a boost and gain the best possible competitive edge.

When deciding on a new layout for your store, choose a design that is both practical and affordable.  The design should be somewhat neutral and not too elaborate.  Getting too carried away, or designing a display that is too busy could be overly distracting for potential customers and may have a negative effect.  This could lead to regrets down the road, which could also lead to more expense if another renovation is required.

If you have a particular goal in mind, or a particular design you would like implemented make sure you put it in writing to your shop fitter.  Time frames should also be addressed and documented.  Have clear contracts with milestones and expectations to reduce confusion and ensure a smooth project.  Once you have come up with some basic ideas, set your budget, and developed your objectives, you are ready to hire a shop fitter.

Today, there are more resources than ever to help you find the perfect match for your project.  One of the best ways to find a reliable contractor is to ask around.  Check with local businesses that you know have been recently renovated, ask the local chamber of commerce for recommendations, or look through trade magazines and directories.  The Internet is an excellent resource for searching for professional shop fitters.  Many sites offer ratings, portfolios, background information, and references for their members.   

Once you have narrowed down your list of potential choices, contact each one and ask them to come take a look at the job before you officially retain their services.  Design a series of questions to ask each company and compare their responses.  Be aware of what unique services or personal touches each company has to offer and be cautious of deals that sound too good to be true.  When you feel you have found a company you can trust and work well with, set up a contract that spells out all of the details.

The first detail that should be discussed and itemised in a contract is the time frame.  The shop fitter should be able to provide an accurate estimate of how long they expect the project will take to complete.  A reasonable time to begin should also be agreed upon.  If you have a specific period when your business is slow, that would be the ideal time to begin renovations.  For example, if you sell swimwear during the summer months, the winter season would be the best time to begin the project.  This is not only convenient; it also has the least amount of negative impact on your income and keeps your budget in check.

Next, you should determine who is going to manage the project.  Most professional shop fitting firms handle all aspects of the renovation.  That means the firm should be arranging delivery of all materials needed, and hiring all professionals needed (such as plumbers, building contractors, electricians, flooring installers, sign companies, and painters).  The project manager for the firm should also maintain frequent contact with you to keep you up to date on the status of the project and inform you if any problems or unexpected situations arise.

Once the business basics have been put in place, it is now important to discuss design requirements.  Make sure the shop fitter completely understands your goals, and any specific needs you may have.  Particular colour schemes, layouts, and displays should also be discussed.  The shop fitter will be able to properly guide you through the process and further develop any ideas you have.  This process will help make your space functional, attention grabbing, and unique.  Shopfitters should use this time to take several measurements to ensure your new design will look and fit properly in your store.  

If you are unsure of what changes to make, be sure to ask for advice.  Many shop fitting firms have interior designers on staff, or can arrange a meeting with one for you.  Today, many shop fitting firms can also provide you with a virtual mockup that will show you what your new store will look like before construction begins.  You can sit down at a computer with the designer and fine-tune the specifications until your perfect store develops right before your eyes.  These plans can be saved and used as a blue print during the remodeling process.

A professional shop fitter should oversee the project every step of the way, all the way through installation.  Establishing a good working relationship with clear expectations from the beginning will make the renovation process flow seamlessly, and will minimise any inconvenience your business, staff, and customers will endure.

Shop fitting as a valuable advertising tool

Shop fitting is one of the most valuable advertising tools available.  Having a practical yet fantastic store design allows your business to speak for you.  After all, how many times have you walked down the street and said to yourself, “that looks like a great store!  I’m going to stop in!”  That being said, you may have also found yourself avoiding certain businesses due to the way they looked!  Shop fitting is a critical part of any retail business.  People will pass your store if they are not intrigued to stop in; people will leave your store if they cannot easily access your products; and they will not return if they do not feel invited.

While every business owner knows it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time, it is possible to please most of the people most of the time.  This is precisely the objective of shop fitting.  Your store should sell itself without the need for gimmicks or hard selling.  

Studies have shown that many shoppers feel comfort is one of the most important elements when shopping.  When a customer feels comfortable and at home in a store, they are more likely to make a purchase.  If you can create an environment through shop fitting that displays the products clearly, gives the customer easy access to the products, and makes them feel happy while in the store, you will have a winning combination.  By keeping things simple and practical, yet warm and inviting, the store will do all of the selling for you.  

If you can effectively incorporate all of these elements, your store will become the best possible advertisement you could ever imagine.

Shop fitting can truly be one of the best things you will ever do for your business.  Transforming your space into a trendy, but practical setting can grow your business by leaps and bounds.  Customer flow will increase which will lead to more revenue, and overall productivity will increase because of an improved environment.  Both staff and customers will be in a better frame of mind, creating a shopping experience everyone will find gratifying.

Shopfit Central LogoLeon Hayes is the Managing Director of Shopfit Central, Australia’s first free shop fitting and designer quoting service for retailers, franchisees, franchisors and business owners. Their website offers users a three quote quoting service, with a ten business day turn around. Shopfit Central has a nationwide network of shop fitters and designers who pass an industry leading 36 point checklist.

Visit or call 1300 768 442.