A few years ago there was a lot of talk around the sustainability of brick and motor stores in retail – will online shopping take over? How will brick and motor stores compete? Will physical stores become obsolete? And then COVID-19 hit forcing most retailers around the world to close their storefront doors for months. If this wasn’t the kick online businesses needed to knock brick and motor store out of the race, nothing would.
To the surprise of many specialists, when the world was given the clear to re-open storefronts again, these businesses did really well. Many were seeing greater sales and higher traffic than before COVID – at least the ones that were able to sustain the closures. This makes me believe that there is still a place and a need for physical stores in our world. According to shoppers.
I believe that there are a few environmental factors that will keep people shopping in brick and motor stores. In the case of 2020/2021, many people were still under COVID-19 restrictions – whether that was working from home, out of work completely or under lockdown. The reopening of retail stores and malls gave people something to do, somewhere to go that was outside of their everyday environment. This I believe was a driving factor in higher traffic to malls and shopping centers.
The other driving factor, I believe, is that even through malls and shopping centers were open, there were capacity limits in store. With less customers in the store at a given time and having to allocate staff to control the capacity, you have more attention being put on customers. Greater customer service has always resulted in higher sales. Many retailers had gotten away from that pre-COVID and their sales showed that. Now with less people in a store and the need to keep people moving, customer service levels were increased. And very likely were shown at the cash register.
That said, just because people are out and staff aren’t overwhelmed and able to provide better service, that doesn’t guarantee a sale. You still need to get that potential customer into your store in the first place. To draw a customer into your store, you need to look at your storefront from the perspective of your customer. Does your storefront look inviting and exciting, to your customer? Do you stand out from other retailers around you?
To achieve this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do a complete renovation of your storefront (although don’t discredit a refresh, there is a time and place). Chances are you just need to do some re-merchandising.
Overall storefront appearance
The first thing you should do is stand outside your storefront, stand back and look. You want to take in an overall first impression of the store. From the viewpoint of your customer.
- Look at the cleanliness of the store. Are the windows clean, is there dust in the windows or on the storefront? Is there any damage or marks?
- Look at your sign. If you have an illuminated sign, is it properly lit? If you have an unlit sign, is it still visible?
- Look at the mannequins, styling and displays in the windows. Are they clean, exciting and eye catching?
- Look at the entrance to the store. Can you see product clearly, is it signed and a good price point, is it eye catching? Does the store look full and inviting?
- And finally look at your neighbors. How does your store’s first impression compare to the retailers around you? Especially your competitors.
Now that you have taken a step back and looked at your store from a different viewpoint, you will be able to see area’s that need improvement. Tackle each area, one at a time.
The cleanliness is pretty straightforward. If it’s dirty or damaged, clean or fix it. You don’t need me to go into details on that so I will skip ahead to the next one – Displays.
Window and storefront displays allow you to showcase your products in a way that, if done right, will inspire your customer. And when a customer is inspired, they buy.
When you are setting up a window display, consider the following things:
- Show what you own. Only display product that you have quantity of. Nothing will irritate a customer more than going into a store for an item advertised and it being sold out.
- If you are a clothing retailer, the styling of mannequins is important. Styling mannequins the way you would wear the merchandise will make the garments more relatable and desirable to customers.
- Think about how much the outfit you are showing cost. Setting a benchmark for an average sale will help you when styling and merchandising in store for that matter. The goal should always be for your customer to buy the look. If they do, what does this look bring in for sale?
- Fill your windows, laterally and horizontally. I have to be careful here. You don’t want the window to be too overdone and distracting but at the same time you don’t want big blanks spots.
- Layer your windows – line up marketing at the back of the window, mannequins in line in front
- Add levels to fill vertical space – use crates or risers to add dimension
Whether you have windows or not, what you are staying to customers passing by your storefront will determine if they come in and look. If you don’t have windows, the communication is coming from your entrance tables and racks. The first 30 feet of your store has to be a focus at all times.
When merchandising the first 30 feet of your store, consider these things:
- The first racks or table you walk into should be impactful, full and with a great price point that is well signed. A great price point will grab a customer’s attention and at the very least, get them to come and look.
- Anything that you showcase in your windows or front displays should be merchandised and visible when you walk in the store – within the first 10 feet, minimum. If you have caught your customers eye with something on display, don’t make it hard for them to find it. They might give up and leave.
- Your store should look full and not like it is going out of business. Make sure there are no empty or low inventory racks. Your walls should be full, no empty spaces. Your tables should be full.
- Merchandising tip: stand back and look at your store. Fill the spaces you see first with your best merchandise – the tops of walls, fronts of floor fixtures and tables. Fill the lower visible spaces with what you have left.
- Use signage to showcase your best deals. Make sure it is large enough to be seen from outside the store. Remember, you are trying to catch their attention.
Always, ALWAYS, stand back and look at your store from a distance. The goal is to make your customer feel welcomed, invited and excited to be in your store. Stand back and look. Do you get that feeling from your entrance?
Compare yourself to your Neighbors
While you are standing back and checking out your storefront, take a look at the retailers around you. How does yours compare? Do you have similar messaging, similar marketing, similar branding? If you said yes to any of these questions, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
If retailers around you have a similar look to you that probably means you are on trend. But being on trend could also mean that your brand identity is lacking, meaning, your customers won’t recognize you. It means you will be lost in the masses.
Think about it. If you are walking around a mall with 30+ retailers and they all look the same, it gets repetitive. You start to think you’ve already been there, done that and you lose interest. As a retailer, you want to stand out in the crowd and draw people in.
- Marketing – there are a lot of self-serve and cost-effective ways to make your marketing stand out. Avoid the per-made, basic signs.
- Colours – especially around the holidays there can be a lot of the colours used in marketing and window displays. If others around you are using the same colour, try introducing another colour to set your store apart from the others
- Communication – the one area where being the same as your neighbors will benefit you is in communication. This could be what merchandise you are showcasing or what price point you are highlighting. If you are speaking the same language as your neighbors, it is easier for customers to compare deals or find what they are in the market for.
I can’t say it enough. The best thing you can do for your business is to look at through the eyes of your customer. STAND BACK. Take in the whole picture of what you have created and what you are communicating to your customers. Make adjustments if you don’t feel invited or excited. Afterall, if you don’t feel it, your customers surely won’t either.
If you have any specific questions about your storefront, as always, contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org