After months of "cosy stay-at-home time", spring gifts us with the first touches of green, fresh energy, growth and new beginnings. The start of the year is filled with trade fair visits and new exciting merchandise. It is the ideal time to take a critical look at the store and the warehouse. A store check is at the top of the to-do list now.
A simple way to critically examine the present condition of one's shop is to take stock by taking pictures, whether with a reflex camera or the camera of one's mobile phone. Just be sure not to take too many photos. 9 to 10 pictures are enough to see one's store from the perspective that customers have. The eye has the tendency to polish and embellish things. A photo, however, shows not mercy. All of us have experienced this at some point with a less-than-ideal selfie.
The photo shoot starts right in front of the store. What is the overall impression and public perception of the building like? Is the façade clean? How do passers-by perceive the shop from the opposite side of the road? When passing by in a car? When coming from the left or the right? How does the entrance feel? Are the doors covered in posters? – or even worse, is there visible residue from sticky tape or the like on the windows? Does the outdoor advertising look neat? Are all lamps and spotlights fully functional? What about racks and displays in front of the store?
Tip! Hours of business, your URL and available payment options by card: this is all the information customers need at the entrance door. Nothing more! A plotted white font is ideal for this, applied from the inside to the glass door.
Are the windows clean? Are there spots in the flooring, on the side walls or the rear walls that require a fresh dash of paint? Is the lighting fully functional and are the spots focused on the merchandise? What does the shop window's ceiling look like? Is it possible to improve the effect from a distance by adding to the design in the shop window?
Tip! Plotted writing or graphic images on the window are simple ways to create fresh accents. Hand lettering is a further possibility – but must be executed tastefully.
What do customers see first when looking at the sales area? Is it possible for the customer to find orientation? What attracts their curiosity? Is there enough open space between the tables, the centre furniture, and the displays? Is the flooring clean and inviting? Are there surfaces that need to be improved with a new wall colour? Look at the columns, the walls, and the areas behind the cashier for this. Is the lighting fully functional? Do all lights have the same light colour? Do the spots shine on the merchandise rather than on the floor?How is the customer's eye directed across the room? Do tables in the spotlight have enough space? Do they catch the eye from afar?
Tip! A new wall colour or wallcovering – even if used for select areas only – is an easy and low-budget way to create an enticing spatial experience.
How is the customer "entertained" while checking out? What catches their eye while waiting? Does the customer's glance stop at a fuse box? A radiator? Or at interesting products or services? What is lined up alongside the check-out? How are additional sales generated at the check-out? Is there enough space to rest a bag? Or is the space consumed by brochures and flyers?
Tip! Utilise the visual field behind the check-out to actively showcase information, services, new products and (your own) events.
What does the customer acknowledge when leaving the shop? Is there a "thank you" and "good-bye"? Is there a sign of appreciation at the door? A final visual impression that prompts their return?
Tip! If customers leave the shop with a smile on their face, they will be happy to come back.
Those who have a beamer or large monitor at their disposal should look at the photos together with all employees either before or after the shop has closed. Sharing breakfast or a few snacks and a glass of wine in the event create a good framework for a critical look in a relaxed ambiance. Everyone should express their ideas and assess the pictures from their perspective.
Tip! It is crucial that the shop's overall impression is harmonious and caters to the prospective target group. Your personal taste must take a step back.
Those who seek a "view from the outside in" can invite a visual merchandiser, a designer or interior architect student or a colleague from a different sector to the slide show. Even product groups, tables and shelves should be viewed with a critical eye. Which individual items need to make way for new things? What does the storeroom look like? What has to go? What can be integrated into merchandise displays that are in the making?
Tip! Creating a flea market as an annual save-the-date event is a great way to avoid having to reduce product prices throughout the year and instead creates a valuable memory.
Don't rely on the camera's perspective alone – be sure to take a look around. The focal point should zoom in on ventilation grids, corners and all areas which attract dust over the year. A thorough spring-clean invites new energy into the space and new ideas into one's mind.
Tip! The right time is now!
About the author:
Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual retail marketing and author of the German book "Schaufenster als Spiegel der Geschäfte" (The shop window as the mirror of the shop). Her consulting firm for visual marketing, Arte Perfectum, focuses on practical solutions delivered in presentations, seminars, workshops and in-house consulting sessions.