The economic downturn has resulted in serious budget-cutting across the retail industry. Few, if any, retailers have escaped the scalpel. But is it possible to reduce store-development expenses without sacrificing store image?
“It’s not easy, but it can be done,” said Craig Hale, principal and national director of retail, Jacobs, Pasadena, Calif.
When embarking on a cost-reducing plan, Hale suggests that retailers focus on two points from the get-go.
“First, you must recognize your brand and keep it in mind both at the beginning of the cost-cutting program and then throughout the process,” he said. “No matter what you do, you must be loyal to your brand.”
The other point to remember, Hale noted, is that how you use the store facility itself is a reinforcement of your brand.
“The store environment must help to produce the sales, and it creates the theater, but still it must be operationally efficient,” he explained.
Creating a store environment that accomplishes both—underscoring the brand while operating at its most efficient—requires teamwork between owner and designer.
“The designer has to recognize the brand, and the store owner has to provide guidance in terms of the costs,” Hale said. “Once a budget and a design objective are established, the team needs to look at every decision through the eyes of the customer.”
Such an approach allows the team to more easily find ways to cut store-development costs. “If you view the decisions you make through the eyes of the customer,” Hale explained, “you will find ways to solve detailing problems and to source finishes and materials that are more appropriate to making the store the theater and the merchandise the star, rather than making the store the focus of the attention.”Cost-Cutting Tips
Spend the most money where the customer sees and touches, and cut back in areas removed from the shopper;
Make the materials you choose count, whether in terms of payback or brand reinforcement, or both;
Examine how you buy your materials or how they are provided. Either buy directly or negotiate personally for the best quality for the lowest price;
Use your merchandise to your advantage. Since the product is the star of the store, exploit it when you can so that you can spend less on the environment around it; and
Keep sustainability and total cost of ownership in mind when making your decisions.
Customers, for example, rarely look at the ceiling, so that’s a perfect place to scale back. Details far from the customer, such as crown moldings, are potential cutback areas. “Crown moldings could perhaps be in a stock shape as opposed to a custom shape,” Hale added. “Or they could be painted or stained to resemble wood, without actually being wood.”
When addressing store lighting, the first rule of thumb is to specify only what you need.
“Many luminaires have adjustability options to change directionality,” Hale explained. “But if the light is shining on a static display, you’re paying for an option you don’t need.”
The merchandise itself can help to defray store design and decor costs.
“Apparel, for example, with its visual colors and textures, can be used as part of the design scheme,” Hale advised. “The goods are covering the walls, so you are not having to spend money where the customer is looking.”
Smaller wares, though, need a more theatrical environment around them. Jewelry stores may require more interior detailing because the merchandise is so small, according to Hale.
Every store, regardless of what it sells, can benefit from challenging how things have always been done.
“You may find that there is no longer a valid reason for materials that you are using or the ways you are using them,” Hale said. “Rethink, challenge and change your strategies accordingly, with a goal of gaining benefits as well as cost reductions.”