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Anew study confirms that one of retailing’s oldest adages—retail is detail—holds true when it comes to the store environment. In fact, retailers may be surprised to learn how sensitive shoppers are to the lighting, noise level, layout and other details when a store is remodeled or a new store is built.
“The biggest takeaway for retailers from this survey is that shoppers not only pay a good deal of attention to individual remodeling/renewal components, but are able to factor them into the shopping equation. They have clear ideas of what each component is worth to them,” said George Rosenbaum, chairman, Leo J. Shapiro & Associates, Chicago, which conducted the study with Chain Store Age.
The report, “What Is Store Design Worth? Remodeling & Building New Stores,” surveyed 809 U.S. consumers age 16 and older. It provides insight into how shoppers react to different variables when a store is renewed, including lighting, exterior design, flooring, ceilings, fixtures, signage, temperature and noise levels, restrooms, fitting rooms, advertising and store staff.
Overall, the study underscores the importance of renewal. Indeed, the findings indicate that renewal is the price that retailers must pay to hold onto customers.
“Only one in four shoppers (27%) said they do more spending in a store after it is remodeled,” Rosenbaum said. “But, at the same time, they expect the stores they shop at to be periodically renewed. It is something they very much want.”
However, the potential to drive up sales through a remodel does exist—if the remodel is done correctly. Three in four customers (77%) surveyed said they would spend more money if a store was remodeled or renewed in line with the features they want or value most highly. (On average, they said they would increase spending by 21%.)
“Remodeling/renewal is a high-stakes game,” Rosenbaum said. “If you get it right, meaning that the new or remodeled store incorporates the features that shoppers value, there is the potential for a real upside in sales. But keep in mind that what is important to shoppers may not always correspond with the judgment of the store designer or construction manager.”
Key attributes: for all stores, staffing ranked at the very top, or as being the most influential, of all variables examined in the study. (The full study also breaks down the results by class of trade: discount store, department store, supermarket and apparel store.) Shoppers want to be sure that retailers allocate investment carefully between material resources and human resources.
“The overriding priority given to staffing is an assertion that investment in remodel and renewal should not be made at the cost of diminishing the staff,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s also a reminder to the people responsible for capital expenditures that perhaps for each dollar spent on the store, they would do well to put in at least 25¢ to hire, train and motivate their associates.”
After store staffing, restrooms ranked most influential in determining how shoppers feel about a store. “Customers do not want stores to skimp when it comes to investing in the creation and maintenance of quality restroom facilities,” Rosenbaum said.
Noise level and temperature were also given high priority by shoppers.
“Although both are of nearly equal influence, customers feel that the store should be more free with its dollars to achieve temperature control than it should be in achieving noise control,” Rosenbaum said.
Here’s how some of the other store attributes measured up in the study:
Fitting rooms: While shoppers are sensitive to the fitting room, their feelings about this feature are less intense, and they recommended greater restraint in how much the store spends for fitting rooms;
Store layout: The survey found that layout has a big influence on customers.
“Customers want stores to spend whatever it takes to create a layout that minimizes wasted steps and motion in the shopping process,” Rosenbaum said;
Lighting: Shoppers are highly sensitive to the way a store is lit. They attach more influence to lighting than they do fixtures and signage, and they advise retailers to invest more generously in it;
Exterior: The parking lot is seen as intrinsic to store renewal, so much so that a remodel that leaves parking unimproved is likely to be compromised in the eyes of customers.
“It’s also noteworthy that the front door of a store—the entrance—is slightly more influential than the exterior signage,” Rosenbaum added. “But both of these attributes rate well below parking in their importance”
Floors and ceilings: Shoppers attach more influence to the floor of a store than to its ceiling, and they advise the retailer to invest accordingly; and
Video screens: Electronic displays in the form of TV screens and monitors are not recognized by customers as having much influence in the renewal of a store, and shoppers advise retailers to be conservative in their investment.
Higher prices: The survey revealed that customers expect to pay for a store’s renewal: Nearly two in three think that once the dust settles, the prices in a remodeled or new store will be higher. But the fact that most customers (nine in 10) continue to shop at the remodeled or new store, despite the general suspicion of higher prices, signals the importance that is attached to store renewal.
“It also provides an opportunity to do some careful and select price increases,” Rosenbaum said. “If, however, you’re not going to increase prices, it’s important to get this message across to customers. And it should be done after the introductory promotions.”
To obtain a copy of the complete, 62-page report, “What Is Store Design Worth?”, visit