Your retail store is ready for an update. The key question is: can you keep it open during a remodel or renovation?
Whether your retail locations need to upsize, downsize, or get an overhaul – retail renovations are a part of doing business.
Being retail environment design-builders, at CBSF we look at every project as our chance to bring in a new look, create a unique customer experience, or instill a fresh take on how retail spaces flow in 2022.
But on the flip side of every retail design project is the fact that this is also a manufacturing and construction project. So we need to be as effective and efficient as possible, delivering on time and on budget.
That’s why clear planning and communication are the keys to executing a successful project. And facing the pressure of renovations wreaking havoc on your customer experience and sales, getting projects done quickly and done right is essential.
THE BIG QUESTION: SHOULD WE CLOSE OR STAY OPEN DURING A RETAIL RENO?
Before we get into the full breakdown of what you’ll want to consider before your renovation, the first question that every client asks us is: should we stay open during the renovation?
After all, it’s tempting to forgo the distractions and extra work that comes from running a store that’s open to the public during a reno.
The short answer is yes.
Because time and again our customers report back that their sales actually increased during the renovation.
Why that happens is a bit hard to nail down. We believe that it’s a mix of curiosity (like you noticing that your neighbour’s getting a new kitchen) and deal-hunting (people believe that a somewhat disorganized environment has discounted goods).
As counterintuitive as that may be. Keeping your store open during a renovation is shown to increase sales.
FIRST UP: CLEAR PLANNING
Like any project, you need a clear plan to ensure smooth and seamless execution. But if you’re planning on staying open during the construction process, it’s doubly important. Because the construction project shifts from a “the construction and installation teams can do what they want when they want” approach to a “the construction and installation teams need to work to a carefully planned schedule to avoid impacting customers.”
As the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry put it:
“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”
But also, as the well-known project manager and pop icon Taylor Swift put it:
“Just because you made a good plan, doesn’t mean that’s what’s gonna happen.”
Step one in creating your plan, dig deep and answer these questions:
- Which parts of your retail space will be affected?
- Will any entrances or exits be blocked? If so, how else can customers get in and out of your location?
- Will utilities need to be cut off, and for how long?
- Will these temporary changes affect your fire safety plan?
- Do you need to make changes to your hours of operation?
- How will you handle stock, overstock, and quantities during the project? For example, should you proactively cut back on stock leading up to the project to help free up space?
- How will you work around construction noise?
- Where will you store construction materials?
- How long should you plan for the project to take?
Step two is to meet with your contractor and retail design builders, installers, and merchandisers to create a detailed project plan that focuses on these issues:
Safety comes first – Construction site safety should be everyone’s top priority. And keeping your retail location open will require extra precautions so your customers can move around safely with confidence, and your crew can work efficiently without having their project hampered.
This is where clear communications, signage, blocked-off areas, and daily team meetings that bring together store staff with the construction/installation/merchandising teams pay off.
Noise, dust & chemicals – The last thing you want is a giant mess, especially in the parts of the store that are clear of work. Noise is distracting. Dust gets everywhere. Chemicals and sealants smell terrible.
So sealing off work areas with plastic sheeting to keep dust contained, setting up cutting stations (for grinding, cutting tile, hardwood, etc.) outdoors, and bringing in additional HVAC or pressurizing spaces are great ways to keep customers from the worst of it.
Also, planning the noisiest, dirtiest, smelliest work for when you have the fewest customers in the store, or even at night, is the best approach.
Business hours – Think about how your construction project may impact business hours AND how your business hours may impact the construction project. The goal is to balance these two competing priorities.
One side of the spectrum sees you closing the business and giving over the whole time/space to the reno project.
The other side of the spectrum sees you keeping your business open to regular business and only allowing the crew into the space at night (an option for many projects).
But the most efficient approach is somewhere in the middle: working closely with your crew to plan each step of the project while knowing in advance how hours will be impacted.
Updating vendors & suppliers – Don’t forget to notify your suppliers. The project may require changes in your stock, quantities, days of delivery, etc. Working with your vendors will help keep the day-to-day operations smooth, especially if you need to make special accommodations for deliveries, pickups, and cleaning services.
NEXT STEP: CLEAR COMMUNICATIONS
Ready to kick off the reno? This is where we embrace reality and get honest with customers. Because the truth is that we can’t hide the construction project so we shouldn’t even try.
This project not only makes your retail space better for your business, but it makes your space better for customers. And that’s a great thing!
Share the good news – Surprising your customers with the project isn’t a good thing – especially if your store counts on repeat customers. So give them a heads up, share what’s happening and when, and give them time to get used to the idea and turn the project into a brand story.
This starts with:
- Ensuring that the staff knows exactly what’s happening and how to speak to customers about it
- Posting notices and signs
- Emailing customers to give them a heads up
- Sharing renders and mockups to show what the finished space will look like
No matter your approach, remember that a new retail store isn’t just for you and your brand; it’s also for your customers. So in your communications, remember what’s in it for them, humanize the project, and talk openly about it.
Remind everyone that you’re open for business – While it may be obvious to you and returning customers that you are open, if your location looks “under construction” at street level – some may not realize that you’re still open.
This is where banners, signs, and posting staff outside your location can help draw people in. Nothing says, “we’re still open” like a big banner that says exactly that, or a stream of customers coming and going.
And of course, update your website social media accounts to make it clear that you’re making improvements but are still open.
Go above and beyond – Yes, things can get messy and some of your retail footprints will be temporarily affected. But this is a great chance to go above and beyond.
Use this disruption as a chance to overcompensate on customer interactions and experience:
- Overstaff during peak times to have more staff available for customer interactions
- Communicate with the team early and often, including daily team huddles with all retail staff AND construction staff
- Post weekly construction plans so everyone knows what’s happening later in the week
- When speaking to customers, tie back the renovation to customer feedback to show that your business listens and is making improvements for the customer
- Consider having all work take place at night
- Run special sales leading up to the reno to clear merchandise, or run a “hard hat sale” during the renovation to entice loyal patrons to continue shopping
- Be friendly, open, and transparent
AVOID RISK AND HIRE A TRUSTED RETAIL BUILDER
Being one of Canada’s largest retail fixture and store design builders, we’ve done it all.
10,000+ locations, 200 million+ sq ft of retail space, over 15+ years, we know what it takes to renovate a retail location without hampering customers and sales.
Always willing to do whatever it takes, we will lead every aspect of your retail renovation, from construction management and planning, to fixture and display design and manufacturing, to installation and merchandising.