January, for me, is a very busy time with dealers gearing up for the coming season and new retailers going into their first season. I get a lot of phone calls and inquiries for assistance. Dealers ask how much space they need for apparel, what color to paint the store, how much to spend on lighting, where to find mannequins, etc. And I find one common issue: there are many great ideas and visions but little knowhow of how to execute ideas into an action plan, combined with greatly underestimating the costs and time the execution takes.
Our world has moved from its simpler and organic origins. The first dealerships (1900s-60s) were located in garages or attached to the front of old houses. Then dealerships evolved to cinderblock buildings (1960s-70s) with basic elements and poor lighting. The ‘80s brought a more tarted-up look with painted race stripes in OEM brands colors, and the ‘90s saw grey slat walls and, again, poor lighting. In most instances, decorating was completed by the owner and the mechanics over a weekend with some beer. In 2012, some of you still think that over a couple of weekends and some beer you can paint a ceiling black, stain the concrete floors put in some TVs, and ta-da, you have a new store!
That’s great if you used to be a contractor or handyman and have the experience that goes with all the issues that can hold your plans back, but here is a list of things you may not have considered:
- City codes – With signage, electricity, windows, doors and much more, always check codes! The fire department has to approve sprinklers to exits.
- Back stockroom – Have enough room for products that shouldn’t be on display. Most stores underestimate this space.
- Shipping and receiving space – This is needed, so no shipping and receiving is done on the show floor.
- Bathrooms away from the showroom, product and customers – I hate to shop and hear the toilet flushing and smell what comes out the door with the person using it.
- Lighting walls – 92 percent of retailers are under lit, meaning it’s too dark, and the walls with product usually have little or no light on them, so product is not seen well.
- Counters – Counters can be too large or too small and some have showcases that aren’t used properly.
- Too many TVs or TVs that serve no purpose to sell product – Why install them? It’s a cost, so what’s the return?
- Ceiling color – Black ceilings are terrible! Is your store going to be a nightclub or retail establishment? You need to double the light with black ceilings, and they show all the dust.
- Flooring – Find flooring that you can maintain and keep clean for the next 5-10 years.
- Planning fixture and display needs – Usually PG&A departments get what’s left over from sales. It’s 2012, and PG&A has been an underestimated profit center. Make sure you plan for this.
- Costs – Buying paint, flooring, lighting, counters, wiring, plumbing materials, firewalls, blacktop, windows, security systems and fixtures can lead to more than a couple trips to a store. You may need professionals to perform the work as well.
This a time of the year when you put together a strong retail playbook of what you’re going to sell, how much you’re going to stock, where you are going to display it and how you’re going to get your message out to customers. But, to take on a major remodel starting now to be ready in April means you have to have all the details worked out now for the project to start.
Make sure you have a plan, not just a vision. Put together a budget to work from. Some just need some fresh paint (every five to eight years), flooring, deep cleaning and removal of old furnishings that make the store look dated or worn. Others have simply grown and need a better space; this requires professional planning using an architect or a retail interior designer. In any case, don’t try to do this all yourself. The reason you’re in business is that people need your expertise, and that is providing play vehicles and all that goes with that, not interior decorating and construction management. It’s not as costly as you think to employ a professional to design your space. It likely will help you keep your costs on target.
Jennifer Robison’s career began in 1987 when she served as a service writer/parts sales for a high-end import auto dealer before becoming one of the first generation of Harley-Davidson Motorclothes managers at a Northwest dealership (1991-2000). From 2002 on, Jennifer has been with Tucker Rocky Distributing. ennifer has educated the Tucker Rocky sales force and dealers about the powersports apparel business and powersports retailing. Jennifer’s expertise is in powersport retailing, merchandising and display, promotions and in-store marketing. She has lectured and written about powersports retailing and continues to perform dealer educational workshops and seminars across the United States.