Remodeling for Fun and Profit, Part 2

In our last article, we proposed ground rules for remodeling your store. We made two key points: research customers' expectations and the potential market for expanded services, and evaluate the use of the entire space. Even if you are thinking of remodeling only one area of the store, taking these two steps can insure organized growth and expansion.

When you have conducted market research and evaluated your space, you have enough information to develop a layout. Using a list of your equipment and an empty floor plan drawn to scale, you can start experimenting. Concentrate on creating a traffic pattern that draws people through every part of the store and enhances the store's strong points.

Here we will review elements of design and guidelines for choosing equipment and materials, and steps to developing cost estimates and implementing the plans.

Developing a design concept

To create the optimal store design, remember, you are designing a food store, and your goal is to improve the operation and increase sales. As a result, the design should enhance products, not overwhelm them, and the materials selected should be practical, durable and economical. Start visiting local supermarkets and other retails to examine their design and use of materials.

Lighting, materials, equipment, and signage can all be utilized to create your overall store design. These elements should be integrated to enhance traffic flow, define the store's image and create continuity in the store layout and design. The store logo may be the basis for the design or in some way be integrated into the store design. You can then incorporate the design into the store front and promotional materials, including flyers, ads and newsletters.

Color: Color can have a tremendous impact on your store's appearance. Light colors reflect light and make small spaces appear larger, while dark colors have the opposite effect, absorbing light and diminishing a space. The value or tone of a color often looks much richer on an entire surface than it does on a paint sample. Seasoned painters sometimes recommend using lighter tones than those selected to achieve the desired effect.

Lighting: Create special effects with lighting. Fluorescent, track, pendant, indirect and cove lighting are your basic choices. Fluorescents are used for general area lighting. Options include recessed, ceiling mount or hanging. Indirect lighting is generallly created using fluorescent tubing. A box opened toward the ceiling houses the light. Light is bounced off the ceiling, taking the harshness out of the light and casting a more even light.

Track and spot lights accentuate areas. Use track to draw attention to your produce dry rack and special displays. Pendants also focus light on areas. They are decorative fixtures; a hanging shade housing an incandescent bulb which casts a warm light is good to use over service counters and checkout stands.

Cove lighting focuses light directly on the shelf products. A fluorescent light is run inside an overhang above the shelving. The lighting can be used on all shelving or just to highlight special departments. The overhang can be custom built, or attachments can be purchased for your grocery shelving.

Equipment: You may choose to replace old equipment or buy additional equipment for the remodel. There are several options to choose from when looking for equipment, such as buying vs. leasing, new vs. used, and custom-built vs. manufactured.

Used equipment can be a good investment and save money if you shop wisely. Investigate used equipment dealers, store closeouts, and auctions, and utilize the person who services your equipment. Your service person can check out the equipment you are looking at and may even have leads on used equipment.

When buying used equipment from a dealer, get guarantees or warranties, and do not pay the full price until it is installed and functioning. Put agreements such as delivery date, how many shelves are included, training time, etc.,in writing, and inspect equipment upon delivery.

You may want to use new compressors to run used equipment. The used equipment can be steamed, painted, electrostatically refinished, or faced in wood to look new again.

Specialty equipment, including information desks, checkstands, bookracks, produce tables, and even breadracks and herb cubbies can be custom built to meet your space and design needs. However, we generally recommend using manufactured grocery shelving for displaying most other merchandise. The shelves are durable, adjustable, easy to keep clean, and economical. If your store is interested in a natural look using wood, this can often be betier obtained through creative use of wood to make cove lighting, signs, facades, and trimming the grocery shelving.

Metro shelving is another option in store design. This shelving is strongly associated with gourmet stores. It is very open, has wire shelves and no backs and sides. Another option is glass shelving. Mirrored backs which reflect light and add depth can be used with glass shelving -- in the body care and vitamin departments, for example.

Signage: Your front sign is the store's most fundamental and essential marketing tool. It identifies your location, draws affention and states who you are and what your services are. City codes may dictate the type, size and amount of signage you can have outside. The sign can include a logo and reflect the store design. Interior signage can echo the shape or lettering. Your choice in sign materials includes neon, wood, back-lit, painted and more. The sign should be lit at night.

Atmospherics: Atmospherics are the finishing elements of your store design. Awnings can be used both inside and outside, banners and flags of bright colors or with the store's logo can be hung in the store, plants, baskets, promotional materials, etc. can be used to create the desired atmosphere. Aprons or staff t-shirts can take the design one step further and identify employees. Wood facades, glass shelving, metro shelving and the like all work together in setting the store's mood. Materials must be selected to handle the intended task. Glass shelving must be thick enough to handle stock. Wood must be selected and treated for durability. Hardwoods may be best for high use surfaces and equipment that will be banged by carts.

Determining the cost of the remodel

Once the layout has been developed and the concept for the store design has been determined, begin seeking input from professional contractors, equipment sales people, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, etc. Use the proposed layout to illustrate your ideas, solicit opinions and receive uniform bids. Encourage them to look around the facility, explain how they will do the job, identify any foreseen problems, and estimate how long it will take. Solicit their suggestions on the layout. What would they consider the most cost efficient way? What have the other stores like yours done? Weigh this information against other considerations such as traffic flow and store image.

We recommend that you talk to two or more professionals for each job. The knowledge you gain from this experience will be invaluable -- and the variety of opinions may be mind boggling! It is important to have a layout prepared and design ideas before meeting with the builders and technicians, but remain open to their suggestions.

Ask for written bids which include the estimated cost and an itemized list for the project. This may not be easy, but simply explain they will not be considered for the job without it. When you receive the bid, ask for a guarantee of the price and a finish date. If your building is 100 years old and has many unknown elements which your builder will be tackling, ask them to review the possibilities and estimate additional costs.

Your landlord can also play an important role in your renovations, especially if s/he is helping to pay for inprovements. They may have blueprints or knowledge of the building's history.

After the above steps, realistic cost estimates for the renovation can be developed. In addition to already mentioned costs, at Renovations, when developing a cost estimate, we like to factor in an "over" cost, or "slush" fund as a safety net and tell the business to consider this a real cost-that is, have the money available. Other costs can also be factored into the renovation expense, such as additional inventory, labor and an advertising budget for promoting the newly renovated store.

The research you do will enable you to make informed decisions. If you plan to break the remodel down into smaller stages, develop a plan which employs the most logical steps for improvement. Generally, implementing changes that increase profits should take priority. The increase in cash may then fund further improvements.

Management: One person should manage the renovation. This person will need to coordinate the projects, troubleshoot, and handle the cash flow. In selecting a contractor or crew for the project, consider the following guidelines. Although price remains an obvious factor, other aspects should be weighed to determine who will be the most cost efficient in the end:

  • reputation (ask for references);
  • flexibility (will they work nights and weekends);
  • ability to work well with others;
  • availability.

You want to find people who will be committed to the project and willing to solve problems. They may look like they cost you more on paper, but they can save you money and grief in the long run.

One goal in conducting the renovation is to cause the least amount of inconvenience to the customer as possible. Staff need to familiarize themselves with changes and assist customers during the transition.

Preparing for completion: While the remodel takes place, preparations can be made for the newly remodeled store. The product mix can be developed, schematics drawn up, staff hired and trained, and promotions planned. A general rule of thumb is not to buy new products until the equipment is installed and operational -- especially perishables.

After the renovation is complete, a celebration is in order! In the next column, we will offer some suggestions for promoting your store, focusing on methods for creating a large impact with a small advertising budget.

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