Perhaps you would be surprised to know the customer places a high value on his or her initial perception of your business. C. Britt Breemer in the book, "Predatory Marketing," offers information stating 53 percent of shoppers base their initial perception of your store and their decision to shop there upon the store exterior.
Our efforts today are to have your store make an impression on the customer so she will select yours, as well as create an image that will invite the customer to return time and again.
Storefront drapery and window coverings retail spaces will fall into one of three categories:
•strip shopping center
Each of these formats has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the store in a mall location has the advantage of customers having come to the mall to shop other businesses and benefits from the additional walk-by traffic. However, these stores traditionally face competition from department stores located in the same mall. Bright lights and attractive front entrance displays are key items for these individual businesses in a mall. Especially when most of the department stores display their window coverings products upstairs in the back corner.
The free-standing business may not face the close-by competitor, but has to create the draw to bring the customer to its location. They must use their storefront exterior, road side signage and parking lot to the fullest potential.
The strip center store faces a blend of both situations, being able to draw from neighboring stores, but still needing the attractive exterior to draw customers from the adjoining street or highway.
Let's look at maximizing the opportunity as the customer approaches the strip center or stand-alone store. If the customer is driving by at night, the exterior signage should have all the bulbs or neon fully functional to act as a magnet. Remember, for most shopping centers, the parking lot fixtures provide only a minimal amount of light. Your store must pull the customer into it. And while we are discussing exterior signage, if you are using a message board, you need to change the message at least once a week. And don't be caught on a Tuesday morning with a sign announcing last Friday's sale!
If the parking lot is sizable, consider creating markers on each of the light posts to remind customers where they parked. Signs indicating the drapery section, wall paper section, carpet section and so on will provide an entertaining preview of their shopping experience with you.
As we approach the storefront, the next draw should be the front display windows. The windows should perform several functions. They should be a teaser to show people some of what you sell, but provide enough curiosity so the customer will want to walk in and shop further. The window should not be packed with merchandise as this can invite the customer to spend excessive amounts of time outside the store. The more time a customer spends looking in the windows, the more likely the customer will decide not to enter the store as the windows have told them enough about what you are selling.
Another current trend in store display designs is see-through window displays. For many years, windows had a solid backdrop, which did not allow the customer to see inside the store. Today, store owners are doing a better job of lighting the interior of their stores and by allowing the light to shine out through the windows the customer is attracted to come and see what is inside.
Window displays that stop at the five- or six-foot-high level, or backdrops that are made of lattice work, will provide the necessary depth to your window display. In building displays, each should include more than what is provided by the manufacturer. Manufacturers do an excellent job of creating a self-selling display. But there are more than enough retailers who will fully use what the manufacturer has sent. You want to stand out and add your own creativity to the display. Your business does not need to just be a collection of manufacturer's displays.
POINT OF ENTRY
Now that we are at the entrance point of your business, we can include the mall stores in our discussion. Again, lighting plays a crucial part in getting the customer to come in. If you are a strip center or mall store, consider using a photographer's light meter to measure the amount of light coming from your storefront. How much light is enough? More than the other stores so that you are the most powerful draw.
Looking into the store, in addition to having sufficient lighting throughout the sales floor, make sure the upper walls and back corners of your business are very well lighted. These are the usual downfall areas of stores, and you want to take advantage of every situation possible.
Each type of store should consider creating a front lobby area. This area should be free of displays, allowing the customer the chance to step in and absorb the atmosphere of your business. Too often, the front of the store is a clutter of manufacturer's displays with little room for customers to pass by each other. At the edge of the lobby area, you can begin to invite customers in via displays to further investigate your store.
And as a last point, walk through your store from the back to the front. Is the store just as appealing as when we were walking in the front door? Or are we just seeing the back side of every display and counter? This is the last impression you will make on the customer, make sure it is just as pleasant as when she walked in.
How have we done with the first impression? I think the 53 percent liked what they saw, and will be back again.
Tom Shay is president of Profits+Plus Seminars, St. Petersburg, FL; (727) 898-7205; e-mail: TomShay@profitsplus.org; www.profitsplus.org