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Making The First Impression

The value of an attractive store front

Perhaps, the biggest decision has been made.  The customer was listening to a talk show on the radio this morning and has decided to buy the product mentioned.  They have also decided to shop in a store instead of shopping on the Internet.  The question to be decided today is which store will the customer select.

Perhaps you would be surprised to know the customer places a high value on their initial perception of your business.  C. Britt Breemer in the book, “Predatory Marketing”, offers information stating 53% of shoppers base their initial perception of your store and their decision to buy based upon the store exterior.

Our efforts today are to have your store make the impression on the customer so they will select yours, as well as create an image that will invite the customer to return time and again.

Storefront stores will fall into one of three categories:  free standing business, strip shopping center, and mall location.  Each of these formats has their own advantages and disadvantages.  For example the store in a mall location has the advantage of customers coming to the mall to shop other businesses, and benefiting from the additional walk by traffic.  However, these businesses traditionally face the competition of other stores located in the same mall.  Bright lights and attractive front entrance displays are key items for this business.

The free standing business may not face the close by competition, but has to create the draw to bring the customer to their location.  They must utilize their storefront exterior, roadside signage, and parking lot to their full potential.

And the strip 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 or stand alone store.  If the customer is driving by at night, the exterior signage should have all bulbs or neon fully functional to act as a magnet.  Remember for most shopping centers, the parking lot fixtures provide only a minimum of light.  Your store must pull the customer into it.

And while we are discussing exterior signage, if you are utilizing a message board, you need to change the message at least once a week.  Don’t be caught on a Tuesday morning with a sign announcing last Friday’s sale.

If the parking lot is sizeable, consider creating markers on each of the light posts to remind customers where they parked.  If you are a book store, signs indicating the mystery section, drama section, computer 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.  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 that will 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 windows have told them enough about what you are selling.

Another current trend in window 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, stores are doing a better job of lighting the inside of their store, and by allowing the light to shine out through your windows, the customer is attracted to come and see what is there.

Window displays which stop at the five or six-foot level, or backdrops, which are made of latticework, will provide the necessary depth to your display.  In building displays, each should stand out and demonstrate your own creativity.

Now that we are at the entrance of the 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 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 corners of your business are very well lit.  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 stores is a clutter of displays with little room for customers to pass each other.  At the edge of the lobby area, you can begin to invite customers to further investigate your store with displays.

Many stores sell products that can be displayed with a frontal and side view.  While there is not enough space for all merchandise to have frontal display, remember that too many items displayed by the side will look more like a storage area than a 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 backside 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 they walked in.

How have we done with the first impression?  I think the 53% like what they saw, and will be back again.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.
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