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Remodeling the Store

Giving the Store a New Look

When we purchased our store in 1982, the interior appearance was the same as it had been since 1975, which is the year that the previous owners moved our store from the other end of Skyway Plaza. Our 9,000 square foot floor had a power aisle that ran the 90 feet from the double door entrance to the back wall. To each side of the power aisle, the counter runs were 40 feet long with eighty percent of the store having modern 5 foot tall modular fixtures, and the balance of the store using manufacturer's fixtures and leftover homemade wooden counters.

When we purchased the store, lawn & garden occupied the most square footage and provided the largest departmental sales. Within the next four years, we experienced several major changes, none of which we had any control over. Two years of unseasonable cool spring weather and a major remodeling of our shopping center, including the addition of four stores that stocked merchandise that we had carried, greatly changed the way our business operated. With these problems, and the introduction of three warehouse stores to our community, sales dropped considerably.

By this point, our interest in giving our store a new look with "the loop appearance" had grown to where it was now a necessity. To prepare for this enormous task, we created a blue print of our sales floor, and cut out orange pieces of cardboard to represent the fixtures. We spent many hours moving them about to determine the best layout for our store.

No matter how we moved our cardboard counters, we found that we lost 32 linear feet of counters. Even with the possibility of rebuilding our 24 inch base shelves with 18 inch shelves, we could not obtain room for any additional counters. The other change that we would experience would be the floor plan adding several additional end caps.

We also spent a large number of hours deciding which department occupied which section of the store. Finally, we decided to put lawn and garden in the far right corner (since the door to our repair shop was in that corner), hand and power tools in the center of the loop (for security reasons), and paint in the near right (a decision that we are still questioning). The best advantages that we saw from our changes was the attempt to direct customers to walk a pattern in our store that cause them to pass along the edge of each and every department. By putting promotional items on the end caps along the main loop aisle, we felt this would be an impressive invitation to explore the department.

The next couple of steps went fairly easy. We used our high school students during a holiday season to perform the prep work on the interior of the store. They did an excellent job of removing the old department signs on the walls, painting, and putting the accent colors about the store.

Since our exterior had been remodeled with the shopping center, the only other job that needed attention was rearranging the lighting pattern of the sales floor. Using the local power company and hand held light meters, a plan was designed to use the existing light fixtures. The only problem that we encountered was in deciding how to move the fixtures. Unfortunately, in conferring with hardware associations, several wholesalers, and the fixture manufacturer, everyone told us that the only way to move these fixtures was to unload the merchandise, dismantle the fixture, and rebuild it in the appropriate location. Looking at this method of remodeling, we could easily envision a store being in disarray for at least six months. Checking with professional store planners, we found that they could do the job in less time, but their price for directing the move was beyond our budget.

We are proud to be able to say that we completed our move in only five weeks, utilizing seven individuals hired to work four hours per night, and five nights per week. The secret in our being able to remodel so easily and quickly, came in a set of construction scaffolding which we rented to move our fixtures.

Our "hardware-mobile" was a 10 foot tall and 16 foot long scaffold which was constructed on the sales floor, and rolled to a position so as to encompass the fixture. Using steel bars which were inserted in the slots of the steel uprights of each four foot section of fixture, the bars were then attached to chains that were wrapped about an aluminum I-beam atop the scaffolding, making the chain taunt. By adjusting the leg levelers of the scaffolding to their highest position, the entire fixture was lifted three inches off the floor. The fixture, with all of the merchandise still on the shelf, was then wheeled to a new position on the sales floor, and lowered to rest on the floor.

The area of concern that took a lot of discussion was deciding which counter was to be moved first. Using our cardboard model, we spent many hours calculating how to move counters without causing us to dismantle other counters, or being forced to move counters against each other and temporarily eliminating aisles. We did have a small number of fixtures that were involved in two step moves.

Five weeks after we started, and having spent $6,000, we were putting down the new stripes to outline the main aisle, and a fresh coat of floor wax.

During the remodeling, our team members wore white construction helmets with our store name imprinted on the front, and the individual's name on the back. We also handed out to customers, sheets of paper which had a map of our new store layout on one side, and coupons on the back.

While we did not experience the tremendous sales increase that we had been told to expect, we do believe that the new floor plan greatly contributed to ending our sales drop. And, we continue to hear customers remarking about items or product categories that they did not previously know we carried. This, and knowing that the line count for the number of items we order each week, convinces us that the remodeling was the right thing to do.

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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 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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