Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Making Your First Impression

The value of an attractive storefront

Perhaps the biggest decision has been made. The customer was listening to the radio this morning and has decided to buy the product mentioned. The question to be decided today is which store will the customer select.

You may be surprised to know the customer places a high value on his initial perception of your business. In the book, "Predatory Marketing," C. Britt Breemer states that 53% of shoppers base their initial perception of your store and their decision to buy on the appearance of 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.

Storefronts will fall into one of three categories: free-standing business, strip store, and mall location. Each of these formats has its 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 must create a draw to bring the customer to their location. It must utilize its 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 in most shopping centers and downtowns, the parking area fixtures provide only a minimum of light. Your store must pull the customer into it.

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, yet elicit 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 customers spend looking in the windows, the more likely they 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 stores, and by allowing the light to shine out through your windows, the customer is attracted to come and see what is there.

Window displays that stop at the 5 or 6-foot level or backdrops that 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 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 one another. At the edge of the lobby area, you can begin to invite customers to further investigate your store with displays.

And as a last point, walk through your store from the back to the front. Is the store just as appealing as when you walked in the front door? Or are you seeing just the backside of every display and counter. This is the last impression you will make on customers; make sure it is just as pleasant as when they walked in.

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

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179