Store design for franchise rollouts

Retail Shop open sign

Store design for franchise rollouts

Your franchise network may be a few stores, or hundreds of stores – regardless of your size, the store design process will be similar. It is helpful to understand the process, so you can effectively brief your designer, and so you both have a clear understanding of what is expected.

Design itself is incredibly subjective, with no one definitive answer. Having a clear direction of your brand, your target market, best operational practice, and the right people involved, will set you up in the right direction for great results.

BEGINNING THE DESIGN PROCESS / DEVELOPING A BRIEF

There are two major factors to consider as part of your store design process:

1) The operational requirements of your business; and

2) Aesthetic considerations.

Operational requirements – It is important that you pass on any specific requests / requirements needed for the operational success of your business to your designer. It is also worth discussing what has and hasn’t worked in the past.

Aesthetic considerations – while to a large extent this side of things is subjective, the look and feel of your brand should take direction from your target market – who should be at the heart of your decisions. What designs will appeal to your ideal customer?…

These factors will help form the design brief – information which will be passed onto the store designer. The brief can be either – verbal or written, but in general – the greater insight and understanding you can convey to your store designer – the more on track the resulting design will be.

WHO WILL BE INVOLVED?

It is key to involve the right people in the development of the store design. It is always best to keep it simple – more people involved in this instance does not mean a better result. In my experience, the best design processes have had a few key people involved – which allows for a clearer direction and viewpoint. This can get confused if there are too many players involved from the beginning.

The ideal team for evolving the store design, will depend on the size of the company – but someone that has a clear hold of the target market and the direction of the brand is important, together with someone that has a clear hold on the operational requirements of the brand, paired with the store designer.

A good start to selecting a store designer would have to be via recommendation, but other things to look for when sourcing a store designer to further develop your brand would be:

– Are they specifically a retail store designer, with an understanding of retail brands?

– Do they have experience designing stores in your line of work?… ie. If you are a food retailer, have they designed food retail stores in the past?

– Budget will generally be a consideration, and there are a huge range of retail designers out there, so as with anything, it really is a matter of hunting around, getting prices and finding the best fit for your brand.

RESEARCH

As with all elements of your brand, it is a worthwhile process to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing with their stores. What can you do to stand out, meet your target markets requirements, and stay ahead of the game in terms of store fit-out design? You and your designer should both research local and overseas trends for store design. There are a number of amazing websites out there that can be incredibly useful from a research point of view, I always keep an eye on http://retaildesignblog.net/ and even Pinterest can be helpful to search for specific retail sectors.

Research what your competitors are doing in terms of store design, search for inspiration (your store designer should do this to begin the design development process). Always aim to create a point of difference for your stores, be on trend, ahead of the competition – and look to improve your customers in-store experience, or provide new, interesting and exciting offerings to give your customers a memorable experience, that they will want to continue returning in-store for.

BUDGETS

Budget allowance for each store should be given to the designer as a guideline from the outset. Design details and materials can differ greatly – and can affect the cost in a big way. Therefore, if the designer is given a budget to work with from the beginning, this can be used as a guide when selecting materials and creating custom design details.

CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT

The concept development stage is where the designer takes all previous information gathered and discussed – and begins to develop and form the concept.

The designer will need a site on which to base the concept design, and before delving too far into the concept design, it may be worthwhile first completing a floor plan – based on either a new or existing site. This can then be signed off from an operational point of view prior.

Any site that is selected for the basis of the concept should be reviewed on its own merit. Ideally the designer will go to the site, review the surroundings and take into account best signage opportunities, vantage points and best orientation for the store entrance. If this is not possible, it is important that the designer is provided with, or sources good site plans, location plans and photos to gain a fuller understanding of specific information relating to the site. Signage orientation and entry points into the store should also take into account where the highest traffic  flow is, and aim to maximise opportunities.

Once the concept is completed, the designer will present back to those involved in the briefing. Generally, there will be some feedback / updates before proceeding to documentation phase.

DESIGN CONSISTENCY ACROSS YOUR BRAND

Having worked in house, in a store development team for a large retailer, for a short while in my career I have found that franchisees can have many differing opinions regarding store design and layout, and also specific requirements and demands for their own store. Bringing this factor into the design process can make it a much more complicated process; therefore it does need to be managed from the early stages. Guidelines need to be set out and developed early on in the process. In terms of branding and appearance, it is important to maintain design consistency. As you would have a style guide for your logo and branding, when dealing with a franchise network it is also important to develop a clear style guide and regulations for your store design. This document can be adjusted and developed over time as required, but it is important that it is managed by one point of contact so the integrity is maintained.

DOCUMENTATION, TENDER PROCESS AND CONSTRUCTION

Once the concept and finishes have been confirmed and decided upon, the designer will begin to document the drawings for tender and build. These are technical drawings from which the shopfitter can price the build of the store. The documentation drawings should clearly convey all design intent, specify finishes and details. The better the information, the more accurately the shopfitter can price and build. The designer should aim to avoid leaving room for presumptions or guesswork in the tender drawing set.

Once the preliminary drawing set is complete, the project is sent out to tender. This process generally takes two weeks. Usually the recommendation is to send the tender drawings to three shopfitters to ensure competitive pricing. The selection of the shopfitter is best to come from a professional recommendation (someone in the industry), and ideally will have build experience in the same retail sector. Construction drawings are completed, before the selected shopfitter begins the build. The construction set may have more detailed information than the tender set, but ideally doesn’t have any updates that will affect the shopfitters price – or these will be charged as a variation.

Once the shopfitter is selected, the store build begins. The shopfitter should submit a project timeline, with a set fit-out completion date. The designer should remain involved throughout this process as a point of contact for the builder to ensure design intent / details are carried through.

MANAGE THE DEFECTS PROCESS

Once the fit-out is completed, the designer needs to attend site to review details, and ensure everything has been built in accordance with the construction drawings. These construction drawings are incredibly important, as they form a guide for what the shopfitter has or hasn’t built correctly. Anything not built according to the plans is noted as a defect that the shopfitter will need to rectify, and it is best this is done in a timely manner.

The defects can also be area of continual learning and development and should be reviewed with the aim to improve designs. The store designer and builder should communicate and work together to ensure best possible development and future outcomes.

IN SUMMARY

The store design process is one that is constantly evolving, and which should regularly be reviewed to ensure the brand remains fresh, aligned with the direction of marketing and relative to the target market. The customer and target market should always be the key consideration for the store design. Consistency across the brand should be adhered to as best possible to ensure each store provides a clear and united message to the consumer.

Amy Gray
amy@studiograyscale.com.au

Amy Gray is a retail interior designer, and owner of Studio Grayscale. She works with retail brands to produce fresh, new and exciting interior design solutions - to transform and develop new and existing store designs. Prior to starting Studio Grayscale, Amy worked in-house at Boost Juice – giving her a firsthand understanding from a franchisor’s perspective.