Most small businesses are predominantly one or two-person shows — and presentation is everything when it comes to making sales. We interviewed NousDecor’s famed interior designer, Mark Cutler, on redesigning a retail store on a budget.
The National Retail Federation reports that there are roughly 3.8 million retail establishments in the U.S., providing 42 million jobs and accounting for $2.6 trillion in total GDP impact. Of course, most of these stores are run by small business owners who are juggling finances, human resources, inventory, and the constantly shifting wants and needs of their customers.
So how can these retailers manage their day-to-day worries while staying current with the hottest store design trends? One thing’s for sure: if customers fall in love with the store and shopping experience, they’ll come back for more.
To help retailers step up their game, we sat down with NousDecor’s Mark Cutler, designer to the rich and famous and former resident interior designer on A&E’s “Makeover Mammas,” who believes creating a fresh and functional retail space is as important as designing a beautiful home.
AI: Thank you, Mr. Cutler, for agreeing to give us some of your expert insights on redesigning a retail store on a budget. When you visit retail stores, what are some of the most common design mistakes you see store owners make?
MC: One of my pet peeves is people not paying enough attention to the point of sale counter. It should be clean, tidy, and well-lit. Having a few upsale items there can be a good thing, but this area should feel spacious and calm. Poor lighting is the other element that drives me crazy. Everything that you sell will look better in good light — and the quality of the light should vary by item. For instance, apparel should be lit in a totally different way than jewelry.
AI: What are your top two suggestions on how to avoid these design pitfalls?
MC: I know that this may sound weird, but use your smartphone and take a few pictures of various parts of your store. Looking at the photos gives you a totally objective look at the space that you often won’t get with the naked eye.
AI: Since we live and work in a very budget-conscious world, what are some of your suggestions for store décor that are sure to stand the test of time?
MC: Invest in pieces that can easily withstand wear and tear, such as stained woods and painted surfaces that can be retouched easily. Using materials like this will build in a sense of flexibility to allow you to change the look and feel of your store as the taste of your customer changes.
AI: What stylish staples can a store simply not live without?
MC: I prefer to lean toward simplicity so that the product remains the star. Whatever you choose, think about durability and how the style enhances the product you are selling.
AI: Are there any specific colors a retail store should embrace, or maybe avoid altogether?
MC: There are many books written on the psychology of color. The feel you are trying to evoke will be different depending on what you are selling, so spend some time researching color and how it can enhance your customer experience. Whether you want to create a sense of luxury, trust, or even speed and efficiency, color will be the simplest tool to use.
AI: How about textures, shapes, aisle widths, space planning, etc.?
MC: Yes, all of these are important. I think you should you have a strong, unified idea that presents your product in the best possible way, then that idea is enhanced using color and texture, etc.
MC: When coming up with your retail design, be patient and make sure your idea is in the spirit of the product you’re trying to sell. You should be able to execute it well in the space you have, and it should be within your budget.
AI: Regarding window design, what are your top three must-dos when it comes to designing a window space on a budget?
MC: My best advice is:
- Don’t overdo it. Keep the design simple and on point, highlighting a few items that will draw customers in.
- Change the design regularly. Don’t spend so much on the design of your window that you can’t change it.
- Make sure that it is well-lit!
AI: And is there such a thing as overdoing it?
MC: YES! Remember to keep your “big idea” in mind. Keep it simple and keep it well-lit.
Pay special attention to two areas: the decompression zone (the area where your customer walks in off the street) and your point of sale. Both of these are critical moments for making a purchase decision, and if you limit your budget to these two areas it will be money well spent.
AI: If you do not have the resources to spruce up your store but you know it needs some lovin’, do you have any tips and tricks that can be done on a very limited budget?
MC: Yes, you will be amazed what a fresh feeling a good tidy up will do! Walk through your space with a very critical eye, note every scratch, ding and dirty – these are usually pretty easy to fix – and you will be shocked by what a difference this sort of thing can make.