Retail Technology Trends Your Competition is Considering for 2019

Some innovations are made to last, while others may quickly become irrelevant or obsolete. Knowing the difference can put you ahead of the pack.

When it comes to technology, how do you distinguish a breakthrough from a passing fad? It’s one thing to know what your competition is looking at doing, and entirely another to predict which innovations will help them win.
When compiling this list, we asked ourselves “what will still be around 10 years from now?” Customers are interacting with technology more seamlessly than ever, but robots and shoppable screens may not be the right way to go about it. An innovation can become a fad as quickly as computer hardware becomes obsolete.
This trend report looks at whether or not the technologies have a groundbreaking impact on the core retail experience. Because no matter what technology looks like, it all comes back to the customer’s relationship with the business and its brand, products, and service.

IMPACT: Smart Makeup Mirrors

Augmented reality innovations are very much hit-or-miss when determining their usefulness as shopping tools. Technology has to be used in a natural, authentic way to keep the customer central to the experience. That’s why interactive screens are making a breakthrough in the beauty industry with their ability to record customers virtually applying makeup, then emailing them photos to record their look.

FAD: Digital Dressing Rooms

Here’s one fad we won’t expect to see at our neighbourhood fashion retailers anytime soon: Topshop’s augmented reality shopping screens were created to help customers try on their collection without even stepping into a dressing room. But isn’t the whole point of going in-store to buy clothing to find out if the clothes actually fit? Today’s screens aren’t sophisticated enough to help you know if clothing is really the right size and fit.

What’s the difference?

Smart makeup mirrors are the kind of technological makeover that makes a lot more sense, because they replicate the try-on experience much more faithfully – right now, algorithms are doing a much better job of digitally applying makeup to faces than dressing clothes accurately on different body types.

FAD: Retail Robots

A few years ago, Lowe’s tested out a cute little R2D2-like ‘bot, and retailers started wondering if this was the droid they were looking for. But they ultimately said, “LoweBot, SchmoBot” and never rolled it out past the pilot stage. Today, Softbank’s Pepper is taking orders at a Pizza Hut in Singapore and roaming the halls of the Mall of America, but as it turns out, is vulnerable to cyberattacks. While the technology clearly isn’t there yet, it’s also clear that retail robots aren’t a great substitute for actual human contact.
Also, while robots can check prices and show customers around, they aren’t helpful at answering many of the how-to questions that customers have, especially when they should be showing empathy toward a real-life dilemma. The main thing they’re good at is facilitating self-service transactions – like a physical incarnation of an e-commerce site, with a worse user experience. If stores were staffed by robots, why would anyone bother shopping in-store – when they could save themselves the trip and shop online? So again, technology only makes sense when it puts the customer’s needs first.

IMPACT: Self-Serve Checkouts

Now, this is one human-less shopping experience that actually delivers real value. When counting cash isn’t required, the cashier-free checkout process looks totally different. Look at a business that offers contactless payments versus one that doesn’t: RFID payments speed up transaction environments for in-and-out purchases and offer huge convenience for customers by reducing time spent at checkout. The more widespread this technology becomes, the more often it could make or break a sale for retailers. The benefit to them is that digital payments are more secure and easier to track. However, one downside to consider is that digital payments come with hefty transaction costs.

So, who’s going to win this arms race?

While some digital trends will fade, others will make a lasting impact on the retail industry. As we see more and more tech innovations being tested in stores, those that win in this space aren’t those who are doing it first, they’re the ones doing it right. That means being genuinely useful, helpful, and delightful to customers – which is ultimately a great ‘analog’ experience, don’t you think?
If you’d like to learn more about innovations specific to your industry, we can help you determine which upgrades will give you the best return on investment. And if you’re also interested in making your core ‘analog’ experience even better, our retail strategy, design, and manufacturing teams are on hand to bring out the best in your stores. Give us a call at 905-264-0917 or contact us.

Drive retail sales for the holiday season with these quick in-store updates

Make a big impact with a few small changes. Here are some ideas you can have up and running before the holidays.

When it comes to increasing store margins for the holidays, the smallest updates can make some of the biggest differences. The holiday shopping season is the best time of year to drive unplanned purchases in-store: about 40 percent of respondents to a survey from A.T. Kearney reported that they spend more money than they planned for in retail stores, versus 25 percent reporting that they did so online. Read on for some fresh retail updates that will help your business drive sales this holiday season.

Make an entrance with your window display

Displays can increase sales by 540%, according to research from Russell R. Mueller. So, if your retail neighbours are upping their display game for the holiday season, you better be ready to make an eye-catching statement to grab the gaze of passers-by. Your window display creates the first impression that potential customers have of your store, and is where you’re going to inform them of best sellers, gift ideas, and promotions for the holiday season.
To find out what you’re up against, go on a research expedition to see how your competition is dressing up their displays and find some fresh inspiration to turn the tables in your favour. If you discover that your competition is using seasonal colours and you aren’t, your customers may not even clue in that you’re participating in any holiday offers. Research shows that people make up their minds to buy within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products, and about 62-90% percent of the assessment is based on colours alone!

Tell a story with merchandising

When it comes to driving sales, good visual merchandising can act as your ‘silent salesperson’ – giving customers everything they need to know to make a purchase decision. You can make a visually appealing display by grouping products by colour scheme, or add a human element to your merchandising by telling a story with your feature products. How items are arranged in a store can spark different ideas on how they could be used. For a grocery store, this could mean bringing popular items from different sections together in a display to showcase an inspiring combination for a food platter or seasonal recipe. An end cap is a simple, effective tool for upselling featured products or categories, and it can work some real magic on sales.

Manage inventory with as-needed fixtures

Don’t let the unthinkable happen – not being able to make the sale because you ran out of inventory during the busy holiday season. Plan your orders carefully so that the products you’re promoting are always available, or you put your credibility as a business on the line. Make sure you’re always fully stocked – in the back room and on display – because your customers want to see products, not bare shelving!
So you’ve stocked all the inventory you think you’re going to need – now, where do you store it all? You may need to invest in some temporary shelving in your backroom so your sales floor isn’t overcrowded with your abundance of products. To keep on top of the whirlwind of activity this time of year, managing your stock is essential to making sure that your customers can access everything you have to offer them.

Offer convenience-driven services with a temporary service counter

Entice shoppers to your store by offering to make their lives easier at this busy time of year. An extra service counter can be leveraged for multiple uses, including gift wrapping, product sampling, or as a dedicated customer service desk.
Gift wrapping not only eliminates work for your customer, but also influences them to see your products as gift-worthy, especially if you display some pre-wrapped items in an attractive fashion. If you use your extra counter for samples or product demonstrations, you can increase intent to purchase by helping customers visualize themselves using the product or enjoying it again in the future. When it comes to boosting consideration, a small taste (actual or metaphorical) can go a long way.

Speed up checkout with temporary cashier counters

While your seasonal display window will be the first impression customers make of your store, the checkout counters are usually the last – and the length and movement of a checkout line can make or break a shopper’s purchasing decision, even if they had an enjoyable experience browsing and finding everything they needed. If you’re anticipating significantly higher traffic than usual, adding an extra checkout counter or two can safeguard you against abandoned carts and ensure that customers will return to shop with you again.

Take advantage of a captive audience with a checkout alley

If you put some thought into merchandising this space, your customers will have a hard time resisting picking up extra items while waiting to check out. They’ve already decided to buy something, so it’s easier to suggest adding small, impulse purchases to their basket. Your checkout alley should be the place for low-priced products that are either staple purchases or so delightful that customers can’t resist taking a look. Seasonal items work well here because they create a sense of urgency, only being available for a limited time. Another strategy is to stock this area with items that customers might frequently forget or don’t think about buying, but actually need. You can find out what those products might be by instructing your cashiers to ask, “did you find everything you needed today?”

Protect yourself from shoplifters with added security features

You may think “anti-theft” always means investing in cameras, but you have other options too. Your store fixtures can make the difference between encouraging and warding off thieves by making it easier for your employees to spot smuggling. Mirrors and proper lighting can help eliminate blind spots where shoplifters love to hide, and housing small and expensive products in locked cabinets give your staff more control over who’s handling valuable merchandise. We can conduct an audit of your store to help you understand where you’re at risk, and find the right answers to choose the security features that are right for you.

Make the right updates with the right fixtures

Surprisingly, the tricks that really work to encourage impulse buying are quick hits you can achieve with a call to us. CBSF can help you choose the updates that will make the biggest impact on your sales this holiday season. From one-off orders to multi-location retail solutions, we will do whatever it takes to make the upgrades that will make a difference. Give us a call at 905-264-0917 or contact us.

Don’t Open Your Next Casual Eatery or Fast-Food Restaurant Before Reading This

You might think expanding your food and beverage business is about repeating your past success, but in reality it’s a whole different game. Follow these 3 essential rules for designing your next limited-service restaurant location.

So your food and beverage business is doing great, and you’re planning expansion to another location (or three). It’s an exciting opportunity to share your concept with more people in new communities. While it’s clear that running a multi-location operation is an entirely different experience to a standalone location, it’s equally important that you take a new approach to designing your limited-service restaurant spaces.
Whether you run a fast food, fast casual, and casual dining restaurant concept, well-designed environments are key to winning over customers. Famous brands like Starbucks have redefined the limited-service category with their premium furnishings and ambiance. Everything matters in design: from your colours to music choices, it all has an effect on customer psychology, so your experience should delight the senses (and we mean more than just taste).
So don’t ignore this free advice from a retail-environment design professional. Follow these three rules for designing amazing experiences that turn passers-by into frequent patrons and regular customers — at your current and future locations.

Rule #1: Design for scalability — from the very start

Whether it’s a chain, franchise or unique concept, every food and beverage business is built on quality of food, atmosphere, and service. With all three, scalability should always be a key consideration. For our clients, expanding with consistency from one location to the next is a top priority — not just strategically, but in planning, design, and building as well.
Food trends come and go, your menu will evolve, and you can change up your decor — but your core design elements should prioritize creating an operational layout first. When designing a new restaurant, think about your core menu offerings, your production flow, and expected turnover, then build up your environment around these components. You want to have a design, floor plan, and build plan you can execute flawlessly every time while adapting to specific locations accordingly.
Every element within your space contributes to your brand and atmosphere: bespoke lighting, sturdy tables, comfortable chairs, we could go on… and each needs to be carefully considered and well built to heighten customers’ enjoyment.
Above all, branding must be absolutely clear so customers have an understanding of (and attraction to) your concept from the moment they step inside. You can see this play out in the recent popularity of ‘fresh food’ concepts, where branding is especially focused on the product. Creating a replicable design takes into account the smallest of elements that are often overlooked: from the placement of menu boards to waste bins, and the styling of beverage stations and washrooms.

Rule #2: Plan from back-to-front

Why start from the back door forwards? One of the most critical restaurant planning mistakes is over-allocating space to your entry or dining areas at the expense of your kitchen.
Taking a back-of-house to front-of-house design approach ensures that you concentrate on operations first. Begin by allocating space to your kitchen and dining areas — a 40/60 split is standard, but varies based on the dining concept. Now work from the very back, considering where your food deliveries will arrive and where ingredients are stored and processed. Next, plan your way forward according to how dishes are completed, served, and enjoyed.
Don’t underestimate the practical approach — it not only ensures operational workflow is taken into account, but also the flow of customers, from entry to queuing and seating. Here’s a detailed breakdown of planning every square foot before branding comes into play:
The kitchen. It’s at the heart of your business, so don’t shortchange this area. Plan both the kitchen and service spaces for maximum efficiency, down to the specific equipment needed and where it will go. In your floor plan, also aim to place washrooms nearby, which will allow them to share plumbing and water lines with the kitchen.
The dining area. Here’s where both branding and the needs of your customers come into play. Start here by checking in with your local building permit office about the occupancy and accessibility guidelines for your space. Offer adequate seating and make the most of your layout by using a mix of seating types.
Restaurant floor plan space planning – table and chair spacing

Unit Space between each
Occupied chairs 18-20 inches
Tables set in parallel 42-60 inches between sides
Tables set on a diagonal 24-30 inches between corners

In small footprints, a counter-service area adds extra seating while doubling as a waiting area. Does the location have a patio? Space planning is equally important there, so make sure your concept works with your outdoor areas and everything flows together.
Once you take traffic flow into account and establish your seating plan, you can incorporate your branding into design. Colours, materials, textiles, and finishes all strengthen the visual and tactile experience.
Order/pickup counter. This is a space where your use of technology can play a major role in design. Plan this area with consideration for customer convenience, which should include prepaid orders from mobile ordering and delivery apps.
Entry/waiting area. The space for your welcome and greeting experience is where you’ll most strongly communicate your menu and concept to customers. During peak times, the environment should keep them intrigued enough to stay in line, and comfortable while waiting for their meals.
Storefront. Last in your space planning but not least in importance, your display windows and signage serve as your customer’s first taste of (and the billboard for) your restaurant experience.

Rule #3: Know where you can mis-spend

Overspending on location size. Don’t lease a bigger space than you really need. Restaurants are shrinking in size, and you have the opportunity to be creative with your footprint.
Under-spending on storage. When planning your kitchen, never underestimate the need for storage. So plan to go up, instead of out, to maximize your footprint. Even if you don’t think you’ll need extra storage space, add it in where there’s room — you won’t regret it in the future.
Overspending on service areas. Don’t “put lipstick on a pig” — that is, don’t beautify what doesn’t need to be polished. While open kitchens are popular these days, we don’t want to see the sink full of dishes. Same goes for the kitchen floor, prep area and other potential messes — so keep those hidden from your customers’ view.
Under-spending on signage. Many businesses don’t make their concept evident from the exterior design and signage. You should clearly communicate your brand and offering so you don’t miss out on potential revenue. Walk by your new space like your visitors would to see what kind of signage will work best, which should also include an exterior menu. For your interior, make use of directional signage to orient visitors in your space, helping them find the checkout counter, washrooms and other important areas.

We support the entire restaurant design-build process

As you expand and grow your business, you have the opportunity to create an atmosphere that represents everything you and your food stands for, and everything that makes your concept unique.
To make the most of your brand and space, we design to your aspirations and expected customer experience as well as your footprint and business growth. Future-proof your food and beverage business with a team who’s willing to do whatever it takes. Give us a call at 905-264-0917 or contact us.

Which Retail Store Layout Makes Sense For Your Business?

Learn about the four layouts all stores use to maximize impact, driven by amazing insights into customer behaviour.

Ever lost track of time while shopping? Browsing around a store, looking at products for longer than you anticipated, considering items you didn’t come to buy?
As retailers, that’s exactly what we want to happen — and why there’s an entire area of research and development focused on driving sales through optimally designed spaces that promote foot traffic, impulse purchases, and all that other good stuff.
If you’re looking at redesigning your retail store or opening a new brick-and-mortar location, you might be wondering what layout will work best for your space. Thanks to some fascinating insights into consumer behaviour, the retail industry has standardized the best store space-planning practices into four popular layout designs you can use to get started.

So what does science reveal about the vast majority of retail customers?

Individual retailers go for different designs, colours, and moods, but there’s astounding consistency from one store layout to the next. Why? Because there are universal truths to store planning that appeal to the vast majority of shoppers. Studies have revealed that nearly 70% of consumer decision-making happens in-store. When the right interior environment is absolutely crucial to a store’s success, retailers go with proven strategies that work.
If you aren’t surprised yet, consider this staggering statistic — 90% of people turn right when they walk into a store, and they should continue moving to the right in a counter-clockwise direction around a space. Turns out that in North America, we shop the way we drive — most of us will turn right when we enter a store, so retailers pay a lot of attention to this traffic flow and merchandising the key area known as the power wall.
Merchandising your store and choosing its layout are connected processes. Layouts encompass the design of retail floor space, and merchandising is the organization and display of products within the store’s layout. Both must be designed to entice shoppers to purchase. Go to your local mall and visit 20 stores, and you’ll notice patterns amongst them. Some of these practices will work in your store as well.

Learn the four store layouts that all stores use, and which retailers they’re best suited for.

We’ve learned that while interior designs vary from one store to the next, they’re all built up from foundational store layouts that create consistency in the overall retail experience. While all layouts are designed to suit the size and shape of the sales floor, their common goal is to move customers around the space with intent to purchase, and expose them to as much product as possible. Here are the four store layouts used across the retail industry to promote foot traffic and maximize sales:

1. The Grid Layout

store grid layout
This familiar layout is most recognizable in supermarkets, convenience stores, and pharmacies. Long aisles are packed with shelves that maximize product display. Impulse purchase items can be found near the front of the store, staple items are in the back, and ends of aisles are used as merchandising focal points to highlight specific products.
Recommended for:

  • Retailers with a wide range of merchandise and many different SKUs
  • Those with limited design budget using off-the-shelf store fixtures
  • Retailers seeking a standard shopping experience familiar to customers, with predictable traffic flow

Not recommended for:

  • Businesses looking to stand out with experiential spaces
  • Retailers that do not have obvious product categories (as customers may not know where to find what they need)
  • Stores with narrow footprints, as aisles should be wide enough to prevent customers from bumping into one another


2. The Herringbone Layout

Herringbone store layout
If you have a long, narrow retail space that doesn’t work for a grid layout, but you still want to optimize space for your merchandise, consider the herringbone layout.
Featuring a central ‘spine’ aisle with shorter ‘rib’ aisles, the herringbone layout optimizes space for merchandise in narrow retail footprints that aren’t suited to a grid layout. The side aisles offer plenty of opportunity for promotion areas on each side of the main floor space. This layout is also seen in large warehouse-style stores where the shopper has clear purchase intent.
Recommended for:

  • Retailers who favour the grid layout but have narrow store spaces
  • Businesses suited to a warehouse-style shopping experience

Not recommended for:

  • Retailers not suited to a grid layout (see above)
  • Businesses with a high risk of shoplifting, due to limited visibility down the side aisles
  • Those concerned about cramped spaces


3. The Loop (or Racetrack) Layout

loop store layout
The ultimate layout for perusing with countless creative display opportunities, the loop controls traffic flow to direct customers past every product in the store before they reach the checkout counters. This plan allows retailers to tell a linear story by guiding customers through a journey from store entry to purchase. Only certain categories are well-suited to such a controlled experience — as it can frustrate customers who require a quick in-and-out option — so consider carefully if the loop is the right choice for your brand.
Recommended for:

  • Businesses seeking to maximize product exposure
  • Experiential brands who want to craft a specific journey for their customers
  • Those wishing to control traffic flow towards specific promotions

Not recommended for:

  • Businesses with customers who prefer to control their own experiences
  • Brands that require less consideration time before purchase
  • Stores with high traffic turnover
  • Those who need to offer quick in-and-out service and can’t be perceived as wasting customers’ time


4. The Free-Flow Layout

free-flow store layout
Free-flow refers to traffic flow — there is little attempt to control customers’ movements around the store, allowing them to shop as they please. Simple to understand, yet complicated to execute. While free-flow rejects standardization, the layout is not totally without rules — to be successful, it should still follow many of the same insights into customer behaviour. Like with other layouts, exterior signage and displays guide shoppers through the entrance and a start path that leads to the power wall. From that point, the only limits are store walls, floor space, and your imagination.
The free-flow design is commonly used in mixed-layout plans. Large department stores often use a loop layout for their main aisle, and different configurations within, depending on the type of brand or store category of the component sections.
Recommended for:

  • Stores with small footprints
  • Retailers wishing to encourage browsing and impulse purchases
  • Experiential upscale and luxury brands with less merchandise
  • Individualistic brands looking to break the mold from established patterns
  • Those seeking to create an impact through negative space and slow down traffic flow

Not recommended for:

  • Retailers with plenty of merchandise
  • Businesses concerned about doing the wrong thing
  • Those with a limited budget for design risk confusing customers without expert advice


Which store layout is right for your store?

As the foundation of your store design, your layout has a direct impact on your sales, so before you create your floor plan, take time to consider your brand, products, and how you want customers to move through your space.
Of course, choosing a layout is just one of the first steps, and this article only scratches the surface of the entire store planning journey. That’s why we’re here to help you build your experience from the ground-up. Our in-house design and engineering teams have guided many retailers through the process — from initial strategy and sketches to sourcing and installation.
Give us a call at 905-264-0917 or contact us.

Planning To Open A Second Retail Location? Answer These 5 Questions To Decide If You’re Ready.

While a lot of big retailers are closing their brick-and-mortar stores, small business is booming. Here’s what you should know if you’re considering retail expansion.

When your business is thriving, it’s only natural for you to question whether it’s time to open another store (or two). But you might wonder if you’re creating new opportunities, or spreading yourself too thin. Success isn’t guaranteed from one location to the next, and your reasons should be motivating enough to keep you going as you experience growing pains.
So how do you know when it’s time to grow to your next location? Here are 5 questions you should be able to answer if you’re considering expansion.

1. How strong is your business now?

What factors are contributing to your current success? Are your sales high temporarily due to a busy season? Or have you observed a steady increase in foot traffic and positive feedback from customers?
Before you even think about expanding to another location, your sales should be growing consistently for an extended period. If they are, fantastic – you’re ready to strengthen your operations and move forward.

Be realistic about your budget. Is your current location cash flow positive? Can you secure the funds needed to expand?
The smartest move is not to count on your current location to fund the operations of the next. You should think of opening your new storefront as starting a new business venture: while you should try to replicate all the elements of what made your first location successful, some aspects – like your customer base and competition – won’t be exactly the same.

Know where your customers are coming from. Do you have customers going out of their way to buy from you? Could your second location serve them better?
Find out where your customers live – their answers may surprise you. You might find an opportunity to build on your existing loyal following while also reaching new markets. Perhaps you learn that you have a lot of customers making a long trek to visit your store, and they are clustered in another area. That would signal that you could feasibly expand to another location, and also point you towards the area where you should settle.

2. Can your business run without you?

Do you have time for a second location? Think back to when you opened your first retail store and how busy you were. Will you be able to stretch yourself between two stores, or do you have a capable second-in-command who can handle the original store while you focus on the new one?
Keep in mind that once your second store is up and running, travelling between two locations may not be practical, so you will need to be comfortable delegating to a store manager for at least one location.

Consider this an opportunity to boost your management skills. If you don’t feel comfortable hiring someone to run your business as you would, then you can’t expect things to go as smoothly without you. However, if your customers don’t need to do business with you directly, chances are you can train another person to fill your shoes in your new location.

Is your current location running smoothly – employees, inventory, payroll? How you will offer a consistent customer experience? Consider moving some of your strained staff to the next store so you don’t have to start over from scratch. You will need established processes all ironed out so you can double them at your new location.

3. Do you need more space?

Are you running out of inventory, space, or staff? Turning away customers who would otherwise be paying? These are good signs that another location will launch successfully.

Don’t risk cannibalizing your original store. Consider if it’s in a market area large enough to support another location nearby. Benefits of running a new location nearby includes the ability to transfer some of your experienced staff to the new location, and established brand recognition in your current area.
If you don’t feel there are any more potential customers in your area who aren’t already shopping with you, that could be a sign that it’s time to grow elsewhere.

4. Can you try out a temporary location?

Could you test out your business in another neighbourhood? Is your potential neighbourhood the right fit, one you could see yourself spending time in? Is there an unfulfilled demand for your products or services? Will the same sort of customer base you currently rely on for business be present elsewhere (and do they patronize your future neighbours? Is your competition well-established there?)

Create a pop-up version of your store. Before investing heavily in a traditional storefront, you can test potential future markets by establishing a temporary location. This is a great way to pilot test sales of your products and services in or near your proposed new location. Pop-up shops typically run about six weeks, and can be established in a mall kiosk, vacant storefront or a complementary retailer’s store.

5. How can you build on the success of your first location?

What changes could you make to improve the experience? Can you make your next location run even better than the first? Creating a detailed business plan for your second location is a great opportunity to improve upon your original plans.
Even though you’ve done this before, don’t assume everything will go exactly the same (or cost the same) as when you opened your first store. Can you anticipate different overhead costs? Different rent, business hours, utility bills? Budget 2-3 times your initial projection costs to cover any unpleasant surprises (such as high heating costs.)
If these questions sound daunting, consider the upsides.

Going through your due diligence will make the decision easier. You may even uncover efficiencies that you hadn’t seen or considered before! Running multiple locations could give you the opportunity to order larger quantities or offer a more diverse range of products, which could potentially reduce operations costs. This provides the benefit of increasing profit margins while also passing some savings on to your customers.

Opening another location demonstrates that your business is thriving. An expansion is a sign that your company is well run, which will make a positive impression on your customers. Keep them in the loop as soon as you’ve decided to go ahead with opening another location. By communicating often with your current and potential customer base, you’re setting up future sales down the road, especially if you tie in exclusive promotions to your store opening. Making your original customers feel like they contributed to your success will strengthen their loyalty and boost your brand as a proven business success.

Ready to go ahead with your next store design or space planning?

We’ve helped many retailers grow successfully from one location to the next. Our in-house design and engineering team is here to help. Give us a call at 905-264-0917 or contact us.

Retail environments and store designs we wish we’d done.

When you’re privileged to be part of a tight-knit retail community, it’s alright to be green with envy… here are some projects that impress us (and why).

The world is a really big place. And since we can’t be a part of each and every amazing project, there are retail environment projects and retail store designs that we come across and think to ourselves, “I wish we had a chance to be a part of that.” Factors like engineering, tech and data considerations, material usage, use of space, floorplanning, and custom fixture design are all crucial elements when developing and executing the perfect space, so let’s take a look at some of the crème de la crème.

Kumoto Restaurant

By Esrawe Studio + Rojkind Arquitectos

Photo by Jamie Navarro
Photo by Jaime Navarro

Taking a cue from the Japanese bento box (serving a meal in a cluster of wooden boxes on a tray), these designers tapped into simplicity, intimacy and uncluttered lines appropriate for Asian cuisine. From the organic materials in the wraparound envelope to the centrepiece fixtures – and right down to sake containers, collection vessels and tableware – the integration is subtle yet superb.

OUR THOUGHTS: We love the tie to the heritage of Japanese cuisine with the interpretation and modernization of the bento box. The combination of light woods and brass let the darker pieces anchor the space and carry the compartmentalization of the bento box theme.

BXP Burger & Grill

By FAL Design Estrategico

Photo by Vitor Reis
Photo by Vitor Reis

The pop of a hot colour combined with strong graphics makes this takeout locale the perfect fit for Sao Paulo, Brazil.

OUR THOUGHTS: We applaud the play of the geometry ie. introducing it into the burger graphic is very cool. Small space equals big impact. Also the way they don’t shy away from using big bold brand graphics even in a restricted space. Usually, there’s a fear of using that much real estate for one sign/message, but it works so well here and contributes extremely well to the overall dominance of the experience.


Part of Italy’s largest co-operative supermarket group, Alleanza 3.0; developed by Zurich-based Interstore; implemented by Schweitzer Project

Photo by Daniel Horn
Photo by Daniel Hord

Turning personal shopping into an experience in-the-round has been the ambitious goal of this hypermarket concept of this group that fuses small, local food co-operatives with a beauty shop, florist, optician, housewares, even a jeweller. Think modern design with a high degree of flexibility that puts the focus on the merchandise, and you’ve captured the spirit.

OUR THOUGHTS: This project is interesting first, because it’s basically a big box so common in North America, but not as common in European cities. They’ve taken a novel approach to make a large store more digestible to the consumer navigating it by cutting it up into bite size pieces so you feel like your entering and leaving different areas. It encourages exploring. The use of standard fixtures that have been dressed up (some custom) is a successful demonstration of how to marry custom and commodity, A solid example of how to prioritize where to spend and where to save. Notice a completely different philosophy in how to treat the front of the store that’s lined with product [cosmetics] to sell vs. checkouts.


Photo by Allbirds
Photo by Allbirds

How the world’s most comfortable shoe is sold when you’ve eschewed the industry-standard petroleum-based sole and embraced Mother Nature’s alternative, as reflected by the Soho location. It’s truly a one-way flight!

OUR THOUGHTS: The use of natural materials ties in and reinforces so boldly their product values. Even with a limited, exclusive selection of products on offer, the experience screams volumes. This place should be on everyone’s list to visit on the next trip to NYC.

Hudson’s Bay Company’s Amsterdam Location

By CallisonRTKL

Photo by Business Wire

How the Canadian retailer has tailored highly customized and localized fashion, services and brands to the Dutch culture and design landscape. Pop-up areas, a blend of local and national brands as well as highly interactive spaces are just some of the strategies employed by the design team. Contemporary, clean interiors, exposed ceilings along with an elemental colour-and-materials palette have been carefully integrated into these rejuvenated buildings. Add to that, cooking demos, a new restaurant and heritage shop and consumers will take notice.

OUR THOUGHTS: Definitely an event to experience. We love this for bridging the line in “gallery.” The architecture alone draws consumers to spend the time walking through –
working through it and lounging along the way.


Photo by B8ta
Photo by B8ta

These stores are designed specifically for discovering, trying and buying innovative new products and it shows. Every detail of their model, from a software platform to an expert retail team, serves to open pathways to discovery and purchase. By removing barriers for both brands and customers, they’re aiming to make bricks-and-mortar retail as easy as the online experience. And with ten locations scattered around the U.S. and a partnership with dozens of Lowes stores, b8ta is taking retail to the stratosphere.

OUR THOUGHTS: We love the fact that consumers can touch and feel everything, even if the retailer collects data on every time something is touched and sells that data back. The environment is as clean; the experience as seamless as an Apple store without them selling their own company. Here’s a great example of the retailer being part of the sale.


Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the pond. But at CBSF, when we stop, take a step back and look at the projects we’ve had the opportunity to work on we’re reminded how amazingly challenging and creative our work really is. So, we applaud those who help push our industry forward – those who find new ways to be creative in a world that’s recycling ideas – when everything’s been tried and done before. Because in the end, an extraordinary customer-experience is what we all strive for.

We recommend that you look at others’ work, get inspired and then put your head down and get to work. And if you’d like to talk about your own possibilities, give us a shout.

How to get started: When to consider a new store design

5 red flags that every retail business owner should recognize signaling it’s time for a new store design.

To stay competitive, those responsible for creating dynamic and engaging retail environments need to take the blinders off. No matter your role – whether you’re a store planner, location manager, or retail business owner, you have to take a hard look at your space on an annual basis to see if it’s falling behind and failing your business and your customers.

Forgive me if that sounds harsh – believe me, there’s no judgement here.

But as a retail-environment designer, it pains me to see retailers – who are otherwise at the top of their game – working in a space that doesn’t leverage the latest technologies, design elements, and strategies to drive purchases, both in-store and otherwise. While these tactics include fundamentals like keeping foot traffic up, nowadays they encompass so much more – creating a place to connect, build community and loyalty to your brand, and offer an authentic, immersive experience.

It’s a matter of survival.

So, let’s look at 5 red flags that retailers should take note of – things that might be silently screaming, “it’s time for a change!”

Is Your Branding Blurry?

If your retail space isn’t creating what we call an “immersive experience” for your customers, then you’re probably not telling your brand story well enough. The buzzword of the day is “experiential commerce” – a consistency of look, feel, and even smell to envelop the customer in your message, tone, and story.

Consider window displays as an opportunity to tell your brand story, using elements that are relevant to existing customers and relatable to new ones. Appeal, surprise and delight with seemingly random touches. You’re making that crucial first impression before anyone enters the store.

Where signage is concerned, be crystal clear on your brand story and your positioning. Create an Instagrammable moment. Think bold, branded artwork to entice people to snap, chat and share. In his book Re-Engineering Retail, Doug Stephens writes that “media is abundant; attention is scarce.” So be sure to grab their attention.

All that sizzle you’re selling should be supported by store flow, fixtures, colours, and ambience. Ask yourself, are you missing any elements that your customers require? Watch them to learn. Visual merchandising is powerful, but don’t forget that humans react favourably to sensory cues like smell and sound. The key is to make your presentation fluid, clean and interesting enough to engage shoppers’ attention – and then hold them.

Same Old, Same Old

Ask yourself if your store looks old. Just like hairstyles and jean fashions, styles change – and your retail space may just be caught in a timewarp. It’s helpful to work from the outside in (windows, threshold, or decompression zone) to appraise the kind of update your store requires.

CONSIDER: As a person who is in the space often, you may not notice little things like dirt build-up, scratched door frames, chipped fixtures, or an overall “worn” feeling to the space.

Next, check out your merchandising displays. Are they located where they’ve always been? Perhaps it’s time for a refresh. Eighty percent of your sales tend to come from the first third of your store, so highlight all the “wants” at the front and all the “needs” in the back with the sale stuff.

Then, if you need more than a quick nip and tuck – if full surgery is required – you’ll be able to lay out a plan, determine your timeline and create a budget for whatever is required to give your space that facelift.

Perhaps The Flow Is Muddled.

Realize that designing your retail space is a never-ending process. You’ll never stop switching out, tweaking, adding, or subtracting elements in order to build that resonating experience. And at the end of the day, your focus should be the customer journey.

Try doing a walk-through yourself. Where do the visual cues guide you? Or get staff, friends, or family to do the same and give you honest feedback. Watch the customers to see what draws them and what they avoid. There’s a set formula for optimum traffic flow within retail spaces – “enter and turn right,” power walls, etc. – that have been researched and proven for 90% of consumers. These are unconscious reactions and can be easily implemented to up your retail game. It’s not rocket science.

Hello, Comfort Level. Hello, Personal Space.

If you haven’t heard of “butt-brush effect” (coined by consumer behaviour expert Paco Underhill) then you might not realize how much shoppers value their space. It seems that typical customers avoid merchandise in an aisle where they could potentially brush another customer’s backside or have their backside brushed. In other words, crowding them. Even if they are very keen on the product. The easy fix is more breathing room in aisles, sales floors and around displays. Call it browsing space, if you like.

CONSIDER: Dwell-time is time spent engaging in-store with a product. If that item is laundry detergent that’s dash-and-grabbed, it’s not as vital a factor as when the purchase is a piece of apparel that benefits from more space and time to encourage it into a change room, then brought to checkout.

So adding elements of comfort such as couches, benches, or other seating will be seen as a “personal touch” (remember branding) to pamper your customers and anyone accompanying them. They’ll speak to dwell-time. Perhaps an invaluable trade-off for merchandising space. That may mean consolidating. Or making better use of fixtures in order to convert space. Either way, keep seating facing the merchandise to frame the merchandise as top-of-mind.

Looking the Part – Knowledge Headquarters Or Experience Center?

If your retail space looks light-years removed from the current trends towards Bluetooth-connected-app-pings-for-dressing-room-availability and digital signage to entertain those in the checkout line, don’t fret. No one says you have to make a big technological leap all in one move, but a certain level of product knowledge and expertise helps draw customers to your bricks-and-mortar location – just as a “coffee bar” or “kid zone” positively affects customers’ “approach behaviour”. Help your retail space look forward-thinking in whatever way possible.

Now screens, apps, and devices aren’t a plus if they’re blank. They require content and expertise. A strong social following can generate content to display and push genuine engagement. Dependable technology for staff to check product info and inventory is a baseline. If staff have apps at their fingertips, it’s absolutely key that they are experts at demonstrating and promoting the advantages to customers.


It’s one thing to look at an Apple store and want to emulate its style, but Apple’s entire being (store design, merchandising, staff, service methodology) is built on its brand story “think different.”

  1. So, figure out what your own “think different” is.
  2. Walk the store or have an unbiased, trustworthy straight-shooter you know pinpoint your hits and misses. Listen. Of course, CBSF can help.
  3. Get your game plan on: prioritize what needs fixing, budget for it, start plan how you’ll make it a reality, and determine the help you need to get there.

Here’s some food for thought: retail doesn’t stop changing, and that cycle is now faster than ever. The renewal/refresh cycle was once every 10 years; now even the slow-to-change big-box stores are looking at 2-to-5 year cycles.

You don’t need to tackle the whole store at once. You can move through the neediest areas or departments. Only plan for what you’re changing now. Trends will stale-date by next year and there’s no use in redoing work that’s already been done because the retail landscape has scrapped it for you.

We’re happy to fill the role of unbiased, trustworthy straight-shooter for you, if such a need arises. Give us a call at 905-264-0917 or contact us.

Don’t give up without a fight.

The 10 retail insider-tricks you can implement when new retail competition moves into your neighbourhood.

The retail sector is more dynamic than ever. It’s a knock ‘em out, dog eat dog world, part-Mad Max, part Braveheart (freedom!) – where every retailer is fighting for their space in shoppers’ minds; and wallets.

The way that consumers make their buying decisions has shifted dramatically: they stand in your aisle, using their smartphones to compare prices and product reviews; family and friends instantly weigh in on shopping choices via social media; and when they’re ready to buy, an ever-growing list of online retailers deliver products directly to them, sometimes on the same day.

Historically, market shifts have created winners and losers – from local corner stores to department stores; shopping malls to discounters and big-box chains; to online, the trends stops for no one. As an existing and successful retailer, you’ve always got to be on the lookout (and plan for) the new kid on your block.

So what do you do when that new player knocks on your door, ready to take your market share?

1. Keep your eyes open.

Although it might seem that newbies burst on the scene, trends actually unfold over longer periods, giving you a chance to examine what you’re doing well and what to refresh (ie. new floor plan, a light reno, better service, new graphics or window displays?).

So stay on top of current trends and keep your ear to the ground. Those that stand still fall behind.

2. Focus on what works.

Despite the e-commerce boom, trends suggest that bricks-and-mortar retailers will retain 85% of sales in the US through 2025 (McKinsey & Co) so there’s time to tackle what they’re naming the 5 big trends: demographic changes, rising multichannel and mobile commerce, increased personalized marketing, a distribution revolution, and emerging retail business models (think: mattresses bought online).

TIP: Don’t just watch and borrow from your own industry. By visiting your favourite retailer; someone who’s doing it really well (preferably in a different sector, so you’re not the ‘follower’) and adapting those learnings, you’ll be able to mix it up, create a stir, maybe even disrupt a bit.

3. Create tighter bonds.

Strengthen your bond with existing customers by personalizing their shopping and service experience (think: tracking their favourites and surprising them when new orders come in, seasonal reminders, what’s-new tips, or private shopping experiences). Perhaps creating in-store events (for kids, women, couples, hipsters, etc) or allowing for online purchasing to be picked up in-store or delivered will warm the relationship. Throw a party, if it serves to expand your demographic or purchaser catchment. Don’t forget to try leveraging peer recommendations via social networks or user reviews and the like.

4. Bulk up.

Consider adding to your current product line. Just as many conventional retailers like warehouse clubs, pharmacies and even dollar stores have added fresh food to their lineup, you may be able to augment your current product base to attract customers. You never know what may work unless you research try. Start small with a simple pilot, measure, and then take it from there.

5. Knowledge is everything.

Simply offering a product, any product, is not enough. Competitive retailers need to possess transferrable, deep product expertise to help consumers decide on their purchases and explain the rationale behind their choices. Think of the sommelier at your local restaurant, the barista at your local coffee shop, the curator at your local bookstore, or the personal stylist at your local tailor. Each one of these offers a unique experience tied to product knowledge. Again, your environment will want to be increasingly experiential.

6. It’s not just the price.

With the boom in discounters, margins are always under pressure. And all retailers have to be vigilant when it comes to three cost levers: direct product costs, the indirect costs of goods not for resale, and labour costs. Retailers who tackle these intensively can curb expenses and come out on top in a competitive market. In the product cost area, some retailers strip back costs by going ‘private-label’, thereby also giving customers exactly the features they’re most looking for. Some retailers examine their ‘should cost’ models in order to reset their pricing. And increased technology in-store can reduce infrastructure spending. It all adds up!

7. Reconfigure your footprint.

Many retailers are already ‘rebalancing’ their real estate. Bricks-and-mortar locations can’t simply be places where products happen to be sold. Grocery outlets haven’t been as greatly affected, but witness what’s happening in toys and consumer electronics sectors. Often a footprint can be downsized by half. Reconfiguration, of not just within each individual space, but perhaps considering the complexion of your multi-store portfolio can make all the difference in the world.

8. Tech is king.

Forward-thinking retailers examine their use of data and build an analytical muscle to enable targeted marketing, the tailoring of product assortments as well as more effective pricing and promotions. Gathering and analyzing data to understand the needs, preferences, and attitudes of your expanding consumer segments, such as focusing on under-served groups like Hispanics, the LGBTQ community, and centennials will be just as important as understanding individual customers and customizing their shopping experience on a one-on-one basis.

9. Don’t wait.

Instead, embrace the challenge of continuous evolution. Perhaps this means continuously experimenting to develop with a proprietary line of products, fresh technologies or a new business model. This kind of pre-emptive ‘global think’ isn’t easy, but it’s a good line of defence.


It’s very Canadian to be shy and polite, but some of our most powerful success stories (Aldo, Lululemon, Frank + Oak, Indochino) have been bold and willing to challenge US or outsider brands. It’s easy to forget when embarking on an ambitious expansion plan and staring down a few significant setbacks along the way, to keep your eye on the prize. Don’t be afraid to break a few eggs in your quest for success.

Perhaps that means making a secret shopping trip to your nearest and dearest competitor and scoping out some of the things they’re doing right? More often than not, you’ll want to surround yourself and your venture with the finest expertise possible.

If you’re facing a challenging local market, or new US competition and need some help our door is always open.

6 Ways to Tackle Retail Space Planning Like a Pro

Wouldn’t you love to know the tricks professional retail designers and planners use to the most of your space? Free of charge.

“Your brand [read: your store] is a story you tell to the world with the hope that it will resonate, and consumers will want to associate themselves with your brand,” says Adrienne Weiss, the designer behind stores like Build-A-Bear and Baskin Robbins.

And there are a handful of clever and sure-fire and profitable tactics that professional retail designers employ that could help any retailer up their game when it comes to customer engagement and management. So, let’s explore some of the techniques most used and under-appreciated.

Many of these tricks and tips can be seamlessly added to your retailers’ handbook.

Secrets from the Best of the Best

A secret sauce of sorts, we’ve lined up six insider strategies that you’ll typically only learn from the professionals for a fee. Concepts that will improve your retail environment, customer experience, and selling opportunities.


Let’s start with the obvious, but also often overlooked: something as simple as making sure your windows shine with some spit-and-polish is dead-easy for starters. Then ensure that your window displays are appealing; that they tell a story and revolve around a single thematic colour. It’s important to avoid a cluttered/overcrowded look because a sense of space will signify that feeling of luxury.

From there consider:

  • Once inside the entry-way area, also called a decompression zone, you’ll want to present an open, inviting and easy to navigate space. Its purpose is to give shoppers a chance to transition from the parking lot/mall/outside world and refocus on shopping. Size for the decompression zone will depend upon the size of your sales floor, but it’s generally the first 5 to 15 feet inside the front door.
  • Remember, first impressions are lasting impressions. An eye-catching store-front display is paramount. As shoppers walk in the front door, they should be attracted by merchandise, not repelled by checkout counters or other service elements including baskets and carts, which should be kept clear of your decompression zone. Tucked off to the side will help shoppers find and grab them as needed.
  • Nothing within your store-front display should be so tall as to block the sightlines of the store and certainly not so crowded as to create an overwhelming experience. Try something seasonal, touchable, or tryable for interest-sake.
  • For your decompression zone, avoid too many products or signs. The first thing shoppers will notice inside your store is your décor package (walls, flooring, primary and accent colours, fixturing, signing, wall striping) which must work together to tell a single story.

PICTURE THIS: Décor and signage are two language elements that tell your store/brand story. They encompass the whole as if an onion skin, while shoppers peel back the layers of that onion, moving from the entrance to department, from department to category within a department, from category to a product line, shelf level browsing, detailed examination of features and benefits of items, all to make that crucial buying decision.


Odd as it may sound, be sure to steer shoppers to the right. Yes, customers will look left then right, but prefer to move to the right through a counter-clockwise direction around a space (says Brian Dyches, chief experience officer of retail branding firm Ikonic Tonic, Los Angeles).

  • Customers will move just past your decompression zone and look to the right at the wall commonly known as the power wall. This is another one of those key merchandising areas, first and foremost because it’s the wall shoppers see first after turning right making it a useful perception builder. Therefore think logo, corporate colours and thematically displayed merchandise.
  • Have An Angle – Shoppers find angles more appealing (ie – angled aisles that create an arrow leading to an engaging final display) although for practical purposes this approach can take up to 30% more space, with the same number of store fixtures. Layouts more commonly used are:
    • The Grid-Street Layout: where fixtures run parallel to the walls, customers typically grab a shopping cart and start in a front corner walking each and every aisle. Benefits are clean sight lines throughout the store and maximum end-feature exposure. The best examples of this layout are grocery or big-box stores.
    • The Loop (Racetrack) Layout: offers a clearly-defined main aisle that circles through the store like a race track with perimeter fixtures running perpendicular to the wall, and center fixtures running parallel to the side walls. Benefits are the ability to send shoppers to the right and maximum product exposure using perimeter walls. The best examples of this layout are Target or Best Buy.
    • The Free Flow Layout: is used by specialty stores because it allows for the most creativity with no set aisles or straight lines. Benefits are angle-placement of fixtures to encourage shopping, more opportunities to romance the merchandise and create lifestyle display vignettes. The best examples of this layout are fashion and apparel stores or automotive dealerships.


It’s important to create breathing or white space to allow the eye to rest/relax.

So, from just past the decompression zone, you can utilize the placement of fixtures in what is known as speed bumps. These merchandise displays work much the same way as speed bumps in parking lots by slowing customers down. They can also grab attention and introduce/feature cool products. Specialty fixtures such as slat board 4-ways or small display tables for seasonal or new items can make great Speed Bumps.

NOTE: Be sure to rotate the product on your speed bumps at least once a week.

TIP: Your front right corner is not the best checkout location! It should be located at a natural stopping point in the shopping experience; perhaps the left side of the store and close to the front.


Here’s a hit-list of the best ways to reinforce everything your store/company/vision stands for:

  • Be consistent with branding (for impact).
  • Use signage for memorable, enticing first impressions.
  • Spread your logo around and accent with a colour theme generously (preferably your corporate/brand colours) because colour equals feelings.

SIDEBAR: There are two kinds of colours used in store décor: Primary colours (neutrals) and secondary colours (bold, accent colours). Primary colours are used in 80% of the store’s décor to create a relaxed atmosphere for customers’ shopping. Accent colours, 20% because they are the attention grabbers.


Not only does lighting create visibility, but it also contributes to the mood; think moody, edgy, playful, relaxed, energized, or mysterious.

Mirrors can increase that expansive feeling of space and help bounce that light around. Also, a glass or acrylic components in your displays can help achieve an open and airy or backlit effect.

A few other simple fixes are:

  • Utilizing music and scent (but be aware the scent-free movement may prefer a scent-free zone) to create ambience.
  • Corner protectors on drywall and other painted surfaces can keep everything looking fresh. Keep touchup paint on hand to ensure high-traffic areas don’t look rundown
  • Use the checkout area for impulse merchandise.
  • Update your displays regularly. If you are lean on inventory, make sure to push product to the front of the shelf to make it look neater and more fulsome.


In your window display, product displays, or point of sale location, using the colour green has been shown to increase customers spending by 25%. Plants create the most appealing sense of green for humans, so perhaps a living wall is your answer!

And as food for thought, here are some other ways to go green:

  • Switching to more energy-efficient lighting such as LCD or compact fluorescent
  • Stepping down to less toxic cleaning products
  • Cutting back on plastic packaging and bags or offering an email receipt?

Then to save that other form on green ($), turn things down or turn them off. Consider putting timers in under-utilized spaces such as storage areas, washrooms, change rooms. And shut down those ‘power vampires’ like computers, cash registers or other electronics for the night.

At The End of the Day…

As a retailer, you need to stretch your budget to cover your vision. That means understanding where best to spend your money and where to save it. The premier retail designers know just how to tip the game in your favour by implementing some easy tactics – that almost effortlessly add to your bottom-line.

Of course, if you’d like help with your next store design or space planning, our in-house design and engineering team is ready to help. Just give us a call.

How To Get Started: Open a new store or renovate an existing space? Each has its opportunities.

If you’re ready to grow your retail business, you may ask if it’s more advantageous to stay put or to change locations.

As part of our How To Get Started series, we look at the burning topics that affect all retailers who are looking to grow their retail footprint. Our previous post in this series looked at how retail fixtures can help improve your customers’ experience.

From ordering inventory to researching market trends to merchandising displays to training staff and planning in-store events to scheduling online marketing and more, running a retail business means constantly having a thousand details top-of-mind You’re focusing, balancing, juggling finances – frankly, it’s all consuming!

So, moving from a location for any number of reasons: whether it’s because you’ve outgrown a space in size and layout; or because of population shifts or consumer catchment area growth; or even downsizing into a shared space with a complementary business, or perhaps following consumer trends. From time to time events are out of your retail-hands such as when a building is sold.

Moving makes sense, right? But not always.

You have to decide for yourself if renovating an existing space – maybe taking on neighbouring square footage if necessary, is the smarter move.

The decision to stay put or change/add locations is such a personal one in your retail-journey; dependent on timing; intertwined with your own unique set of circumstances; tied to your location(s) and the size of your retail portfolio (whether it’s 3 stores or 49; or somewhere in between). Covering all possible options is near-impossible here, nevertheless, it’s helpful to explore some diverging paths for such a complex decision-making journey by examining some possibilities.

Perhaps some of these roads-less-travelled will be just up your alley.


Firstly, you may already have a sneaking suspicion that your current location won’t get you to the next level of growth as things stand. So, what are some signs that something needs to change?

  • Your core customer demographic might be changing. Or your core may no longer be close to your targets.
  • Perhaps an influx of ethnic customers (if you’re not part of that ethnic group) has made it more difficult to conduct business and be profitable. Or at the very least, riskier.
  • Customer traffic might be decreasing. Average basket or purchase/receipt of sale may be declining; inventory may not be moving as quickly (or even worse, lots of merchandise could be left after the season is done). [NOTE: This might also be an indicator of incorrect ordering practices]
  • Competition may be driving you out. Or if your strategy was to co-locate with competition to feed your sales traffic, their customer base may have shifted in some way.


Whether staying or moving, analysis of sales potential and market capture is vital.

What are solid reasons for each option?

Only by examining all the data can you decide which choice is right for any given moment. And as with every business move, it generally comes down to a cost/benefit.

The cost of making a move vs. upgrading where you are currently. Costing must include the expense of renovating/expanding compared with those of moving (and potentially facing construction in a new space). Consider ROI – what your expected increase in sales could be and how long you’d be willing to pay off the investment made.

Calculate your ROI whether renovating or moving.


Ask yourself what you’d need to consider if you’re open to both options (staying or moving to a new location, or possibly both right – after all, you could be expanding).

  • Take inventory of what is working in the current location and consider if that can be replicated.
  • Take stock of your layout/setup/merchandise, etc. and plan for any changes or updates you might wish to make to the customer experience in any new locations. REMEMBER: You’ll want to budget for an update to the current location, so your brand presents a consistent impression.
  • You’ll need to plan on using staff from the existing location to train new staff.
  • Ask yourself if you’ll need to consider a store concept now? Think, a standard layout that you can replicate in a new location and roll out in more locations to come. Or perhaps your offering is unique to each community. Maybe you’ll be using the space/location to dictate what that look should be.
  • And then schedule, schedule, schedule. Consider what the right time might be to open new your business. Allow for 16-20 weeks for fixtures and installation. Another 4-5 weeks if you need a design/floorplan and more time depending on the amount of construction work needed on the space. Time always matters.


Let’s take a look at some of the considerations that could (and should) factor into your decision to move (or add) locations, bearing in mind that very personal and unique circumstances will influence any decision made.


  • You’ll have the opportunity to start with clean slate. An empty box. And you’ll be able to make it to suit your own vision.
  • You’ll have control over location quality when selecting your site. A prime location, ideal footprint and layout, high visibility, great accessibility, a ready-made customer base or population trends or customers that would follow you make GOING an easy decision. Perhaps you’ve found a site that’s already outfitted for your business (ie – restaurant).
  • If moving costs out at the more affordable/budget-friendly option, then moving it is.


  • There may be unknown factors involved with moving. Remember, there’s always an element of risking some misstep.
  • Filling that bare-bones box is going to be an expense that has to be accounted for. A net-new location requires more work in permitting, plans, construction and inspections than a reno (assuming that reno isn’t just shuffling fixtures around).
  • Timing/potential downtime at any location is critical to assess. You may need to factor in staying open at one location (perhaps serving customers in a reduced retail space while work proceeds in phases). Try to time rental for shortest time before opening for business (typically 2-3 weeks) so that you could earn sales revenue within your first month. TRY: Negotiating with the landlord for an amount of rent-free or reduced rent to cushion that prep-time.
  • TIP: Many retailers fail to consider the lead-time prior to opening, so ask for a closing date no earlier than 20 weeks (that’s 5 months!) minimum from signing the lease agreement. This time will be necessary for concept design, manufacture/sourcing, install and merchandising.
  • Then, see Colliers International’s moving checklist with over 60 items to be aware of.


When weighing the other side of the equation, your own personal and unique situation will come to bear on any final decision you should and could make to fulfill your retailer’s vision.


  • There’s something to be said for dealing with a known quantity, be that competitors or compatible neighbours, where there are common strengths and needs.
  • An existing customer base is invaluable.
  • With the right partner you can keep your store open during the day while having renvoations take place during off-hours – so your revenues are not impacted.
  • Perhaps it’s cost-effective to refresh vs. absorbing the expenses of moving in both time and money.
  • You can count on your existing logistics like parking and visibility/accessibility.


  • Perhaps staying put hems your business in (sizewise) by not allowing for growth/expansion? The desire to reconfiguration an existing space might also not be well supported at your site making staying a harder option. And the need for expanded services might warrant moving rather than staying.
  • You’ve heard that expression of putting lipstick on a pig? It may not be cost-effective to rejig an existing space when moving is an option. Your decision, once all factors are weighed.


So, what if you’re keeping one or more retail locations open while starting at a new location? Consider that renovating or relocating are less costly than adding locations…but once other options (such as diversifying your offerings, expanding to online or adding pop-ups) are exhausted, multiple locations may be your best solution.

Adding locations has definite perks by expanding your customer base, building brand awareness over a larger area, allowing you to provide better customer service (again over an increased service area), increasing your ordering power, lowering operational costs, bettering profit margins and displaying valuable social currency by showing off a thriving business.

Location, location! Ask yourself, are you / should you be adding different kinds of units to the mix of your retail portfolio? Should you be located in a strip mall? Perhaps a stand-alone store or a more commercial location will augment your customer base. You might also consider whether to allow each retail location to be injected with a local flavour distinct to each community.

Then it’s vital to focus on remaining consistent in your branding. Sure, standardizing all processes, logistics, technology will help, but multiple locations can muddy your image if not carefully managed.

TIP: Keep an eye on the market shift as discount retailers collectively add hundreds of stores during 2018 while mall-based stores shutter stores in record numbers. This speaks to the power of cheap and high-end succeeding while mid-tier specialty stores close). Trends and market movements are important indicators that bear watching.


  • With a clear eyes crunch the data for all scenarios.
  • Look in. You know your business best; what are your traffic and sales are telling you?
  • Look out. Are there new emerging markets where your product or offering would be a great addition? Or are more of the same type of clients you currently have or want in a new location?
  • REPEAT: Give yourself at least 5 months breathing room before the opening. This will allow you to get in and set up with minimal rent payment before you start making sales. And don’t be afraid to negotiate early entry rent free or reduced rate. Perhaps ask the landlord to pay for any renovations that will remain to benefit the next tenant (such as lights and flooring).
  • Know where you want to spend and where you want to splurge. Life is full of compromises and when you have to make tough decisions, it typically makes the choices more valuable.