Lighting showroom owners will spend hours (maybe even days) combing markets for the latest looks in portable lamps. But, if they’re bringing those exciting new products back to a store that is worn, messy or outdated on the outside, the sore feet and blisters might have been for naught.
“Store owners often associate their brand with the products they sell, but they forget that the exterior — and even the architecture and signage — of a shop give messages both to existing and potential customers,” says Paul Thompson, merchandising expert and Principal of Paul Thompson Signature. “It’s like going to therapy. Owners should really stop and evaluate what they’re communicating from the outside and if that’s consistent with what they have going on inside. In many cases, I think showrooms would agree they could use an update.”
Fortunately, giving the exterior of your store the facelift it needs is easier than you might think. In fact, it may seem like a no-brainer, but one of the best things you can do for your store is to give it a thorough cleaning.
“Oftentimes, a good power washing or a fresh coat of paint is all you need to bring new life to the exterior of an existing structure,” Thompson says.
And once you have a clean slate, do your best to keep it intact.
“Retailers should keep the store entrance tidy and clear of debris like leaves, trash and the worst offenders — cigarette butts,” Thompson says. “Contract with a local company that will pick up, clean and replace your exterior entrance carpets on regular basis. That means you’ll need two or more sets as they rotate through. Your windows should be cleaned regularly, as well. Pay special attention to the front doors, which are often in need of a touch-up sometimes multiple times a day.”
Beyond keeping your exterior clean, things like landscaping and exterior lighting can help boost your store’s curb appeal.
“Exterior lighting, especially, is worth splurging on,” says Thompson. “Your store is probably closed half of every 24-hour period, so great lighting used to enhance the architectural features of your building and your business’ signage will continue to draw attention even when your doors are shut. Just make sure it’s well-maintained.”
On a budget, colorful awnings, signage and display can also make a big impact.
“New, colorful window awnings can update and provide a needed facelift thanks to a fresh punch of color,” Thompson says. “Awnings also offer necessary shade for sunlight, which is often overpowering for windows and the displays within.”
Updating those window displays may actually be one of the simplest ways to keep your exterior looking fresh. Creative types can do it themselves, but Thompson suggests hiring a seasoned professional to consult on and/or execute your store’s window displays — even if it is just for the holiday season to start.
“A professional display person can save you time and money in the long run. He can also educate your staff on how to make window and in-store displays more effective and more [apt to] motivate customers to [make a] purchase,” Thompson says.
Signage and window display can actually help you tell your store’s story and strengthen your brand, even if you can’t do much to change the exterior of your building.
“Whatever you do, make sure it’s communicating the right message: one that's consistent with your brand,” Thompson says. “The exterior of your store tells a story, and you don’t want to send mixed messages about who you are.”
The Good Life gift boutique in Surf City, NJ, is a great example of how colorful awnings can transform the exterior of a store and help build branding, says Thompson.
Thompson recommends a fixed logo above a store’s front windows and a sign shoppers can see from the sidewalk, like this one for Spaces Kennebunkport in Maine.