by Joe Selzler
In the last issue we covered the subject of laying out your business. In this issue we will want to go the next step and talk about putting in the fittings and fixtures. If having the right layout can have the effect of inviting potential customers into our premises, our fittings can make them feel comfortable. We can all probably recall a time when we entered a shop and began to wonder if we had done the right thing. The layout and appearance of the fittings drew us in, but something just was not right. We found that the seating was uncomfortable and that the café was too dark. In fact, we found that the owners paid too little attention to detail, making what looked like a good place uninviting after all. If we give a little thought to that experience we can probably learn some lessons to help us Dress Out our own shops.
Developing the Comfort Zone!
Something that may be important to us is to be comfortable when we eat or when we make purchases. Being in comfortable surroundings will help us relax and enjoy our food more or make intelligent decisions about our purchases. When we become business people with shops to run it is important that we do not forget this. Furnishings and lighting should be designed for the comfort of our customers first and the operation of the business second. We need to give enough time and consideration to these areas to design them well.
For example, we could think of the automobile manufacturers. It is probably true that their customers spend the majority of their time in the sitting position. Thus automobile manufacturers need to give a great deal of time and attention to their seating. Putting price aside, those with the most comfortable and well wearing seats are the ones that will get the nod at purchase time. In the same way, if we have more comfortable seats than another shop, potential customers will soon become repeat customers.
You might think that only a restaurant needs to think of seating, but in America there is a chain of book shops that has seating for their customers placed throughout their store. This is a very good thing because it gives customers a chance to sit down and really look at a book to see if they want it or need it. If you are a small shop you may find it hard to give space to seating. How many times, however, do you see customers camp in your aisles, indicating you may need to consider seats? How small a shop is too small for seating? While in America recently I went into a book shop that was perhaps 600-700 square feet and noticed that they had a few seats for reading. One or two chairs in a small shop would be enough.
Space and Light
Another way we can develop the comfort zone is to make it as uncrowded and as well-lit as possible. We should keep the number of tables and chairs down so that we do not make the customers feel as if they are on top of their neighbours. This will open up the dining room and help to give it more light. When I visited a book shop recently I noticed something we might consider. The shop had large windows on one wall that let in much natural light. The shop owners went a step further and kept the height of the book shelves to about five feet. The natural light from the large windows was unblocked from the innermost shelves by those nearest these windows. Imitating an idea like this will reduce the amount of stock we can offer, but the effect of it on our customers will be more positive. The alternative, which is stocking books to the ceiling will make the shop seem dark and cramped. Very few of us would want to spend much time in such a shop.
There is an old saying that generosity breeds generosity. Whether we apply it to the amount of product we give our customers for their money, or the amount of space and light, we will be rewarded for our efforts. However, our reward will not only be money, it will also be the satisfaction we get from knowing that we did the best we could to give our customers a pleasant time at our premises.
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