Think about the way you feel after getting your car washed and waxed--detailed inside and out. Tires have that new rubber look again; your interior has a glowing vinyl or leather protectant sheen; and that new car scent you chose brings back good memories. Now you’re driving down the street sitting a little bit taller, right? The car even seems to ride smoother now that it’s clean. Well that’s the feeling you can achieve with a little time, planning, and attention to your home-away-from-home--your retail flooring store.
All traffic lanes should radiate from the entrance of your store. Don’t place racks directly in front of the door to force customers to the right or left. It’s awkward and an example of bad Feng-Shui.
Create an open traffic lane that leads the customer into the heart of your store. Vertical racks are best placed along perimeter walls. Use lower height racks to create interior lanes, which should be adjacent to the main walk-through from the front door.
Interior (placed) racks should all be lower heights to give a feeling of spaciousness and to keep the line of sight open from one end of the store to the other. If you’ve been in stores where narrow lanes were created using tall racks, then you know it’s just not comfortable. It tends to feel claustrophobic and “tunnelesque.” Additionally, taller displays can block natural light sources, a critical component in choosing the right color flooring.
If you have a larger square-footage store, use angled walkways, since diagonals are contemporary and more attractive to the eye.
Use your store’s windows to your best advantage. Create a homey vignette featuring some of the products you carry: Shutters; drapery, area rugs, wood floors, etc. Add a small furniture piece or two to complete the scene. Nothing draws customers into a store more effectively than a well-done visual that can be seen from the street.
Take a look at any dead wall space you are not using. Decorate with wall covering, or a fresh coat of paint, and then use the area to hang ceramic tile displays. Many of the large tile manufacturers create beautiful combination boards that command attention in a small amount of space.
As I researched for this column, I came upon some intriguing display racks that stood out from the norm and addressed function to the fullest. Mixing sizes and shapes of racks can actually add interest to the floor, if it’s done wisely. I saw carousel style displays that were a natural fit for interior spots on the floor. One particular store I visited followed the rules by placing the tallest, most substantial displays against perimeter walls. He used waterfall racks to line his well-planned walkways, and his traffic patterns made sense. All of these avenues led the customer around the store and right back to the front entrance area, where the sales assistants’ desks were located.
Pictures are worth more words than I can possibly write, so take note of the racking systems included in this column. These were chosen because they accommodated the space well and housed an efficient number of flooring samples to earn their keep. Shaw/Tuftex, Masland, Armstrong, Teragren and DalTile (just to name a few) all demonstrated retailer-minded designs in their racking systems. You have so much to choose from that even if you have some odd angles in the blueprint of your retail space, there is a rack to fit that space.
Now that we’ve discussed the interior of the store, I have a huge design suggestion for you. I’ve never been a fan of window painting for flooring stores. There’s something circus-like about it that looks a little cheesy (sorry). I know it’s affordable advertising and can be changed frequently, but please consider seasonal vinyl banners hung on the exterior of the storefront as an alternative. If you pay attention to manufacturer’s co-op offers, you might be able to team up with one of your key suppliers to help offset the cost of those banners. They’re big, they’re colorful, easily maintained and stored, and can definitely be noticed from the street. (And they are reusable year after year.)
One last housekeeping suggestion: keep your house in order. Please, please do not underestimate the power of thorough cleaning of your store from top to bottom. Guys don’t tend to notice dust or grime building up on displays, desktops, or even the samples themselves. But I assure you women do take notice. It’s a matter of establishing a comfort level with your customer, and why should she paw through flea-ridden samples that look like they’ve been sitting there since 1980?
Your job as storeowner and manager: Be sure your store is neat and clean at the end of each work day. And take it a step further…appeal to as many of the five senses as you can to truly engage your customer on various levels. (It’s subliminal, but it works.) Here are some ideas:
Smell: There are flameless candles that flicker like the real thing, and provide fresh scents throughout your store. Fragrant fresh flowers are another home run with your female clientele.
Touch: Maintain your samples so that your customer will want to touch and feel. Feature dramatic products underfoot on the showroom floor: Sisal, soft-handed carpet, cork floor, etc. to give a tactile benefit.
Sight: Your space plan will invite her in. The cleanliness of the store will make her feel comfortable, and perhaps encourage her to even stay longer. A design vignette in a front window or near the front of the store will also establish your holistic approach to design. After all, floor coverings are the foundation for every design.
Hearing: Soft classical music or a soft rock radio station creates a great background environment for your customers.
Taste: Fresh coffee is always a good idea, as it appeals to the sense of smell and taste. And it’s one of the most welcoming gestures you can make. Microwavable cookies also check off both taste and smell on the sensory list.
I have no doubt you’ll come up with fantastic ideas of your own for appealing to the five senses. Much of what you’ve just read probably sounds totally feminine and unnecessary. But if the majority of your customers are women, feminine touches might be just the ticket. And as for the retailer that offers more than what’s necessary, well good for him. He’s managed to outshine his competition and position himself to capture a bigger segment of the flooring market. It is a new year; you can create a new store; and you should expect a flurry of new sales.