Key Players in Planning & Launching a Retail Space
We’re not going to sugarcoat it. The path from decision to open a retail store to day one is going to be a challenge—especially for brands who haven’t been there before.
If you’re a company who has spent most of its life online, you’re not going to have a vast retail operations team just yet. Your attorney might not be well-versed in real estate. A lot of the territory is uncharted. But luckily, there will be help along the way.
But who are these players? What do they add? That’s what we’re looking to discuss today. From securing a lease to installing and launching, many of the following will provide the insight, assistance, and expertise to ensure your store launch goes smoothly.
Legal & Real Estate
Something we’ve discussed previously, location is tough. Choosing a prime location will make for guaranteed foot traffic—at the expense of, well, money. Going off the beaten path might be cheaper—but lack the built-in audience you’d otherwise receive in a prime location. Finding the right balance is critical.
The right real estate team will play a key role in helping you choose the best place to open, secure favorable lease terms, and ensure all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. And this is where a commercial real estate professional fits in. The right commercial real estate professional will help you to:
- Minimize your risk.
- Maximize the return on your investment.
- Optimize the value of your real estate.
- Make better informed decisions.
- Develop a comprehensive commercial real estate strategy.
Whether an individual or a team, seek out partners with the experience in both retail strategy and legal backing, such as a Certified Commercial Investment Member.
Architect, Retail Agency, & Store Design
In addition to commercial real estate experts and legal pros, you’re going to want to work with a team who knows how to build and incorporate your brand in a physical space. As discussed in our article on store design as brand, your values and brand promise are present in every interaction a company has with customers.
And this is where a retail agency comes in. Experts in consumer psychology, a retail agency is going to create the aesthetic of the store, incorporating colors without being garish, match values to design, and ultimately help you put your best foot forward for customers.
The value of this team can’t be understated—as they think of all the things you might not. From layout and design to experiential retail, your agency and designer will plan the way your store works.
Before you even get to layout, architecture is key. Whether you’re looking at a national rollout or individual space, the architect plays a critical role in connecting the work that your commercial real estate professionals do to the work that your agency and designers do.
In addition to building drawings, architects have a keen understanding of things like building codes, permit processes, and zoning in the jurisdiction you build.
Designers play a critical role in laying out your store. Among these, retail designers and agencies will help you to plan:
- Layout of aisles, transition points, and promotions.
- Entrance and exit design.
- Customer flow, speed bumps, and interaction space.
- Implementation of in-store analytics.
- Color, design, and materials of paint, fixtures, and more.
- Sounds, smells, and other elements built to reinforce your brand.
Another part of the way your store will interact with customers, a retail agency can help you not just to design the store—but to create an experience. Experiential retail is quickly becoming more important as customers expect more out of the shopping experience.
As we discussed last month, 60 percent of consumers expect retailers to dedicate more floor space to experiences than products—and 81% of consumers are willing to pay more for experiences that upgrade the shopping experience.
From classes to community building, there are a wide range of experiences that bring you closer to current customers and prospects. A retail agency will help you to plan events that can instill your brand and products into more interactions.
Technology & Back-End Consulting
Another thing to consider is the nitty gritty details—how to hire managers and retail associates, what kind of point of sale software, how to integrate store accounting and inventory with systems, and the like. Having the right consultants in your corner will make this easier.
In today’s connected environment, having systems in place and operating smoothly will make everyone’s job easier. Omnichannel has created a technological imperative, especially for DTC brands. From BOPIS to endless aisle, an integration partner will make it all work out.
Build & Deliver
But with land chosen, permits secured, and customer interactions planned, now comes the hard part—making it all a reality. Single store or national rollout, the manufacturing, distribution, and installation partners are going to engineer and deliver the space. And in today’s supply chain drama, the right ones can be hard to come by.
Translating your, your architect’s, and your design team’s ideas into reality is where your manufacturing partner shines. And finding the right one is critical. Every material selected, every design choice, and every material needs to come together to transform designs to renderings—and from renderings to reality.
But what goes into choosing the right manufacturer? Here are just a few things to look for.
The right manufacturer needs to know what goes into creating a retail experience. They need to have a background in your business, and they need to know how to work with clients like you and the team you build. Though we will discuss this more in next months blog on the questions you should ask a fixture manufacturer, you can often find a partner with projects available to browse.
A retail project is going to have a lot of moving parts. Of course, you’ll have wood and metal, but often, a retail space will need more. Acrylic, graphics, stone, technology, and more will often find a home in your designs, so your manufacturer should be able to source, integrate, and build using anything you need.
Knowing what your space will look like before it’s installed matters, so look for a manufacturer who can present your designs in the wild will ensure that renderings come out the way you expect.
Even if you’re just starting with one store, it pays to have the peace of mind that your manufacturing partner is big enough to handle your needs. Whether domestic or international, expect them to have the right equipment for the job, the right relationships, and enough capacity to get the job done on time and on budget.
Focus and Customer Service
No matter how big your partner, they need to treat you like you matter—even if you’re not their biggest project. The corollary to scale is focus, and the right partner will have both.
Especially in today’s supply chain nightmare landscape, your manufacturer can’t leave you stranded. Whether that’s securing the raw materials or getting finished products to your store, the right manufacturing partner will live by their promises—and take steps to get the job done.
Installation & Merchandising
As the grand opening approaches, your space needs to come together. And this is where the right installation team comes in. As the last mile is so important, the installation team is either hand-selected by your manufacturing team or part of them. These are the individuals who put all the work together and translate vision into reality.
Paired with this, merchandising will be present throughout the process, presenting your products in a way that sells—and looks good.
Morgan Li: Turning Vision into Reality
There are a whole lot of key contributors to your retail space. And we’d love to be one of them. With eight decades, 725,000 square feet of domestic space, and a few million more overseas, Morgan Li transforms the boldest plans and wildest designs into reality.
Every day, agencies, designers, brands, and more trust us to engineer, build, and deliver custom fixtures, furniture, and graphics needed to create an unforgettable experience. And with clients ranging from DTC darlings to retail giants, we’ve seen it all.