Effective Store Design Concepts on a Budget

Tim Pratt of Dietze Music recently expanded to a fourth location. And at The 2017 NAMM Show, he shared what he learned in designing the new store from scratch, covering effective store design and merchandising ideas on a budget. (Watch the video to view the full session and for visual examples.)

Pratt based his presentation around what he called the six R’s of store design.

Pratt stressed the importance of looking at your store with fresh eyes. Ask yourself what your customers might think or see. Don’t forget to use color, including products that can sell themselves on color. Pratt applied the traditional retail rule of displaying items from light to dark, left to right, and top to bottom. (That’s how our eyes read.) He once arranged his guitar wall using that design concept.

If you look around, you’ll find many opportunities to repurpose store design and display materials. When a nearby fabric store went out of business, Pratt got the counters and fixtures for free—he simply asked the landlord if he planned on using them. A little work and imagination can save a lot of money. Pratt related that he keeps a circular saw on hand to cut up old fixtures and reuse them. Anything lying around your store has the potential to be repurposed.

“The biggest thing I’ve done that’s made the most difference in the way my customers perceive our store is to paint,” Pratt said. Paint is one of the most effective—and cheapest—ways to change your store’s look. Also, note that color themes change with time. Pratt recognized that his store’s previous black and tan look (black ceiling and tan walls), while making the store warm-looking, was outdated. He changed to a new color scheme called silver screen (the color of an empty movie screen). With the new color, everything pops, and the store looks much larger than it is. “Paint is affordable,” Pratt said. “If you don’t like it, just change it.” He suggested paying attention to the colors used in other stores. When all else fails, do something crazy. He had the interior of a Dietze Music store painted the colors of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Remember: You change your customer’s imprint when you change your store’s color scheme.

Pratt offered that many times we don’t see a problem because we walk past it. Go through your store and look for messes, then do whatever it takes to fix them. New customers will see eyesores, and you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Pratt suggested bringing a friend to your store and asking for his or her first impression.

Little things make a big impact, especially when it comes to merchandising. Pratt recommended making three small improvements to your store, then stepping back to see the difference they make. Keep in mind that a small impact is multiplied by three for the first-time shopper. He encouraged retailers to teach staff that the fine details, such as even slatwall hooks, make a difference. Clean lines and symmetry are vital.

A continuous traffic flow can keep customers’ interest without them realizing it. “We can point people in the direction we want them to go,” Pratt said. An example of this idea would be designing a guitar wall so customers walk down the length, looking at every guitar. Get the junk out of the way, and remove any roadblocks. Consider how your customer has to walk through your store. Pratt showed an example of Dietze’s drum fixtures, which create a corridor for the customer. If you have pockets of direction, customers will stay in your store longer because you’re keeping them engaged.