Unique Ideas for Shop Front Designs
The shop front is arguably the most important part of a store or business. A properly designed shop front gives customers plenty of information about what your business is all about while simultaneously inviting them in to visit, linger, and hopefully spend money. On the other hand, a cramped, overwhelming shop front can drive customers away and leave you scratching your head, wondering why your aisles are always empty.
In the UK, the tradition of shop fronts goes back to at least the Middle Ages. Before many people were literate, they relied on illustrated signage, products, and windows to locate the right shops for their needs. Since then, shop fronts have evolved beyond just function to also become things of beauty. Many of the country’s historical towns and villages are defined by rows of shop fronts that look as if they stepped out of a history book, while the modernity of High Street windows attracts young shoppers.
It’s clear that shop front designs are crucial to the success of your business, but how are you supposed to make that design work for you? Whether you are renovating the entire shop front or just updating the displays, here are some tips for designing the ideal window to attract customers.
Redesigning an Entire Shop Front
Maybe you’ve opened up shop in a new location that hasn’t been touched since 1976, or you’re taking over a family store that needs a little facelift. Renovating and redesigning the entire shop front is a relatively inexpensive way to give your shop a facelift and signal to customers that you are offering a new, bespoke experience.
However, there are many different factors to consider when you’re thinking about redoing entire shop front designs. From the windows to the cornices to the moulding, every detail can impact your shop’s appearance. The right design choices go beyond just aesthetics; sometimes there are local regulations to consider, particularly if you are operating in a historical business district.
Before you sit down with your architect or designer, here are some things to think about in terms of shop front design.
Maintaining Historical Continuity
One of the unique aspects of the UK is how many of our towns have historical shopping districts, celebrating centuries of independent commerce and artisans. If you are operating a shop front in one such district, any changes to the design that you make should be in keeping with historical precedent. For example, many Victorian shopping rows have displays with characteristic plasters, fascia, and large windows.
Shop fronts in historic buildings have less freedom when it comes to redesigning. Often, local ordinances and historical designations prevent business owners from redoing the shop front completely.
Even if you can redo a historical shop front completely, you shouldn’t want to do so, particularly if your business is located in a parade of shops with cohesive architecture. The shop front should respect the scale and architecture of the rest of the building, and a modern glass shop front on a row of Victorian facades is jarring. It might even drive away customers who are looking for an authentic experience that is disrupted by an ultra-modern shop front.
Although you have a bit less freedom when working out of a historic shop front, the constraints give you more guidance when planning your designs. Restoring a traditional shop front is easier and less expensive than a complete renovation while attracting customers looking for a traditional, bespoke shopping experience.
Getting rid of later additions that take away from a shop front’s historical integrity, such as massive window panes or jarring signage, can give your business a façade that looks both fresh and historical.
Design Details to Consider
There are many components of a shop front that you need to consider when planning your design. One of the most important ones is the windows. Windows are what attract customers by giving them a glimpse into your shop. While it may be tempting to opt for the largest windows to show off as much of your store as possible, displays that are too massive are overwhelming and may undermine the historical façade you’re in.
While windows are the focal point of many shop front redesigns, there are countless other design details that can make or break the appearance of your shop. Always consider the size of the fascia, or the bands on top of the shop windows that separate the shop front from the rest of the building. One of the most common design mistakes in shop fronts is making the fascia too deep or too large to attract attention. Instead, it just looks as if the shop front is swallowing the building.
The materials that you use can affect the appearance of the shop front as much as the shape and colour. Make sure that the materials are appropriate to the overall appearance of the area. For example, use glass and metals for a modern High Street, but stick to muted colours and traditional materials such as timber and stone in historical areas.
Your shop front should not just be aesthetically pleasing, it should also be accessible for all customers. This makes sense from a business perspective; after all, what’s the point of designing a gorgeous shop front if the customer who wants to purchase your products cannot actually enter your store? It is also a legal requirement according to The Equality Act of 2010 and Part M of The Building Regulations Access.
When you are designing the entryway to your shop, make sure that all customers, including people with disabilities, the elderly, and parents with buggies, can freely enter your shop. This means opting for a ramped entrance instead of steps or raised sills. The ramp should be at a mild slope for maximum accessibility.
Your entryway should also have enough space for people with wheelchairs or buggies to manoeuvre. For more detailed considerations about how to make your shop front accessible, consult local regulations, check out what other shops are doing, or ask local disability advocates for their guidance.
The Process of Redesigning a Shop Front
Once you have an idea about what you want with your shop front designs, implementing it is not as simple as getting out the hammer and paints. First, you need to apply for permission from local governing bodies. Usually, this includes planning permission, listed building consent, and advertisement consent.
If you are making changes to the structure of the building, for example by moving the doorway, you will also need to apply for Building Regulation approval. Finally, if your building is located in a Conservation Area, you will also need to apply for those permissions.
Your application will include a planning checklist that should show that you’ve considered the impact of your redesign on the surrounding area, from the relationship to the existing streetscape, to the impact on the building, to details such as security, signage, canopies, and blinds.
Redesigning Shop Front Displays
Sometimes redesigning your entire shop front is not the right choice for your business. Maybe you don’t have the time or effort or are constrained too much by local preservation ordinances. Or you are happy with the look of your overall shop front but want to do more to attract customers.
An easy way to perk up your shop front is to redesign your window displays. Although details such as fascia and cornices are important, your window displays are ultimately what will draw customers into your business.
What Is the Goal of Your Display?
Before redesigning your shop front display, you should think about what you are hoping to accomplish with it, besides the obvious goal of drawing in customers. Your window display is your first opportunity to show customers what kind of business you own.
For example, if you are running an artisanal business selling traditional, homemade products, then an ultramodern display promises something that your shop will not deliver. Make sure that your display aligns with the overall tone of your business.
Your window display is also your opportunity as a small business owner to show off what makes the bespoke products you offer different from mass-market High Street items. Add unique details such as props and lighting to help show what sets your business apart.
Selling Experiences, Not Items
Modern consumers, particularly younger ones, are not as interested in items as they are in experiences. They want to feel as if they are spending money on something more than just a product. Whether that is an experience that will enrich their lives or a traditional lineage, they are looking for objects that are more than just objects.
One way that you can capitalise on this quest for experiences in your window displays is by showing off your products according to how they would fit in with your customer’s lifestyle. For example, don’t display clothing on static mannequins, but create a scene showing how that clothing would be used.
Put activewear on mannequins that look as if they’re running and show off party dresses by creating a party scene in your window. This encourages customers to imagine how your products would help them have those same experiences.
This idea for shop front displays does not apply just to clothing. When creating your display, emphasise how your products will enhance your customer’s lives. For example, if you’re selling handmade scented soap, you’re not just selling soap; you’re selling relaxation and the feeling of getting pampered. Evoke that with soothing lights, props that resemble a spa, and other relaxing features.
Customers can buy generic objects at any chain shop or High Street store. When they come to bespoke, traditional shops, they are really searching for an experience, and your shop front display can help sell that experience.
Using Tradition to Your Advantage
Another intangible experience that customers often look for is a connection with tradition. Customers trust shops with tradition as they believe if the products have withstood the test of time, that means they are high quality. Traditional shops offer a different shopping experience compared to our ever-modernising world.
Playing up the historical connections of your business in your shop front display can help attract more customers. If you have a historical façade, half the work is already done. However, you can improve on that (or work with a modern façade) with your window displays.
Display your products using vintage containers and shelving to play up the traditional lineage you inherited. Choose a historically inspired font for your signage, both in the window displays and on the shop front. You can even display traditional tools from your field in the window; for example, if you are selling food, add some old-fashioned scales.
As mentioned above, your window display is not just selling a product but a shopping experience. If your shop is following in the great British tradition of small businesses, emphasising that tradition will reel in more customers.
Bridging the Gap Between Customers and Your Shop
Your window display should make your store as inviting as possible and reduce any mental barriers preventing customers from going in. Besides just showing off your products, the display can offer a glimpse into the workings of your shop and show why it is an inviting place to be.
One of the reasons why people frequent small businesses compared to chain stores is for the feeling of community. Customers like to feel as if they matter, not just the money that they spend. Creating spaces where customers are allowed to linger, for example in sofas, and arranging those spaces so that they are visible from the shop front invites people to come in.
Motion also attracts the eye, so you can use the window display to give customers a sneak peek into your work. Try setting up a workstation where you or your employees make your products within view of the street. People will be tempted to go in and see what you are making.
More Than Just Products
You have many tools at your disposal for making an eye-catching window display, not just your products. For example, using props can help you create a scene using your products that sells an experience, not just an object.
Technical aspects of the window display, such as lighting and even sound, are another tool to help set the scene and draw in more customers.
Where to Get Ideas for Your Shop Front
Now that you know some principles to consider when designing your shop front and display, you may still be looking for some more direction. Ideas are hard to come by, especially with the pressure to refresh your shop front continuously to attract more customers.
Checking Others’ Work
One of the best ways to get inspiration for your own shop front, whether you are overhauling the design completely or just redoing the window display, is to see what other business owners in your area are doing. Take a stroll down the parade of businesses your shop is in or check out similar areas in other towns.
Ask yourself what other businesses are doing with their shop fronts. How can you incorporate those ideas into your own shop front for a visually cohesive appearance, while adding enough fresh details to stand out from the competition?
Pay particular attention to businesses that seem to attract a lot of foot traffic. What is it about their shop fronts that makes people linger and go inside?
If you need to refresh your displays but are not sure what direction to go in, seasonal displays are always in. Most business owners know that Christmas is one of the most important times of year in terms of sales. An inviting window display with a festive scene as well as decorations on your shop front puts shoppers in a festive mood and draws them to your business.
However, Christmas is not the only time that you can channel the spirit of the season into innovative, fresh displays. Displays and store front decorations celebrating changes in the season are always a hit. You can also look up relevant holidays for your industry, for example, World Book Day if you are a bookseller. A display celebrating a seasonal occasion that customers may not have heard of will pique their curiosity and draw them into your business.
Using Shop Front Designs to Your Advantage
Your shop front is your way of making a good first impression on potential customers, which is why the design of the shop front is so important. If you are looking to redo your image entirely, then redesigning the entire shop front is one way to do so. Whether you are modernising or stripping away recent additions to take the shop front back to its traditional roots, check with local ordinances and building regulations before breaking any ground.
Your shop front should be unique but stand in harmony with the rest of the building and other businesses nearby. Certain aspects of the shop front, particularly the window displays, lend themselves well to creativity and freshening up for when you need a new look but don’t have time for a full renovation.
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