This series on the real world ROI of store design concludes with what I see as probably the least talked about aspect of store design: the value of design integrity in rollout. You can click here to read part 1, on branding, and here to read part 2, on space planning and design.
I’m a brand developer and store designer, but that doesn’t mean I wash my hands of a project the moment it goes into execution. That would be irresponsible. My real goal behind your store design is to improve your long-term sales and not waste your money as a retailer, so I am compelled to advise that great store design, poorly executed is a waste. Retail design isn’t meant to be a thought experiment; it’s a tool used to get results, plain and simple. I think of at it as a simple graph with an X axis for Design Quality and a Y axis for Execution Quality. Look:
Investing in a project that lands squarely in the positive Design Quality and positive Execution Quality quadrant is going to be a sound investment. The potential behind the design will be realized and that will play out in the shopper’s experience in your store. Elements of the space that look appealing from a distance will look equally appealing up close, will impress the shopper in action, and will result in a positive versus cruddy experience.
Note that great design, as shown, is all about the details. It is incumbent on the designer to understand the quality level necessary to pull off a detail in the real world and deliver a great affect at a reasonable price. A great designer should be thinking ROI, and how to get it, from the onset of concept development.
Investing in Design Quality and allowing the execution to be sub-par amounts to throwing good money away. “I want an Audi but with an Oldsmobile engine and a $99 paint job,” said nobody ever, because that would be stupid. It would be a waste of money not only on the beautiful design but on the rest of it as well. Sure, you’d pay less, but if you wanted a cruddy car, you’d just buy a cruddy one in the first place.
And then obviously the ROI of not investing in either design or execution is nil because there is no investment to begin with. DIY retail design is not gaining in popularity for a reason. And beautifully executing a store without fully considering what you’re doing is a recipe for a pretty space that might not sell much at all.
You can’t make Julia Child’s cheese soufflé with Velveeta and expect it to turn out delicious. It won’t.
That’s not to say that every countertop should be Carrara marble and every tile custom. Value-engineering becomes incredibly important when you’re rolling a design out across multiple locations. But value-engineering isn’t the same as nickel and diming. VE happens on the front end, so you know you’ll be getting the most bang for your buck before you ever start sourcing materials and building. Nickel and diming is this tempting thing that comes later, when someone holding the purse strings (or on the purse string committee – a horrible idea) – realizes Velveeta tastes something like cheese.
Now, this has all been about the physical execution of a retail design. But going back to branding and just to be clear, there is another equally (if not more so) important aspect of retail design execution, and that is operations. I tell ALL of my customers that all of our good work is flushed down the toilet if they do not fulfill their customers’ expectations on an operational level: merchandising, assortment, pricing, customer service, etc…. I tell them “we can create a perfect stage setting, but if the play sucks – or the actors are shitty, it all goes down in flames.”
It all goes hand in hand in hand. Branding determines the promise you’re making to your customer. Space planning and design determine how you’re going to deliver on that promise. And execution (physical and operational) determines how the shopper is going to perceive the integrity of that promise to be. Extending your ROI beyond the grand opening means building to last. I don’t know how else to say it.