Affordable Store Makeovers: From Start to Finish

From: Garden Chic, March/April, 2013

Affordable Store Makeovers: From Start to Finish
Are you starting a new renovation project or just in need of a quick interior face-lift at your garden center? Designing retail interiors can be tricky, but with a few simple guidelines, the process can be streamlined and less daunting than it appears.

As a designer for commercial spaces on Food Network's Restaurant: Impossible with Chef Robert Irvine, I'm faced with the challenges that every store or restaurant owner is faced with: tight budgets and quick turnarounds. How do we do it in such a tight time frame and limited budget? I'm ready to share my secrets.

Getting Started
Success starts with planning. Think smart, and think ahead. I start every design project by finding out what the problems are first. You may say that there are no problems, so why bother to renovate? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is your garden center's flow practical and efficient?

2. Are the products displayed properly?

3. Is there unnecessary clutter?

Let your customers know that you're about to make some changes, and ask them what they think would help make your garden center more appealing and user-friendly. You may not like what you're about to hear, so brace yourself. People love to share their opinions; don't take the comments too personally.

Now that you've identified the issues, get a plan and timeline in place. Working out a realistic timeline, how long each project will take, and budget, how much each project will cost, will be your saving grace. Everyone knows renovations typically take longer and cost more than expected, but this can be managed if the project is well-planned.

If you're closing your garden center for a few days to complete the renovation, be over-prepared by preordering all the materials and supplies you'll need, and have them ready to go so you maximize the time you're closed. The last thing you want is to delay your reopening due to backordered items or uncoordinated project completion. Each day closed is money lost.

Spruce Up On Budget
Now, as you plan your store renovation, get the most bang for your buck with these quick tips.

Concept - Create a concept for a cohesive flow. Traditional with a modern twist? French country? Fresh mod? Research your desired style online, using Google Images and Pinterest, to give you a number of ideas. This will keep you focused, which will ultimately help keep you on budget.

Paint - A fresh coat of paint can go a long way. Be sure to use paint tones that make the product pop. Don't be afraid of bright, bold colors, as long as they don't detract from the merchandise. In many cases, it's best to keep your display walls neutral and add a bright accent at the checkout counter.

Checkout - Your checkout counters provide an opportunity to add personality. Make them unique by refurbishing an old dresser or resurfacing the existing counter with tile or slats of wood.

Lighting - Lighting is of utmost importance in a retail space. Combine recessed lighting with hanging fixtures where applicable. Converter kits from your local hardware store can instantly turn your existing recessed lighting into pendant lighting without hiring an electrician.

Find clever ways to create light fixtures. A great example for a garden center is to flip a decorative ceramic pot with a drainage hole upside down and insert a lighting kit with bulb into it for a custom pendant fixture. It's affordable and easy to do, and it gives your customers a new idea for using the pots you sell.

I love ideas that are outside the box! Use mason jars, chicken wire, heat-resistant placemats and baskets for other unique and inexpensive light fixture ideas.

Flooring - Too many retail spaces have concrete floors. It's time to upgrade! Try this: Apply an epoxy coating for a shiny lacquer finish. Next, use a concrete stain for a touch of color. Then use a quality painter's tape to create a grid on the floor, then apply concrete stain. Once semidry, pull the tape off. This will give you a faux tile look.

Now Sell It!
Celebrate your renovation by hosting a big grand reopening. Set up gardening demos, offer refreshments and have a huge sale. Customers get excited when you're excited!

Local press is always looking to cover events happening in the community. Try to get on local morning radio and TV shows and in the local newspaper and at its website.

Use social media as a major marketing tool. Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter take time to build a fan base, but they're free and can be incredibly successful. Once you have followers on these sites, you're immediately tapping your target market. These people agreed to follow your garden center on their own.

Study up on the proper way to interact with customers on these social media sites to generate more followers. It can seem overwhelming, but is worth the investment of time. Don't share personal info - keep it professional. Post fun, easy tips and take-away information that pertains to gardening. Follow other people in the industry, and learn the "lingo."

Make your life easier by linking all of your social network pages together so when you post one message, the rest automatically update.

With my inside tips on how I get projects completed on time and within budget, I hope you're inspired and ready to tackle some of your own projects.

Always remember: Stay within your means. Try not to overwhelm yourself.And hire a professional when you come across something that's out of your comfort zone.
Happy renovating!

Send us your store design challenges for the chance to have Taniya recommend how you could see fast results on a tight budget! Submissions due June 15, 2013.

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