Monday, June 12, 2017

The Counter Effect


Over my years of store design, I have seen many cases where the retailer doesn’t need a big counter. This often suits retailers in the service industry such as hair and beauty. Hair salons and barbers involve getting the right balance of chairs and washing stations and the movement zones around each chair. Beauty salons need lots of small private areas and by the time these requirements have been catered for, the front of house area is often left as a small space to design for.



As technology improves it becomes easier to go “counterless” or at least very small. Most salons now use a computer booking program which also invoices and stores client details. It’s no longer necessary to have the large format paper appointment book and the separate client cards.
Add to that all the fantastic wireless technology and customers can now book and pay with the staff attendant standing anywhere in the store. So long as there is somewhere to store a printer and some type of register or cash drawer the counter can be made redundant.


Of course, it’s important to remember that you will still need some type of bench to wrap and package the all-important “products” that become the add on sales after the hair or beauty treatment. However, this does not have to be a traditional counter floating out in the middle of the entry area. It can be off to the side and designed to store the packaging and other items and become almost invisible.


I think the best example of “counterless” is Apple. Their stores have heaps of tables/ benches but not really an actual counter. The most important part of foregoing the counter is to know that the staff can make the customer feel at ease. Without a counter to gravitate to, customers can feel lost and uncomfortable, however the use of a “greeter” solves this. They acknowledge the customer and instantly begin the service process, be it with them or by assigning another staff member. Apple use wi-fi everything and conceal their docket printers at a couple of strategic points under benches and same with their packaging.



In my shop, I have also forgone a counter. My POS & wrap area doubles as a boardroom table. This has enabled me to have more surfaces to display stock and given me the room for the necessary desks in the design studio. The shop is open plan and I can acknowledge customers upon entry and then use my wi-fi technology to handle the payments. Any confidential documents are kept elsewhere and upon interaction with the customers they can see what a design studio looks like as mine is blended in with the shop.


Counterless is not going to work for every situation. I personally believe that there are some sectors of retail who have gone too far with their open plan and minimal counters. I don’t believe that this concept works well in banks. People want a level of privacy to handle the confidential matter of money. Being on a computer with a staff person and all your account details visible on the screen does not feel comfortable knowing that many people are walking past and able to view the screen.


Counter or not- food for thought if you are starting out or planning a refurb.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Is Bigger Better?


Every day I get an email feed from Inside Retail Australia. It contains short stories about what is happening in the world of retail. At least once a week there will be a story about one of the large retailers who has entered financial difficulty and the story will suggest that the writing is probably on the wall for them as a business.


Over the last Christmas season there were approx. 5 retailers that declared some stage of going, going or gone, Pumpkin Patch being one. There seemed to be a pattern that these were all stores that had undergone large expansions over the years. In their quest to grow and find more customers it seemed that they lost things along the way. 


As a new and small retailer- like many other small independent stores, I have learnt the power of personal individual service. As an owner working in the store I can tell you where my customers are coming from, I know if they are responding to promotions I’m advertising, I know their ages and the mix of demographics. This is because I’m speaking with them and asking questions to help me tailor my product mix. 


I love hearing stories about other individual retailers especially if they are in a similar industry to me. Reed Exhibitions have been running an interesting video series lately with their ambassador Tara Dennis visiting gift and homewares retailers and discussing their stores. These are always interesting and inspiring. I love looking at how they display their stock, hearing how they select it and about their customers and seeing what they’ve grown their businesses into with a few years of hard work. Very often the fact that they are a one-off store creates that destination factor. If it’s a good store, people don’t mind travelling- within reason. The journey becomes part of the hunter/ gatherer process. I have retail design clients who have happily travelled interstate to view other retailers whom they find inspiring and have elements that they wish to emulate into their own.


However, the flip side in the quest to grow and conquer is the risk of loss of personal service standards, decrease in product knowledge with the staff, workers for whom it’s “just a job”, stock flow management issues and increased overheads to name a few negatives. Very often businesses are gauged in monetary value, but take away key people or compromise your standards and ethics and suddenly a business can become worthless.


Success and achievement are common aspirations of human nature. For some the desire to grow bigger is well worth the work, for other businesses remaining as a one-off destination may be the solution. Next time you are dreaming with stars in your eyes, ask yourself “what could be lost in the quest to grow?”



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mappin's Nursery and Aquarium


I love Serendipity. Admittedly this was not an accidental discovery, but an amazing shop that someone had recommended to me.
 There just seems to be so many incredible treasures in this wonderful city! Mappin's Nursery and Aquarium is a perfect example. Located at 240 Montague Rd, which is now super busy and a mix of commercial and residential, no longer are the days of it being a seedy run down part of town.


The business has been here for 8 years and prior to that many years at Brookfield. It's an oasis of greenery amongst the buildings. 


The original shop is in the middle and recent expansion has spread into the neighbouring buildings either side. 


The kids and I visited on a rainy day and in this original section the rain was coming thru the roof and we happily sloshed thru the puddled floor- it really was a proper greenhouse!



Everywhere you turn there is heaps to look at and all displayed in very quirky surrounds.



The aquarium section was a huge hit with the kids and I now have a phone filled with video of the turtle swimming around! (courtesy of my daughter). There are even some chooks out the front in their custom made chook house.


Through the doorway into the adjoining building to get a coffee from the Kombi van. This is also the section set up for gardening workshops.



Mappin's is amazing and I've already lined up friends to take back so they can experience it. 


Definitely worth a visit.








Friday, February 17, 2017

Wynnum Uplate.


It's 3 weeks till the next Wynnum Uplate. On Thursday the 9th of March us and many other local businesses will be open late till 9pm. It's a great way to get together with your friends and check out the local retailers and perhaps pick up some special finds along the way. We will have a lucky door prize of a Peppermint Grove candle valued at $40, drawn at 7:30pm. 

Our local Wynnum Manly promoter Kevin Liepins has listed us in Weekend Notes, link attached. Hope to see you on the night!