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.