September 22, 2014

Give Your Brick and Mortar Store Curb Appeal

store curb appeal

If you’ve ever bought or sold a home, you’re familiar with the concept of “curb appeal.” A home with curb appeal looks inviting from the street, with fresh paint, attractive landscaping and a well-maintained appearance making you want to go inside. The same concept applies to your retail store and with eCommerce growing by leaps and bounds, curb appeal is more important than ever in attracting customers to a brick-and-mortar location.

But too many small retailers neglect the concept of curb appeal from the get-go. Others let their once-sparkling storefronts disintegrate through lack of maintenance.

How can you ensure your store has curb appeal?

The secret is to look at your store through your customers’ eyes. Pretend that you’ve never been to your business before and take a tour.

Create Brick and Mortar Curb Appeal

Start with Parking

Drive to your store. Is the signage easy to see? If you had never been to the store before, would you be able to find it? Does getting to the parking lot involve a life-threatening left turn across six lanes of traffic, or is there an easy way to get in? Is the parking lot well-lighted and safe, or scary and dark? Are there plenty of parking spaces?

Take in Your Surroundings

Stop and look at your shop from the outside. Is the area outside your store clean and inviting?

Recently, I saw a new cupcake shop with a cute logo and yummy cupcakes in the window, but the whole effect was ruined by an overflowing trash can and disgusting food trash right outside. I didn’t go in. (The shop has since gone out of business…surprise, surprise.)

Yes, this technically isn’t your responsibility, but you can call the landlord or take a broom and trash bag outside yourself.

Watch the Signs

Do your store name, signage and displays clearly indicate what you sell?

Last month I saw a new business with a great graphic displaying its name, “The Joint.” That’s a clever name for a medical marijuana dispensary, I thought. Then I got closer and realized it was actually a chiropractor’s office.

A logo or display of a spine or skeleton would have helped a lot here.

Make a Display

Do your store’s window displays draw you in? Do they convey the “brand” of your business (old-fashioned, chic, streamlined, modern, fun, creative)? Are your hours of operation easily visible to someone driving by?

Use signage, lighting and open or closed doors to tell people whether you’re open or not so they don’t waste time parking and get out only to be disappointed.

Put Out the Welcome Mat

When people enter your store are they greeted immediately? Does someone look up and smile at them, or do clerks continue their conversations or shoot them daggers for interrupting their day?

Since you can’t test this yourself, have a friend or family member your staff doesn’t know try it and report back.

Create an Experience

When someone enters your store does it feel as inviting as it looked from outside? Are there pleasant sounds and smells?

Depending on what you sell, you may want to add background music, scented potpourri or other sensory attributes to make customers relax, stay a while – and spend more money.

Sell It

In-store layout and signage are a science unto themselves. Paco Underhill is a retail expert whose books offer fascinating tips about increasing your retail sales through layout. One of his tips: Most people are right-handed and naturally go to the right when entering a store. Put your high-margin items there to get customers touching them.

Speaking of touching, did you know customers are more likely to buy something if they touch it? Those “Please don’t touch” signs near your breakable items might be a mistake.

Keep It Clear

Inside your store, can customers easily find what they need? Are sections of the store marked so they can see where to go? Is in-store signage, such as prices and sale items, clear and easy to read?

When a hot new gourmet grocery opened in my area, I was excited to try it. But the prices on the shelves were in such tiny type, I couldn’t easily compare and I never shopped there again.

Check It Out

Last, but not least, how enjoyable is the checkout experience? Is the line to wait clearly marked so shoppers don’t waste time? Do clerks acknowledge people waiting in line? (Just quick eye contact and a smiling, “Thanks for your patience. We’ll be right with you” can make all the difference). Do you place tempting impulse buys near the register to entertain customers and make more sales?

Visit any Sephora store for an example of how this tactic can make shopping more fun for customers, and more profitable for you.

Give your brick and mortar store a curb appeal checkup at least once a year to keep it inviting – and to keep things selling.

Curb Appeal Concept Photo via Shutterstock

14 Comments ▼

Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a staff writer for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

14 Reactions

  1. I can’t say how often I’ve chosen a restaurant in an unfamiliar city because it had easy access and prominent signage. Great post.

  2. I’m a huge fan of Paco Underhill’s books! You gave some great tips here that some may overlook :)

  3. Those are all good tips, but in many cases, a store owner can’t do much about their parking spaces, but they can do something about how the place looks and your advice about losing a lot of the front signage is the best I have heard. If only more business owners could read that right now! :)

  4. Thanks so much Robert and efpierce. It’s about taking control of the things you can to make an impact, and not ignore the situation because there are some things you cannot change.

  5. I agree that the overall look of the shop affects how many people enters your shop. But you do need to consider the environment. Flashy does not always equal more customers.

  6. First impression counts and giving your brick-and-mortar store curb appeal will definitely pull in more first-time clients and repeat customers. One needs to put in effort into the nitty-gritty details.

  7. Rieva,

    Just a question: What if your neighboring businesses are neglecting the curb appeal? Wouldn’t that make your store less appealing, no matter how hard you try?

  8. I look at storefronts like books. If I see a book I’m drawn to because of its design and title, I’ll pick it up. Sometimes the design alone is enough for me to want to pick it up and see what it’s about. I think the same can be applied to stores.

  9. Thanks everyone for all the comments.
    Ivan, if your neighboring small business owners have dowdy storefronts it most definitely will affect your sales. But it’s affecting theirs as well. Perhaps you could have a talk with them and remind everyone that looks matter (when it comes to businesses) and that their businesses can only benefit if the spiff it up

  10. Rieva: Now I have learned a new word: curb appeal! How would you suggest that the brick and mortar place would combine the physical location with social media activities?

  11. Great overview with practical ideas. Ties right in with one of the more popular resources at The Retail Owners Institute: the Store Rater. Helps you to see your store the way the shoppers do!

    Try it for yourself here, free: http://www.retailowner.com/FinancialBasicsResources/StoreIssues/StoreAssessment/tabid/412/Default.aspx It’s a great way to involve your staff as well.

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