You have the perfect vision for a retail site, now all you need is a shopfitter. But how do you find a shopfitting company that can realise your dream and get happy shoppers queueing around the block? What should you be looking for? Where do you even begin?
As a retail storage company, we work with shopfitters every day, and we’ve learnt a lot about what makes a great shopfitting company. Today we’re going to share some of what we’ve learnt in a simple seven step process that’ll help you choose the ideal retail shopfitter.
Whether you’re an experienced high street hero or just opening your first local shop, we hope you’ll find some actionable tips to make your search a little easier.
1. Don’t Fret about Accreditations
Almost every shopfitting company has a webpage listing impressive accreditations: NAS, CHAS, ISO 9001, British Safety Council, and many more. Remember, accreditations are not a guarantee of a job well done. In fact, many accreditations are gained with a simple application form (and some hefty fees). Trust us, we’re accredited too.
So why do we bother? We want you to know that we take our job seriously – accreditations and certificates are a small way to indicate that to potential customers. If a shopfitter hasn’t taken that step, it’s surely worth asking why, but don’t let accreditations convince you of excellence. It’s very likely that portfolios, customer experiences and your own impressions will reveal a great deal more than any accreditation could.
2. Bank on Reputation
If accreditations can’t sort the wheat from the chaff, what can you rely on? We’d argue that reputation is a much stronger measure of any shopfitter’s abilities. The only trouble is, it’s not so easy to measure and you won’t find it listed on any website.
There are, however, a few ways to gather a qualitative understanding of your shopfitter’s reputation. We’d consider all of the following options:
- Research customer reviews and experiences. Have others run into problems, and what kind of problems have they encountered? Are there any patterns of poor service?
- Who have they worked with and what are their testimonials like? Even better, get in touch with previous customers and ask them about their experience directly.
- Explore their company history: when were they established? How many projects have they worked on? What do these look like?
- Evaluate their online presence. Does their website appear near the top of search results, and is it easy to use? Do they engage with people through social media?
Those four areas should help you understand the business better, which will indicate whether it’s a suitable fit. But remember, if you’re not working for a recognisable brand, a smaller shopfitter with a solid local reputation, or a reputation for specialised fit-outs, may well be a better option than a larger firm that has little time to spend with you.
3. Explore Their Portfolio and Case Studies
Early on in the process, exploring the portfolios and case studies of each shopfitter will be your strongest asset. Of course, much of what you’ll find there will be sales jargon, but it will reveal what a company values. If there’s emphasis on timescales and budget, you’ll know what they’ve guessed is most important to you. Ask yourself a simple question: are they right?
Perhaps you can afford to wait to get the right result. Or perhaps you’re willing to sacrifice a little quality, if necessary, to get the site open on time. Case studies are a quick way to ensure your shopfitter’s priorities are aligned with your own.
But, in the end, crafting a retail experience is not about the abstract, it’s about the finished result. Be sure to absorb every picture your chosen shopfitter has published. More importantly, research customer experiences of their previously completed projects. If at all possible, pay a visit yourself – see how their build has stood the test of time and what it feels like in the flesh.
4. What Do They Offer?
Though there’s much to be learnt from portfolios, previous projects won’t tell you precisely which services a shopfitting company offers, or which parts of the job they are particularly good at. The only real way to outline their services and strengths precisely is to ask.
Shopfitters may offer everything from interior design services and stripping your site through to joinery, flooring, partitioning and everything in between. Before you proceed, find out which aspects of your design the company can handle for you, or, if you’d prefer, which parts they’re willing to leave in your hands.
Your choice of shopfitter should be strongly influenced by the skills and tools they have available. Some will offer detailed CAD design and 3D visualisations, while others might have access to advanced machining tools. It’s clearly vital to choose a shopfitter that excels at the major parts of your fit-out.
5. Can They Communicate?
The previous step will involve talking directly to any prospective providers, and that gives you the opportunity to answer a valuable question: can they communicate? The importance of clear, open and in-depth communication to any fit-out really can’t be overstated.
In a short space of time, your chosen shopfitter must learn everything about your brand and communicate that effectively to every customer that walks through your doors. That’s no easy task, and it’ll require a lot of help and guidance from you.
When discussing their services, be sure to describe what you need from them as clearly as possible. Though it’s still early stages, do they seem interested and engaged in your project? Are they asking questions about who your customers are and what you hope to achieve? If they’re only keen to discuss their fees, it’s probably time to continue the search.
6. Schedule a Meeting
By now, you should have a shortlist of potential shopfitters. You should also know what each of them offers and have some idea of their position in the marketplace. With all that ready, it’s time to meet face-to-face.
This is your opportunity to find out exactly what your chosen shopfitter can do for you. Browsing portfolios and case studies will give you some idea of how they operate, but it may have raised just as many unknowns. Make sure to prepare any questions you have about their process and services beforehand – we’ve seen a few misunderstandings in the past.
In particular, find out all you can about how they manage a project. What guidance do they offer? What does a typical work schedule look like? How will they communicate with your project manager? What happens if there are delays? In short, seek assurance on all those finer details that can all too easily be missed.
7. Don’t Leap Too Soon
Whether you’re refurbishing an old site or preparing a new store opening, the pressure is on. It can therefore be tempting to rush into agreements and get your site open quickly. However, if your shopfitter simply doesn’t get your brand, the results are likely to be disappointing.
In fact, even mathematics tells us that it’s worth shopping around, and that we too often stop the search early in many areas of life. So, though there will be costs to delays, if you’re uncomfortable with your first choice, don’t rule out considering a couple more options.
We thought we’d share a few UK based shopfitting companies to get you started. These firms all have a stunning reputation. In no particular order:
Also, be sure to glance over Retail Week’s Interiors Awards, where you’ll see these names and many more.
Have you had a great shopfitting experience, or a complete catastrophe? Let us know what influenced your decision making in the comments section or on Twitter @ActionStorage.