Retail Renovation Done Right

So you want to renovate your retail space. But you worry about the one-two punch of closing the store (interrupting your revenue stream) while construction costs pile up. Not to mention the mental and emotional havoc a revamp can wreak on you and your staff.

If you’ve been planning for a full or partial store overhaul, you’ve likely been saving up—and, perhaps, girding yourself for the inevitable setbacks and complications. Rest assured, however, that you can redo your shop without losing your marbles—or your shirt.

Hire the Right People

Katie Hoffman, project coordinator for Pinnacle Contracting Inc., whose portfolio includes St. Louis’ Simons Jewelers and Buy Buy Baby stores, says the best way to find contractors anywhere is word-of-mouth. Barring a recommendation, “talk to local architects, because they work with general contractors,” she says. “And contact the local union to ask if they can recommend anyone.” Just remember, if your project is of the ground-up variety, you may also need an architect or interior designer to draft more detailed plans. “Architects and design teams typically provide renderings if it’s in their scope,” adds Hoffman, “while general contractors do not.”

Focus on Customer Experience

Ryan Blumenthal, co-owner of Toms River, N.J.–based Corinne Jewelers, which recently finished a full renovation, says that when confronted with decisions, he asked himself, “Does this make my customers’ experience better?” He also considered how he wanted customers to feel when they walked in the door. “Answer those questions, then craft your decisions around that,” he advises. If budget is tight, focus on high-impact areas, says Hoffman, adding that facade and lighting refreshes are particularly effective for retail stores.

Work Around the Clock

With a big renovation, expect—and plan for—days when the store will need to be closed for safety reasons. Blumenthal says he closed Corinne’s for roughly seven days, paying staffers for the days off. Ask your contracting company how much can be done during off-hours, which will speed up the renovations and minimize the number of days you’ll have to close. Hoffman says that for an interior project, “the safety of the customers and employees would be our first concern.” But she recommends working with your contractor to create a schedule that includes “having certain trades work after hours” and, potentially, breaking the project into phases to allow you to stay open more hours.

Be Timely

Renovating in the midst of your busiest seasons obviously doesn’t make sense, but when thinking about timing, consider how you can leverage other store events. Blumenthal and his partner and wife, Allyssa Blumenthal, timed their revamp with the news that Ryan’s parents, the original owners, were retiring, and that they were taking over the store. “Then we tied it all to a once-in-a-lifetime sale. Each week our client base was hit with new announcements,” he says. “We were the talk of the town.”