Tips on planning a successful shop fit-out

Posted by Storefit on Tuesday 29 July 2014

Fitting out a shop is usually more of a challenge than newcomers might expect. It is not just a question of finding the right premises in a suitable location, repainting it, changing the carpet and then buying in a few counters, racks and display cabinets.

You will have greater scope as an owner but many landlords are alert to all commercial opportunities and will encourage you to improve their building at your own expense!

Fit-out specialists

There are many businesses which specialize in complete fit-outs and can supply a consultant or a range of them to help you every step of the way. Get quotes from two or three before making your choice. But if you are planning on opening a hobby-style shop which sells clothes and knick-knacks, then thereís no need to choose a specialist whose normal line of work is doing an entire department store. Even so, it is sensible to contact one or two such companies. Ideas by themselves rarely cost money, at least not in the conversational phase.

Equipment options

In some cases, you may even find existing products that will suit your needs. Think about how many similar shops are already open for business! Clothes racks, shop counters, display cabinets with built-in lighting, bookcases, wire racks and all manner of stands are readily available in a bewildering range of shapes and sizes. You might even consider used equipment. Buying ready-made items will almost invariably be less expensive than having bespoke ones especially created; mass-produced is still the cheapest option, which is one reason a Daewoo costs less than a Ferrari.

Research and reconnaissance

Start by checking out some internet sites on the question of shop fit-outs. You might even find major items to suit you perfectly and there is no shortage of salespeople eager to win your business. It is also a good idea to visit other shops which sell broadly similar merchandise. First impressions matter in business so how you present your goods and services is vital.

Regulations and compliance

Even so, it still isnít easy. Government gets into the picture, too. Certified construction plans are usually a pre-requisite. Drawings to scale will include a detailed diagram of the entire site. You also need a floor plan which shows the layout of walls, doors, fixed furniture and displays, as well as lighting and plumbing. The ceiling plan shows where the emergency exit signs will be, as well as smoke detectors and sprinkler system heads (if a system is required). You will also probably be required to show internal elevations Ė ceiling height(s), counter/bench/fixture heights and the location of wall tiling. Details of materials, colors and finishes are required by some councils. And, of course, there is a fee to lodge your building licence application form. Check all this out first.

First steps

So the initial step in this process is to visit your local council. You should then at least be able to avoid making mistakes which will later have to be unmade. One such mistake might be thinking you can do all the work yourself when it may be mandatory to employ a licensed builder. Try to find someone who has some experience in this line of work. You may even want to consult an architect or interior designer.

When the initial planning is complete, you then need to think about how it can be executed most efficiently. Not all items will be available at the one time but you wonít want to stall the whole project waiting for, say, the sprinkler system to be installed or the flooring to be completed. The trick here is to consider the logistics beforehand.

More considerations

Plenty of questions need to be addressed. Will the existing building suffice without a major upgrade? Will you need to provide disabled access? Where will you locate the fire exit? And donít forget the relevant signage. What about air-conditioning, security? You will almost certainly need to have the electrical system upgraded.

When the renovations commence you should consider the impact of noise, dust and traffic on your neighbors. Unhappy locals are not a good idea when you are starting a new business.

If you are leasing your premises, then it will generally be the landlordís responsibility to maintain the building in sound working order, as with a rented apartment.

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