17 April 2019/ Guides

Retail units and your brand: different spaces for different brands

Finding a retail unit and signing for a lease is half the job. Making your store or cafe or pub look and feel perfect, and, most importantly, match your brand, your personality, is a whole other feat in itself.


This is absolutely the case if you’re just starting out. Established business owners will know what works and how the brand needs to be represented in the physical world, even if they might want to tweak the look for a new store. But if this is your first venture into running a customer-facing business, then it’s vital that you think long and hard about every lick of paint, or item of furniture.


There is an abundance of advice out there about branding your space. We’ve written a short guide to get you started.

28 Hight Street MarlowHigh street shop: 26-28 High Street, Marlow

Know yourself


What works for an ultra-hip artisan deli and what a works for an active-wear clothing retailer are two very different things, even if they share some customers. Shoppers make decisions, consciously or unconsciously, based on how well they feel a brand matches their own identity. And this extends back into digital space – if people are impressed, and feel an affinity to a brand, they will share it with their friends online. This makes it vital to bear in mind a key lesson: be clear about your look, your identity, even whether the name of the brand works, and make sure you’re designing a store that matches it 100%.

88 - 94 High SteetPrime retain unit: 88 -94 High Street, Linlithgow EH49 7AQ


Down to detail


Unless you’re a natural born artist or interiors buff, you’ll need to enlist the help of experts when it comes to the details. There are retail branding consultancies and design agencies to find the prefect logo, colour palettes, lighting, signage, graphics, furniture and flooring to match your vision. But you need to be clear about what that vision is – an agency can only work with what you give them. If you get the big picture right in your head first, a designer or retail branding consultant can then fill in the fine details.


Physical in a digital world


Perhaps more than ever, shoppers are influenced by the look and feel of a retail store: in an era where so much can be done with a few clicks online, physical stores have to accentuate their advantages by being cool, experiential, memorable spaces. If you want people to engage with your brand, they need to engage with the physical spaces that brand occupies in numerous ways, beyond simply look and feel.
A new wave of experiential store features are being experimented with in retail store design – from yoga classes to fashion consultations and interior design advice sessions – to make a physical store about more than just shopping, and when done right they are hits with consumers. But you will still need to get your digital footprint right as well – seamlessness and consistency between your channels is vital, and that includes your social media presence as well.


Be unique


Unless you’re in a real niche sector, you’re likely to have competitors nearby. If you’re the new kid on the block then you need to do something to stand out and make people take notice. But there’s a fine balance to be struck here. Your competitors may be veterans in the game because they’re really good, and they know what their customers like. So how do you stand out from them, without straying too far from a tried-and-tested formula? The key is to find that unique selling point that nobody else has, an angle that set you apart. This varies greatly from brand to brand and sector to sector, but whatever it is, you need to find your unique business voice.