“Refurb – a leap of faith”

16 March 2018, 03:37 am
Expert Eye by John Shepherd

The importance of being furbished has nothing to do with one of Oscar Wilde’s great works, although retailing has often been described as pure theatre. Rather it relates to the general desire at this time of the year to improve and spruce up the look of our shops by refurbishing

The layout and design of speciality food shops seems to be taking a role of greater importance every year. Of the recent refurbs I have visited both the look and feel of the environment seem to be greatly enhanced from the speciality food shops of a few years ago. This element of theatre has definitely improved. Although, whether the operational standards of the shop in question match the standards of the new aesthetics and whether labour costs have increased greatly following the work are important aspects to consider.

Although the aesthetic look of a food shop is undoubtedly important it is, of course, the future profitability of the shop that should be the guiding principle. Even in a speciality food shop with a much smaller turnover profit levels can be dramatically affected.

The last refurb we carried out was some two years ago, in a small shop, which eventually resulted in a sales increase of 22%. In our case the improvement in the look of the shop just with the addition of new equipment was dramatic and, to be honest, I wish we had done it a long time before.

Why had we delayed it so long? Because the thought of opening discussions with designers, shop fitters and refrigeration consultants needs a deep breath. The thought of closing the shop for a period of time, doing it at the right time of the year, all the associated costs and the potential of it not actually succeeding held us back. In particular, to close a shop, even for a short while, is like swimming underwater. The stock has to be carefully looked after or written off. The staff have to be carefully looked after and not written off. The customers have to be kept informed and even when the doors open for the first time following the closure they take a while to return.

However there are other benefits to refurbishing apart from just the uplift in sales. I have read that air conditioning systems designed 10 years ago are 75% as efficient as those of today and upgrading lighting systems can reduce power consumption by at least 20%. Also, a smartly configured shop floor can add a lot to the morale of staff, customers and, dare I say it, landlords. Life is too short for long queues.

Apparently there is a maxim for modern food shop refurbishments which is to blow hot and blow cold. The money is made in either the chilled cabinets or the hot food counters. So with this in mind we have decided to launch a number of rolling refurbishments with the aim of not closing the shop for any length of time if humanly possible. So we are planning to change nearly all of our refrigeration cabinets with the exception of the deli counter. We are planning to introduce a salad bar, a sushi counter and a self-juicing machine for oranges. We also want to extend our hot food counter, revamp our staff uniforms, further develop online sales and reconfigure parts of the shop floor. It is a long list which will take us through the year and may not be entirely achievable due to unforeseen factors. Now for the leap of faith!

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