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Improving Your Store’s Curb Appeal

Improving the curb appeal of a small business, New York bicycle shop storefront

Take a look at your storefront. What do you see? What do think your customers see? 

Curb appeal is often one of the most overlooked ingredients for creating an amazing customer experience and that’s really unfortunate.  It only takes a split second for people to form an impression, and that impression often starts when they’re driving by or pulling into your parking lot.

Working in retail management for a regional home improvement center when I was fresh out of college, I learned pretty quickly to pay just as much attention to the outside of our store as the inside. Our regional manager would make frequent and impromptu visits and I think it’s safe to say he was more than passionate about curb appeal. In fact, he was pretty much dialed in on every last detail—a mindset that’s stuck with me all those years later. 

To this day, any time I go shopping I notice every burned out light bulb, trash can that needs emptied, cigarette butt in the crack of a sidewalk, and weed growing in the landscaping. 

The most important step to improving your store’s curb appeal is finding the time to think strategically about what you need to do and then actually doing it. When you’re in a rush, it’s easy to miss or ignore quick fixes and potential problems. 

Visible Exterior Signage

Your signage should be visible from the street (see example at the top of this post which you might be able to see from the outerspace!), parking lot, AND the sidewalk. Case in point, a new pizza shop just opened locally. From what I can tell, their name looks like etched glass—and it’s totally impossible to make it out from the highway. What is the chance that someone is going to pull in for a closer look? Zilch. 

You also want to keep an eye out for any signs that have been faded by the sun. Either replace it or just take it down. In almost every case, having nothing is going to look way better than a raggedy old faded sign.

I’m a huge fan of sandwich boards. If you’re able to use one, it can be a great way to extend your signage beyond your storefront and really grab the attention of passersby—especially if you get a lot of foot traffic. You can showcase daily specials, or have some fun with it and do something clever. 

Just yesterday, I saw a the perfect example on Twitter--a picture of a sandwich board with a message arranged in a flow chart asking “Is Everything Okay?” followed by “Yes” or “No.” Regardless of your answer, you were pointed to “Come and have a drink.” Creative and clever, you could just about say the same thing for a myriad of products or services. “Is Everything Okay?” “Come on in and get a haircut.”

I’m also a big stickler for store hours. If you want to test how good your eyesight is without having to see an optometrist, try to make out store hours for just about any business that has them displayed on their front door without leaving your car. I bet you can’t do it at least 75% of the time. 

Creative Window Displays

If you’ve got them, flaunt them. Use window displays to provide a glimpse into your store and your product offerings and entice prospective customers to check you out.

Think about what you want to display and then experiment to see what looks best once you’re outside the store. Do your best to look through the eyes of your customers. 

Once you have something in place, pay attention to whether it’s bringing more people in the door or helping you sell any more products. It can be the prettiest window display in the world but if it’s not helping you generate more business, it’s not working.

Regular Maintenance

There is literally no excuse to have trash cans overflowing right outside of your front door. None. The same holds true for weeds, burned out light bulbs, and any other items that could make your small business appear disheveled. 

Take a walk around in the morning and look for anything that needs to be addressed. Do the same thing at night. If you need to hold off, say to call in a professional sign company to replace some bulbs, that’s okay—just don’t let it linger for months. The last thing you want is one letter in your sign to wink at people from dusk till dawn.

If you really want to create an unforgettable customer experience, don’t overlook the importance of curb appeal. Whether you know it or not, the outside appearance of your storefront is forming opinions (both good and bad) from the moment someone pulls into your parking lot—if not sooner.


[Image: Flickr user Ed Yourdon]

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