Protect your company’s investment with these five ideas for making a great first impression.
Contrary to what you may read, the retail industry is not dying, but it has become harder than ever to get customers to put down their phones and computers and pay a visit to our locations.
People want to shop in places that look inviting, fun, safe, and have an appealing tenant mix of both quality stores and, if the location merits it, solid dining options. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain the appearance of your property from storefront to the street. When properties are neglected, they can contribute to neighborhood decline, lower property values, and even crime. When shoppers are given a welcoming, enjoyable environment, they stick around longer – and hopefully spend more.
Depending on the age of your shopping center, it may be time to consider upgrading the appearance. Here are five ways to do so.
Refresh the brand.
Think of your favorite brands and how they make you feel – a favorite restaurant, clothing label, or resort. The brand is your company’s identity, and beyond that, it’s a first impression for both prospective customers and tenants.
A new logo, style, and color palette can freshen the brand. It is equally as important at this time to spruce up your online properties too – website and social media. Often, if your shopping center is prominent enough, the rebrand may merit media attention that can direct eyes to your location in newspapers, on TV, and in radio. A more elegant, modern style with language that higher-end brands use may attract more upscale tenants.
Keep in mind: It’s important to know your audience; trying to rebrand as upscale in a more moderate- or lower-income neighborhood may fall flat. A brand can only do so much lifting – the center itself must look the brand, and attract the proper tenant mix to live the brand. Appearance is everything.
Give the property a facelift.
In the battle of two adjacent shopping centers – each catering to the same market – appearance wins every time. You have to work to keep things looking fresh and inviting.
Updating the façade is a good place to start. You can keep the upgrade fairly simple and inexpensive with a steam or pressure cleaning treatment and fresh coat of paint; a commercial painter can make recommendations on how to best use paint to make the façade look like it is new construction. The use of awnings can help to hide dated windows and doors; alternatively, removing older, faded awnings and adding new signage in their place can help rejuvenate the look.
More expensive façade enhancements would be the addition of architectural details or environmental graphics. Adding more windows to storefronts can also create a more inviting space, but can quickly ratchet up the cost.
Façade improvements, paired with a refreshed brand, can lead to increased sales, new businesses and shoppers, and encourage tenants to make their own interior improvements. Competitively, you may also push nearby shopping centers to improve their look – which is beneficial to values across the entire area.
Keep in mind: Depending on the size of your property, façade enhancements can get expensive quickly. It’s also important to have a design and brand plan in hand prior to moving forward on any façade upgrades.
Got curb appeal?
You do not want to end up on deadmalls.com, but there’s a good chance you’re heading in that direction if your parking lot is filled with weeds and grass is overgrown. Planting trees and adding greenspaces – and colorful and seasonal florals - creates a more welcoming environment, improves walkability and can pare back the “concrete” feel that emanate from so many malls and strip centers.
It can certainly be tempting to skimp on landscaping and bank the money to improve net income, but without a welcoming visual appearance, shoppers will go elsewhere – and they are hard to get back. Ensure your landscaping is trimmed, roads are paved, and paint is touched up.
Keep in mind: Landscaping crews can get loud and take up a lot of space. Be sure teams are scheduled to work around busy retail hours and don’t get in the way of customers and cars.
Reimagine as live/work/play.
What if your mall or shopping center wasn’t merely a convenient place to shop, but a short walk down the street (or downstairs) – or even an entertainment destination? Many developers are incorporating homes, offices and hotels into their centers, creating a mixed-use community.
A mixed-use community provides a place for residents to get out of their homes (and away from online retailers) to buy from local stores. At a minimum, take a look at areas where you can develop more communal spaces, and give people a reason to come to your property besides spending money.
At Downtown at the Gardens in Palm Gardens, Fla., for example, the shopping center has long had its back turned to nearby body of water, and stores are underperforming. Proposed changes aim to flip the stores toward the water, make it an entertainment scene on the lake at night. Residential, office and hotel spaces are also planned.
Keep in mind: transforming a shopping center into a broader mixed-use, commercial real estate play takes time, resources, money and creates new logistical complexities.
Invest in new signage.
Signage plays a huge role in grabbing attention, improving your center’s appearance, and giving voice to your brand. Industrywide, the average shopping center signage is updated every seven to 10 years. Beyond that, a sign can tend to look dated and unappealing to guests.
Studies vary, but you can generally expect between a 15 percent and 30 percent return on your signage investment in the form of new foot traffic. For a new tenant in particular, the International Sign Association notes that signage contributes to half of all traffic – far beyond that of word of mouth or traditional advertising.
So take a second look at your pylon. Does it promote tenants, or only the center itself? Is it vanilla, or does it showcase the brand? Depending on local building requirements, signs only allow a certain square footage of text – consider less space for the shopping center’s own name, and more set aside for tenants. You’ll create more function out of the form, and tenants will pay for the privilege of having space on the pylon.
And what about storefront signage? Consider an investment or assistance to help stores upgrade their signs – dated designs or ill-functioning illuminations can be a real turn-off. If your shopping center requires all storefront signs conform to a single color or style, why not allow for more flexibility and personality?
Keep in mind: Zoning ordinances advise on what can and cannot be done. While there are always signage height, size, and design restrictions (perhaps less so in Vegas!), it’s important to ask the right questions to understand your flexibility and limits (along with those codes that aren’t actually enforced).
About the author – David Goodwin is the president of Ad Vice Studios, a Richmond, Va-based marketing services company. David has built his career and his business collaborating with property managers, developers and architects to transform commercial properties into attractive destinations with unique brands and customer experiences.
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Ad Vice Studios
David Goodwin is the president of Ad Vice Studios, a Richmond, Va-based marketing services company. David has built his career and his business collaborating with property managers, developers and architects to transform commercial properties into attractive destinations with unique brands and customer experiences.