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Kat Maclennan
/ 24 Apr, 2020
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How to Plan for an Impactful Re-opening

As a Visual Merchandising Consultant I have spent my career collaborating with brands, creating exciting and commercial retail environments. Travelling all over the world, working in shops, side by side with store teams and customers has been the most fulfilling part of my job.  

Now, along with everyone else, I am stunned at how quickly normal life as we know it has changed.  My feelings swing from total paralysis through to a strong pressure to achieve and be fully productive in this strange and unsettling time.  I am hanging onto the thought that we are all in this together, I’m not the only person sensitive to this, these are completely normal feelings and emotions.   

Taking time to pause and reflect before rushing to action is an important step to take.  The world will be a very different place when we come through this trauma. What worked previously may not be the case anymore, every crisis is an opportunity to take stock and build new foundations.

Flexibility and agility are huge strengths that independent retailers have, the ability to change is so important right now.  I have been thinking of some points that capitalise on these assets to help plan for an impactful re-opening of your stores.

Reflect and review where you are now…..

It is important that facts are used to make informed decisions along side the more emotional unknows we will encounter.  

  •  Look at stock levels, are you missing any key items?
  •  Can you build impactful stories?
  •  Do you have enough product to create full displays?
  •  Monitor your best selling lines over previous months or vs last year, where and how are they merchandised?
  •  Analyse your current VM principles, what works best for you visually and commercially?
  •  Space
  •  Map out your highest and lowest selling areas on a floor plan
  •  Assess fixture placement and store layout, could you re configure your store?
  •  Can you refresh or adapt existing fixtures by painting or cladding shelves and tables?


- Review your window calendar, plan in window displays around key events, product stories and promotions
- Design a range of different window concepts and cost them up so you can implement quickly and easily
- Do you need to freshen your window area, check lighting, repaint walls, floor and display tools?

Think about the future….

Imagine how exciting it will feel once can go out into the world again, customers will be craving newness and interaction with people and product.  There is a real
necessity to create innovative retail spaces and give customers access to experiences not available during lockdown. 

- Develop individual and bespoke customer events or services
- Consider personalisation of product or bundles of items
- Create total store take overs using themes or product stories, change everything frequently encouraging customers to come back and see what is new
- Click and collect/home delivery services will still be important
- Kindness, helping others, and connecting people is a real positive to come out of this process, retailers can help to facilitate this for local communities

Re-emerging from our homes will also feel nerve wracking, we have been strictly programmed to perceive space, physical distance and hygiene in a very different way now.  The retail environment needs to accommodate this ensuring customers and store teams feel safe and secure. 

- Consider space between fixtures, make sure there is enough room to navigate your space easily
- Do you need to control how many people are in the store at any one time, can you achieve this in an easy to understand and gracious way?
- Ensure there is enough space around the cash desk so everyone can wait  easily
- Should you consider become cashless and only accepting card transactions?

In conclusion…..

The only thing that is certain is no one will operate in the same way once we come out of lockdown, what will the new retail landscape look and feel like and what can you do to plan for this?#

- Take your time and process the situation
- Review where you are now
- Look at what you can do to refresh or change your current retail environment
- Plan a range of floor layouts, VM planograms and window concepts so you are ready to implement quickly
- Think about how you can excite and engage your customer
- Consider our new feelings about space, hygiene and physical distancing
- Remember every crisis is an opportunity to take stock and build new foundations, independent retailers have the advantage of adaptability and flexibility. I am excited to see how we all rise to this challenge, but above all be kind to yourself and take your time.

If you feel you would benefit from some advice specific to your brand and store environment, or to find out more about how I work with retailers, please contact me directly, I would love to hear from you.




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