Store style: How to put your best foot forward

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

YARMOUTH, Maine - When it comes to improving store style, the prevailing philosophy among successful HMEs goes something like this: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That's what Jack Evans, a consultant often called upon by HMEs to design or make over locations, says he hears all the time. Enter national competitive bidding and other reimbursement changes, however, and HMEs are changing their tune.
"They don't necessarily want their stores to look better," said Evans, president of Global Media Marketing in Malibu, Calif. "They really want alternative sources of income like retail, and I tell them, 'The first step to retail is a facelift.'"
Regardless of the changing Medicare reimbursement environment, the bottom line is: "If you want to attract customers--repeat customers--your store has to be inviting," Evans said.
Here are a few tips:
- Attractive windows. "They're usually used for storage, but they should look like department store windows," Evans said. "They should have mannequins and bright spotlights so customers can see what's in the window day and night."
- Room displays.
- Category signs, like the ones used by drug stores, so customers go to the right section of the store.
- A visible customer service desk so customers can get help immediately.
- Aisles about four feet wide to improve traffic flow, especially for customers in wheelchairs.
- Good lighting so customers can read packaging information easily.
- Location. Consider a hub-and-spoke model: a smaller retail location in a higher-visibility area and a larger warehouse in a commercial or industrial park. "It makes financial sense, too," Evans said. "You're going to pay around $3 per square foot for a retail location and about 50 cents per square foot for a warehouse."