When you’re used to being a bootstrapping entrepreneur, you might have a tendency to take a DIY approach to tackling most challenges in your retail business.
Whether you’re opening a pop-up or committing to something more long term, the world of retail can be daunting when you have to consider innumerable things like your window display, store layout, signage, and visual merchandising.
However, sometimes it makes sense to leave certain tasks to a professional—if you have the budget, that is. This is especially true when it comes to your store design. While it’s possible to create a store design yourself, making it appealing, inviting, and designed to optimize your sales can be more difficult than it looks.
And that’s where the professionals come in.
The process of hiring a store designer for your retail business is similar to hiring one for your home or office.
Though some specialize in residential or commercial environments, most are trained to handle both types of job. Even though interior designers are often well-versed in both commercial and residential designs, you’ll want to find the right person for the job based on your needs.
In this article, you’ll learn what a store designer does, why hiring one can help your offline sales, and how to find the right store designer for your retail business.
What is a store designer?
A retail store designer creates and improves the image of a store. Some store designers may work on the structural design of a retail store or building, but interior store design is what we’re focusing on in this article. This involves designing the store layout, color scheme, window displays, visual merchandising, and more.
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Why hire a store designer?
There are plenty of practical reasons to hire a professional to create your store’s interior design. Some of the most common advantages include:
- Saving money. Sounds counterintuitive right? But think of all the costly mistakes you might make. Working with an experienced store designer can help you avoid expensive errors in judgment.
- Budgeting and planning. As with doing anything for the first time, creating a budget, researching products and prices, complying with regulatory matters, and planning timelines can be a major headache. But a store designer can help you sidestep all of that.
- Their network. Typically, store designers have solid relationships with select vendors and can obtain discounts and access resources that might not otherwise be available.
- Coherence. Store designers have a trained eye and are excellent visual storytellers. That means they’ll pay close attention to how all the minor details come together to create the complete customer experience
- The “wow” factor. Let’s face it. Worrying about your store’s “bounce” rate is just as vital offline as it is online. So, why not optimize for conversion with a store designer?
Now that we’ve established the “why” behind hiring a store designer, let’s look at some of the key steps to take to ensure that the person you hire is right for the job.
📚FURTHER READING: Learn more about the basics of visual merchandising in our guide to high-converting product displays.
How to hire a store designer
There’s nothing quite like word-of-mouth referrals when you’re trying to find seasoned pros to work with.
Start by asking friends, family, and other acquaintances in the industry. If you don’t find anyone offhand, take note when visiting other retail stores and see what catches your eye. Ask the owner who did the store design and about their experience. Also, ask for a price range so you know the kind of investment you’d need to make to work with that professional.
At some point in your search, you may turn to good old Google to help you find the right store designer for the job. You can search for “retail store designers” on freelance platforms like Fiverr or Upwork, but interior design communities are also a great place to look, as some of the professionals may specialize in commercial or store design. Here are some great online resources where you can start your search:
American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)
This is an online community of designers, industry representatives, educators, and students, where you’ll be able to find and locate potential store designers near you in the US.
Interior Designers of Canada (IDC)
Founded in 1972, the Interior Designers of Canada is an advocacy association that makes it easy to find interior designers for projects both small and large.
Though geared primarily toward homeowners looking for home remodeling and design help, Houzz’s Find a Pro feature allows you to easily access a database of more than two million professionals who won’t have a problem adapting their expertise to a retail environment.
💡PRO TIP: In addition to searching online, you could also post your project on sites like Indeed to see what types of inbound responses you get.
Define your vision
This is an important step. When you start meeting with potential candidates, you’ll want to clearly and effectively communicate what kind of store design you’d like to incorporate into your brick-and-mortar location.
Start with foundational design aspects, such as styles you like, color palettes, and types of visual merchandising you envision using. These are all good starting points for the store designer to work with.
Try organizing your ideas on Pinterest. Not only can you find an infinite amount of inspiration, but you can create a board to start collecting images for your designer to reference.
Interview several candidates
Not only will you want to look at every store designer’s respective portfolios and relevant projects, you’ll want to ask them to break down their process for tackling your job.
In the interview, ask them to spell out timelines, work schedules, and fees, but also request references you can call to get firsthand accounts of what it’s like to work with them.
Create a clear and detailed contract
Once you have a candidate for the job and come to an agreement on what’s expected from both parties, the next step is to put everything on paper. Clearly outline the terms and payment details in a contract agreed upon by both parties.
Moving forward with a store designer
Once contracts are signed, agreements are made, and expectations are set, kick off the process with a bang and get ready to see your vision, brand, and products come to life before you in their new home: a beautifully designed retail store that catches the eye on the street and past the door.
If you’ve hired a store designer for your retail business, be sure to let us know the good and the ugly sides of your experience by commenting below.
This post was originally written by Humayun Khan and has been updated by Alexis Damen.
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Store designer FAQ
What does a store designer do?
A retail store designer is responsible for creating and designing store layouts, displays, and other visual elements within a retail space. They ensure that the store is visually appealing, organized, and functional for customers. Store designers also create branding elements and signage, and may even be involved in creating store promotions.
What are the key elements in the design of stores?
The goal of retail store design is to create an environment that not only encourages customers to purchase products but also provides an enjoyable shopping experience. Consider these elements in your store design:
- Store layout and traffic flow
- Product displays
- Visual merchandising
- Lighting design
- Color and texture
- Branding and style
- Checkout placement
How do you design a store interior?
Design for retail experiences is the process of creating a customer-focused shopping experience through the strategic use of physical space, visual merchandising, product display, and other elements. This could include creating an inviting atmosphere, optimizing the store layout, creating engaging visuals, and providing a seamless customer journey. The goal of design for retail is to create an enjoyable and memorable shopping experience that encourages customers to return.