How often should retailers undertake a refurbishment?

Raj Chandegra: You should do a mini refurb every three to four years and a major one every seven to 10 years, depending on the condition of the store. If you don’t do it regularly then your store will deteriorate quickly.

Mark Johnson: You should carry out a refurb every four years, although developing the store is a non-stop process – you should always be looking at ways to breathe life into the business.

Kishor Patel: A complete refit with new ceilings and floors is required once every 10 years, but you should have a mini refit every three years.

Simon Biddle: People can get set in their ways, but it’s a good idea to look at the store design at least every five years.

Which areas of the store need the most attention?

RC: It’s important to choose the right flooring. A ceramic floor should last 10-15 years, whereas a vinyl floor will last no more than 10. Ceramic costs more, but looks better and is easy to clean. However, if you’re dictated by your budget then better to use vinyl than do nothing.

MJ: The windows are the eyes of the shop so you should have a lot of activity there. I don’t like the idea of a generic pack shot on the windows – it doesn’t really tell you what’s going on inside. You should experiment with different displays and change them every six weeks to keep customers interested.

KP: The flooring around the counter needs to be changed fairly regularly because customers will notice if it becomes worn. Remember, too, that window graphics only last up to three years, so changing them every so often shows you’re up-to-date and it’s not a major cost.

SB: Counters wear out quickly and the flooring around the till needs to be looked at regularly.

Can you make changes yourself, or should you call in an expert?

RC: Shopfitting is a professional job, so it’s best to call in the experts. If you’re just doing bits and bobs, such as adding a bay of shelves or replacing a chiller, then you can handle it yourself. With a big job it’s best just to close the doors rather than work while the store’s open. A grand opening can also make a big impact on customers – you can really wow them. There’s nothing worse than trying to serve customers with wires and dust everywhere.

MJ: We make the decisions on display ourselves. We also install equipment, such as our new epos system, and I’ve even made my own wine shelving. We don’t have the money for a shopfitter and, besides, I think they can make a shop appear too sterile.

KP: We review merchandising and space-planning ourselves, but with bigger projects that involve replacing windows and doors we call in the professionals.

SB: We make many alterations ourselves, such as moving shelving or changing categories around. If you’re dealing with refrigeration or knocking a wall through then you need a professional.

Do you have a gut feeling about when a refit is due, or is it pointed out?

RC: It’s acknowledged that you’ll need a refit every so often. We put money aside each year to invest in business improvements.

MJ: You must cast a critical eye over your store and be ready to make changes. We’ve just ordered in a new fascia; many people would have said that the current one is okay, but I think it’s a bit weathered.

KP: It’s gut feeling rather than anything else – I can usually tell what needs replacing and when.

SB: We change things around when we get bored of the layout. When customers know where an item that they want to buy is, they go straight over to it without looking at anything else. If you keep changing the store around then shoppers tend to purchase additional items before they find what they came in for.

How much do you involve customers in the process?

RC: It’s important to get their views on what products they want, but it can backfire when you’re looking at refits. Customers see the shop in a different light to the retailer and they don’t always know what’s viable.

MJ: We often ask customers what needs doing with regard to range.

KP: If there’s a new range or look to the store, we’ll often research it with customers to make sure that they feel it’s a step forward.

SB: We don’t consult customers as such, but they always give us positive feedback once we’ve made any changes.

Do you work to a strict budget when refurbishing?

RC: I set myself a budget, but it’s not strict. If a full refit would cost £100,000 and you only have £70,000, then you might stretch to £80,000 and then look at which pieces of equipment are good enough to retain.

MJ: Clearly, you have to budget – everything in the business affects the bottom line.

KP: It’s important to limit your spending. A mini refit – for example, new counters in a 2,000sq ft store – could cost between £22,000 and £44,000. A big refit could set you back about £120,000-£140,000.

SB: It’s the same as when you’re making home improvements – you set a budget, but normally it runs a little over.

Do you expect investments to

pay for themselves in time?

RC: Payback should be three years – two if you’re lucky, five if you’re unlucky. But it can’t be measured in sales only. For example, if you plan to sell the store then you can demand a higher price than you would have before the refit.

MJ: You can’t get an exact measurement, but you’d certainly expect increased footfall.

KP: We always see a boost in sales post-refit. Even if sales stayed the same we’d still need to have refits to retain existing customers. It takes about three years to pay back a major refit and one year for a minor.

SB: Our last extension paid for itself within a year because more people came to the store, but it can take three or four years.

Is it right to think about expanding or refurbishing in the current climate?

RC: Generally, money makes money. If your current turnover is £15,000 then a refit could bring it up to £20,000, so even if you’re losing 10% of sales because of the credit crunch, then you’re still making a profit. Why wait? If you can afford to do it now, then do it.

MJ: It’s a certainly a brave time to refit now, but who’s to say whether it’s right or wrong.

KP: It’s still important to service your business by making minor changes, even if you can’t afford a full refit. You’ve got to keep investing in all areas, otherwise when times get better you’ll have a lot of catching up to do and it’ll cost a lot more.

SB: The credit crunch means people are shopping more on a day-to-day basis, which suits convenience stores, so having a refit now could work to your advantage.

Do you have plans for a store refit in the near future?

RC: We’re refitting one of our Barnes stores at the moment. Before the refit our main sales came from confectionery, news and tobacco, so the refit will help the convenience side of things to perform better.

MJ: We don’t have a set date – we believe in continual improvements.

KP: All my stores will get new signage and graphics over the next month as Nisa has changed its fascia design.

SB: We’ll be carrying out a refit over the next few weeks. We’re expanding by moving the kitchen from out of the back of the store and into another premises.