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Enhancing Your Brand

Your company’s brand is more than your logo, website and mission statement; your brand also includes the appearance of your store inside and out. Undertaking an exterior renovation, or even just making a few small changes, can go a long way to welcoming customers and making your store an extension of your brand.

Hardware Retailing spoke with Judy Bell, a retail design strategist and author of “Silent Selling,” a college textbook on visual merchandising and store design. She shared best practices for making your exterior an extension of your brand. She is a member of the Retail Design Institute, Fashion Group International and Shop! Association, and worked for Target for 22 years as a retail presentation trend spotter and leader in inspiration.

Paint & Decorating Retailer (PDR): Why does a store’s exterior matter?

Judy Bell (JB): The store exterior is really a message board that communicates with clients. It’s the way a business says “hello.” It provides an opportunity to call out a retailer’s brand image, and also core qualities like trust. For example, would you trust a retailer with a cracked window and a lighted name with a few darkened letters? Anything that looks like it’s aged takes away from your brand’s image. You want to check every detail so that you’re making the positive impression you want to be making.

PDR: What are some must-have elements in a store’s exterior?

JB: A company’s business name should be positioned in a highly visible location and large enough to be seen by customers who drive by. It’s also important to consider everything that leads up to the building, because as soon as a customer turns into that parking lot, they are already getting a brand image. Your marketing, what you’re doing online and anything you put out there is all part of your brand, and that brand needs to show up on the exterior of your store and in the interior as well. Your brand is a promise you’re making to customers that starts in marketing and follows through in a shopper’s experience in the store, so all those things need to match up.

PDR: If a retail store can’t undergo a complete exterior renovation, what are some small changes retailers can make to improve the exterior?

JB: Stand back and take a look at the outside with fresh eyes. Ask yourself, “What elements detract from the store brand image you want to convey?” Fix those elements first. You can also shoot photos of your competitors’ stores and compare them side-by-side with your store, looking for changes you can make to stay a step ahead of them. Consider adding colorful, bold signs in the windows that announce what’s unique about your business or that invite clients in with a new innovative product.

PDR: What are some design trends you’re seeing in exteriors for retail stores and commercial spaces? 

JB: I’m seeing bolder call-outs of business names and logos. Take a look at how boldly Target signs its stores with its dominant bullseye logo. Even the center of the bullseye playfully lines the sidewalk in front of the store in the form of the red balls. They do an excellent job of branding on the outside of their stores, leading with a message that they are fun and playful.

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