Since returning from the Westfield tour I have been paying particular attention to how much Australian retailers tend to spend on their store fit out and how that impacts getting people through the door.
Now I have no scientific methods or masses of data to back my conclusion up, but the answers seems to be quite a lot.
In all the cities we went to the businesses that generated the most interest or had the most people in had a few things in common, they were either;
a) An Apple or Nike Store
b) In a tourist hot spot
c) Offered a unique product or service
d) Had a great fit out and ambience
All of these points seem quite obvious, but what struck me about the last one was that stores that were selling relatively inexpensive goods and selling lots of it, always seemed to be those that had invested a bit in their fit out.
An obvious case here would be Uniqlo with their multi million dollar fit outs that sell $10 jeans, but as one of the worlds biggest fashion retailers, using them as an example would not be appropriate. Although one of their plain looking stores in London was pretty dead so it may even apply to them.
In a shopping centre in Tokyo, there was a few small independent stores that sold trinkets like candles, photo frames, jewelry etc. that had invested heavily in their fit out and seemed to be reaping the awards, in London, the Accessorize chain of stores seemed to pay a lot of attention to fit out and VM and had people lining up to buy their cheap jewelry,
In Australia the â€˜premium fit outâ€™ model only seems to have been adopted by companies selling a perceived premium product and there are examples that do it very well, Max Brenner and The Cupcake Bakery being two that spring immediately to mind.
But what of the other end of the market where the fit out is used to attract customers to a value product? There are some around, such as Supre and one or two others on the basement level of The Westfield in Pitt Street, Sydney but they seem to be quite rare
Which is why one that I discovered today was encouraging but also surprising because of itâ€™s line of business, Chargrill Charlieâ€™s Chicken shop in St. Ives. This is a recently opened store and part of a small family owned chain of 5, but the fit out spend would easily rival big chains like Nandoâ€™s and from the outside would easily outstrip Oportoâ€™s too.
Unfortunately I was not permitted to take photos, so youâ€™ll have to take my word for it but it was impressive. Distressed timber fittings, an eclectic mix of tables and chairs, tasteful dÃ©cor and hand made signage frames all give it a premium feel and make it a place you would be happy to spend time and money in. It of course helps that their product range looked great and had some wonderful additional offerings not normally associated with this environment, like individually baked apple crumbles, which are a personal favorite.
On leaving I notice there is an established â€˜competitiveâ€™ chicken shop three doors down from Charlieâ€™s, which would normally have been a reason for them to open somewhere else, but the investment that has been made has made that store almost irrelevant and made the choice between where to dine a no-brainer. Something that any store owner would love to be able to say.