Editor Dan Owen spoke to Millerbrown Design Director Paul Sanders, to find out why a well laid out, freshly refit store, can make your business more profitable
Who are Millerbrown?
Millerbrown is a niche, specialist shopfitting company that has evolved to deal primarily with the golf sector. We do also have some specialist retail clients, mainly high-end jewellery stores, but our focus has always been golf. We’ve been around for over 20 years, and the senior management team has more than 60 years of combined experience in retail design. We can focus purely on the retail display element of a project, or carry out a full turn-key operation – or anywhere in-between as best suits our client.
We’ve worked with a long list of courses. Some high-end clubs that come to mind include Sunningdale, Beaverbrook, Gleneagles, Royal Dornoch, The Scandinavian and Skibo, but we work at all levels of the game. We’ve also recently completed projects for Woking, Canterbury, Harewood Downs, and The JCB Club.
How does having a store refit benefit a business?
It’s very rare that we fit a new store for purely cosmetic reasons. Most of the time it’s because retailers want to improve their performance. This can come from just improved turnover, but personally, I think it’s the larger margins that can be made from more professional merchandising that are far more important. If you can sell a more profitable item, more regularly, then it follows you’ll make more money.
Each time we visit a new client we conduct what we call a commercial investigation. This how we find out how their business has developed, what they think is working, and what they’re unhappy with. We’ll also ask, ‘if you could wave a magic wand, what would you really want?’ We expand on that, playing devil’s advocate, and go on the journey with them to explore all the possible routes that they could go down. We also ask ‘what are your plans for expansion’ – because there is rarely little point in doing something now that might box you in three years down the line. We have all these conversations to draw out as much background detail as possible because, although we’ll never know their business like they do, we need to understand it as well as we possibly can.
We always design stores so that customers feel comfortable about shopping the whole store. We plan great visual presentation into every design, but also, importantly, we plan layouts with natural spaces where people can browse something without feeling in the way or that shunt effect you often get in congested stores.
A key element of our business, and one which we are well known for, is that there’s never a set formula to our store designs so that the finished store always complements the client’s business – both visually and commercially. We sit down with every client and start right from the beginning. What’s your game plan? What do you want? Where do you want to be in one year, in five years? What’s your profitability? What’s the real reason you’re doing this?
How has COVID-19 impacted your business this year?
Like probably just about every other business in the country, in early March everything just fell off a cliff. Projects that were underway were moth-balled, and everyone sat on their hands!
But immediately lockdown ended the phone started ringing, with some clients restarting projects that were part-way through, but also some with completely new projects. It’s also not unusual for us to start work on a project under one owner only for the club to change hands partway through and this happened during lockdown at a large UK club. We had first visited the site a couple of years ago then, in September, out of the blue, the new owners rang and asked us to help plan their retail future.
But our first post-lockdown request came from Stockley Park near Uxbridge in late July and the client stressed that there was some urgency in getting momentum back to their Covid-delayed plans. We managed to complete their new shop within 5 weeks of their first contact.
So, suddenly, it’s all picked up again, and I think next year we’re going to be in a position where we’re going to be as busy as we’ve ever been as many people now appear to have got to a position with COVID-19 where they’re saying, ‘we now understand what we’re dealing with – and we can’t sit on our hands forever’. From our perspective, and especially if social distancing is going to be a thing for the foreseeable future, it means that clubs are going to be looking at every aspect of revenue generation to boost the coffers – and retail income is obviously going to take on a whole new importance.
And, assuming that the pandemic is slowly brought under control, I think golf will still be a winner, because it’s a lot easier to nip out for a round in the late afternoon if you’re working from home!
How long does it take to plan and refit a store?
Although we managed to turn Stockley Park around from start to finish in just five weeks, six weeks is our preferred minimum. Of that six weeks, four weeks are taken up with manufacturing the joinery etc. for the new store so, by rushing, there’s a risk of cutting back on the gestation period where we find out about your store, your business, and your wants and needs, which are so important in ensuring that we get to the perfect design.
In an ideal world, eight to ten weeks is preferable and usually gives all parties sufficient time, assuming that no complicated structural or building work is required. Should building works be necessary we can either organise the whole project as a turn-key or work alongside the club’s own architects and builders.
What tips have you got for retailers so they can help improve their stores?
PRESENTATION, PRESENTATION, PRESENTATION.
It’s easy to forget when you enter a pro shop, that most people aren’t consciously there to go shopping, and are mostly going to see the Pro, check tee times, or book lessons. Shopping is usually very much a secondary thought – if it’s a thought at all – so the shop, therefore, has to look 100%, because it’s got to distract a customer from the main reason that they went in.
Coupled with this, customers need to see clearly what it is that you’re trying to sell them. You certainly don’t want customers to feel like they are in a store where it’s so cluttered that nothing stands out, because a cluttered environment won’t create impulse sales, as most customers won’t even bother to start looking. If they do look most customers will want a deal because to most of us clutter usually means bargain/discount/low prices.
Finally, try to create visual symmetry and balance. Themed and colour coordinated displays will always look and sell better than the appearance of an over-stocked shop because they sit more easily and attractively in the eyes of your customers, and don’t ‘fight’ with our natural desire for neatness and order. Special promotions have their place but can easily take over and allow a shop to look like a bargain basement.
Ultimately it’s always quality presentation that produces more profitable total sales. GR