Moving a store is not easy, even when it is a smart business decision. From selecting the perfect location and designing your new space to packing your shop and informing your customer base, the details of relocating all need careful attention. Here, retailers who relocated talk about how their experiences in their previous space shaped their expectations and ideas for a new one, giving details on what they added to their wish lists and what they planned to avoid.
Meet the Movers
Terry Leyen, manager
SAS Dance Supply
St. Peters, MO
“The main reason the store relocated was for additional space. Our new location is slightly more than double our original location.”
Rosemary Liberto, owner
“Our building was owned by the previous owner of Ellman’s. After she retired, her next step was to sell the building. She told me I needed to be out after the end of year. I’d been looking at a building for a while. We were outgrowing the 3,000 square feet we had.”
Evelyn Taylor, owner
Center Stage Boutique
“We had to move because the store flooded in Hurricane Harvey last August. We got about eight inches to a foot of water. Fortunately, we didn’t lose a lot of inventory because it was hanging on racks, but I had a few shipments left on the ground in boxes that were damaged.”
New Location Wish List
Evaluating your current space will help you create a list of must-haves for a new location. Whatever ends up on your list, you may find that fulfilling all your wishes in the same place is hard to do. It’s time to prioritize. Leyen, Liberto and Taylor shared the categories they put above everything else.
The Right Location
You don’t need to know much about real estate to know that location is everything. This was a top priority for SAS Dance Supply, which celebrated its grand reopening this past August. The previous store was centrally located near several local dance studios, high schools and colleges, and it was on a main commercial street that saw more than 30,000 cars a day. “It was imperative we stay as close as possible to our previous location,” Leyen says. “Our new store is only one block away.”
Taylor’s store was located on a major highway where traffic would speed by at close to 70 miles per hour. She felt it was hard for people to notice her business, and that it could be dangerous for little ones coming and going. She was looking for a location that felt safer and more visible. “I like the new road I’m on,” she says. “The speed limit is 45 miles per hour.”
When deciding on a new location, consider also how customers approach your store. Liberto found a space that is on a side street, half a block from the main shopping center. She says that since Ellman’s Dancewear is a destination store, being off the main street is OK. She noticed her sales improved after the move and attributes that to the accessibility of her space.
Selling and Storage Space
Adding more space to a store’s sales floor or inventory storage is a big part of why many retailers move. Growing sales sometimes simply requires growing your square footage. “We kept getting requests from our customers for additional brands or types of merchandise,” says Leyen. “To meet the needs of our customers, a move was necessary.” She adds that attending the Atlantic Dance Retail Show last January with the store’s owner, Kathleen Martinez, was a big step toward making the move a reality. When Martinez saw all the merchandise on the market that the store could, should and had requests to carry, she decided a move was the right step. Now SAS Dance Supply’s sales floor is streamlined and uncluttered, which showcases the merchandise better, adds Leyen.
Liberto says her new store, at 6,000 square feet, is almost double the size of her previous one. Not only does the extra space allow her to spread out her sales floor and offer customers more options, she was able to create a small lounge area with couches and toys for customers shopping with small children. She says this area has been a lifesaver, “especially during back-to-school, so moms can focus.”
Pro Design Help
Creating a thoughtful and appealing design was important to each retailer. While some found that hiring a professional designer to help shape the space was beneficial, others took on the task themselves. Either way, storeowners often needed friends and family to pitch in for some heavy lifting.
Consider your budget and your own personal strengths before deciding what tasks you can take on, and which you should hand over to a professional. Liberto, for example, hired a designer to help her source furniture and create a floor plan, but took the rest of the work on herself. The designer was a former employee who had gotten her degree in corporate interior design, so she was familiar with the space and working with Liberto.
The designer’s expertise was a huge help, saving time and money by helping find everything from couches that would be easy to clean to less expensive printed fabric options.
New spaces often require construction. If you’re renting out the space, worrying about contractors likely won’t fall on you. However, you still may need to do some building. Leyen says that the building owners took care of all the work before SAS moved in, leaving them with a few small design projects. But Taylor needed dressing rooms and a front desk. Her husband took on the task, using galvanized tin to create walls for dressing rooms and a storage room. He also incorporated the tin into the front counter. “It all tied together,” says Taylor, who added black accents. “It looks upscale and elegant and charming and inviting.”
Your customers’ experience outside of your store is just as important as what goes on inside, and that includes having ample parking spaces. “I knew the number-one thing I needed was a parking lot,” says Taylor. In her previous location, cars only had a driveway to park in, which made approaching the store difficult. Liberto’s parking also got an upgrade—customers now have access to a parking lot with more than 50 spaces, connected to the store’s back entrance. Having the parking lot in the rear is crucial: Customers don’t have to look for parking on the busy main street, which can be a challenge.
Budgeting for a Move
Liberto says her budget went a little over what she anticipated. However, having a professional designer to consult helped her get back on track. Originally, “the furniture budget was bigger, but we cut that in half,” she says. Liberto paid extra for staff to help move, then paid staff to work all week unpacking and organizing the new space, although the store wasn’t getting any revenue.
Taylor kept costs around $3,000, including moving and decorating. “A lot of fixtures didn’t get damaged, so we cleaned and salvaged those items,” she says.
Leyen says they also stuck to a small budget for their move, only really paying for moving costs and some small decorating items. They purchased furniture and fixtures from buy/sell sites on Facebook and took on a lot of the design work themselves. Everything they purchased was secondhand. “Both myself and my assistant are pretty crafty and creative,” she says. “We found things, painted and made items for the store.”
Bumps in the Road
Starting off in a new location is exciting, but the move can be stressful. Having to rely on moving companies, and sometimes friends, can leave you feeling out of control and stressed. Have a backup plan so you are prepared for any unexpected events.
“There were a few miscommunications with the moving company,” Liberto says. Movers said they didn’t know about a large shelving unit that had to be disassembled, so other arrangements had to be made for moving it. Then they threw all of the shoes into large bins, but didn’t keep them in color or size order. “It took four days to sort through all the ballet slippers,” Liberto says.
Liberto’s backup plan included hiring two extra people to help, whom she paid through the week to sort and set things up. Having those extra hands—one was the husband of a former employee who works as a contractor—helped to keep the move on track.
Evaluate ahead of time how long you will need to complete your move. Some can do it over a short period. For example, Liberto moved during the week between Christmas and New Year; still, it took nearly six months to feel settled in the new space, she says.
Leyen says they were able to get into the space early and set fixtures up. The move itself only took a few days. “We already had planned where items would go,” she says. “We closed the store at 5 pm on Friday and began moving merchandise immediately. We had friends, family and volunteers help us with the move. Since we were only a block away, we even had employees roll racks of leotards down the street.”
Taylor took longer to move because she was also fixing up and selling her home, which the storm had damaged as well. She decided to focus on her house first and took several months off from her business. She didn’t know if she would even reopen, but she knew the community needed her. “I was able to reopen for recital season,” she says. “I ordered tights and everything I thought dancers would need. I still didn’t know if I could do it permanently—we were finishing our home and didn’t have the time and energy to put into the business. I decided we’d look for space over the summer, and I’d only open if I found something.”
Spreading the Word
Make sure your customers can find you after a move. Keep them up-to-date through social-media posts, e-newsletters and grand-opening events. Taylor held two grand-opening ribbon cuttings with the Chambers of Commerce for two surrounding counties. “With me being out of business for almost a year, I knew people had to go elsewhere for what they needed,” she says. “I knew I needed to do a big reopening event.” To draw people back, she built up excitement through social media, posting sneak peeks and tiny details but not revealing the entire location and address until the store was ready. She says keeping the space a secret created a buzz and drove traffic to the store once it officially opened. “We had a line of people around the building on opening day,” she says. “The Chamber ambassadors said it was the largest ribbon cutting they have ever attended. More than 100 people were waiting for us to reopen. It was surreal.”
Another great way to build excitement is to host a private grand opening for studios and teachers to give them an up-close look at new products and store features. SAS Dance Supply did just this on the Friday night of its first week, inviting dance teachers, studio owners and choreographers. “We offered wine, cheese and fruit, and each person took home a gift,” Leyen says. “We took the opportunity to show what SAS Dance Supply had to offer their dancers, get their dress codes and speak with them about custom costumes.”
The next day SAS Dance Supply ran sales on in-store items as well as a sidewalk clearance sale. “We gave out free popcorn and had an ice cream truck here for part of the day,” says Leyen. “Customers who showed their receipts received free ice cream for the whole family. We also had Vicki, our sales representative for Whirl-a-Style, here demonstrating how to use the product.”
Don’t wait to start sharing the news of your new location. Leyen began promoting the relocation three months before the actual move. This included posting photos to social media, a live Facebook tour of the new space and handing out flyers to customers.
Some other ideas that helped Leyen build buzz: Painting the windows of the new location, hanging up a grand reopening banner and adding a small sign about the move at the old location. Most important, don’t forget to change the address on your website, social-media platforms and Google listing.
Moving to a new location takes a huge effort, but a fresh start in a new place can create buzz for your brand, add excitement for staff and customers alike and lead to new growth for your business. Taking the time to consider your current space—from its limitations to its advantages—you can be sure your new space will be a good fit for years to come.
Photos: courtesy of SAS Dance Supply; courtesy of Center Stage Boutique