Open for Business: Be Sure Your Storefront Is Welcoming

Since so many of my clients are small-business owners, I'd like to make mention of the following tips for those business owners with physical storefronts. In my daily travels about my community, I pass by many businesses, and I am not shy about offering advice when I see an ineffective sign, poor lighting or other unwelcoming aspects that could cause a passerby to change her mind about stopping in. The reason I am so passionate about these types of things is because in this increasingly corporate economy, I root for the little guy, the mom-and-pop shops that are boldly trying to make it in an era in which many people shop for everything, groceries included, online. So don't repel precious foot traffic by making the following mistakes:

1. Make Sure All (Necessary) Lights Are Alight

The other day, I passed by a storefront that had a neon "Open" sign in the window, but it wasn't lit. I'm all for energy conservation, but that, combined with the fact that it was a sunny day, made it difficult to tell if any lights were on in the store. As a result, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be able to stop in that day, but then at the last second, I caught sight of the posted hours and realized that I was well within that window of time, so I took my chances and tried the door. They were indeed open! But again, I could've just as easily passed by, thinking they weren't.

If you turn off neon signs off to conserve energy and it's a nice day, then prop your door open or put a standing sign outside the door welcoming people in — perhaps a chalkboard with daily specials or a discount or a freebie or even just a friendly thought of the day. Or, take down neon signs completely if you're not going to light them.

2. Empty Shelves Lead to Empty Sales

A couple weeks ago, I passed by a storefront which housed a local bakery that had called it quits. When I began to walk by, not paying complete attention, the only thing I saw in the window was an empty rack. I thought to myself, "Oh, no one has rented out this space yet." As I passed, I also spotted three loaves of bread on a vertically tiered rack, one on each level. I thought to myself, "Man, they really left in a hurry; they left their bread behind!" Realizing that this couldn't be the case, I did a double-take and, much to my amazement, I saw a couple people inside! Turns out the former bakery was replaced with a NEW one. I inquired inside and the friendly owner informed me that he just opened the week before.

When I mentioned the empty rack, he explained that since he just opened, he hadn't filled the cake display rack yet, and I told him my theory. Foot traffic in that particular area of town is so scattered and unreliable, so again, with broad daylight making it hard to see in the windows, you have to ensure that as a business owner, you are doing everything possible to draw people in. If you don't have a sign yet (as many small towns require board approval for signage), then buy a string of those multicolored triangle flags and drape them from one end of your window to the other on the EXTERIOR of the building. And don't put empty racks or shelves in the window. If someone passing your storefront only makes one glance your way and all he spots is an empty rack, then he will draw the conclusion that you are not open for business.

By the way, I'm so glad I stopped in because this bakery has the BEST chocolate ganache cake, and this is coming from the daughter of a baker.

3. Clear Out the Clutter

A new flooring store opened nearby and again, they did not yet have an exterior sign, as they were awaiting town board approval. Perhaps they were intending for a soft opening, but I passed that store a lot and never realized they were actually open for business. That's because in the front window, they had equipment propped up against the walls and along the floor — things I couldn't recognize outright but looked to me like a hand truck and other equipment-related items. I realize it's a flooring store, so the store consists mainly of row upon row of flooring samples, but that doesn't mean the storefront should be cluttered. Arrange inventory in a logical way and be sure to remove any unnecessary and/or unflattering objects from the window. Also, having some sort of generic "Now Open!" sign in the window would help while they are temporarily without signage.

Strive to make your storefront as welcoming as possible. Don't make potential customers second-guess as to whether you are open for their business.

What tactics do you use to make your storefront more welcoming?

Thanks for reading,


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