Framers is a business Jonathan and I bought just over 3 years ago using vendor finance.
The previous owners had been looking to retire and had wound the business down to just 3 days a week, so there was a lot of potential and scope to improve things. They also had established some very good working practices and had some systems in place, which I knew we could build upon. The business also came with a good local reputation (which can be both good and bad for anyone taking over a business – this can be a bit of a double edged sword!), so we weren’t starting totally from scratch and could hit the ground running.
So what’s all this got to do with property, I hear you ask??? Well, evaluating a business is very much like evaluating a property. You look for the strengths, weaknesses, potential for adding value, take into account marketplace conditions, consider long-term and short-term strategies, and the potential returns.
(By the way, if you’re interested in finding out more about how to buy and sell businesses or about vendor finance, just ask – CLICK HERE)
But let’s take a look at the renovation. This one required some internal reconfiguration to make the space work better.
The layout consisted of a front retail shop, a working/storage area, which led, via a small alleyway, to workshops at the back. So a good sized property.
Although not in terrible shape by any stretch of the imagination, the shop had areas of dead space and felt a bit tired and cluttered, which made it appear smaller than it actually was.
We were very clear from the word go we wanted to really focus the business as a high-end bespoke framing shop, and not dilute that by having lots of extraneous and confusing content to clutter and confuse the customer.
Reconfiguring retail space is quite different to residential property. There are a number of important things that need to be considered. How d’you want your customer to move around and engage within the shop? How intuitive is the space? Do you need to filter their attention to specific displays or goods?
Knowing how to price point areas in your shop is also really important. It’s key to understanding your ‘most valuable hot spots’.
For example, around the till area is a very important ‘hot spot’. But how do you work out what is valuable space?
In the old shop this space was taken up with a lot of cheap picture hooks and other bits and pieces that not only made the whole area feel cluttered and busy, but didn’t take account of how valuable this space could be. So we changed this to showcase our photographic printing services, specialist glass samples and included different examples of how to approach photo framing. An average price for this service is about £120 ballpark (depending on frame, mounts, glass, etc.), whereas an average price for a pack of hooks was 50p. So, even if we only sold 1 frame per year on the back of this change, by comparison we’d have to sell 240 packs of hooks! If you then also factor in the time needed to spend with each customer for a sale, it would take over 12 hours to achieve the £120 in sales of hooks as opposed to maybe 30mins for the equivalent in one framing job. So you can quickly see it’s actually costing you money to sell someone a 50p hook!
So with all this in mind we stripped everything back (becoming a habit, this!). We boarded and plastered all the walls to get rid of the nasty old peg boards, painted everything out white (including the ceiling, which was previously dark wood) to bring more natural light into the space. There was old stained chip board on the floor, so we laid a new light oak laminate to help pull the areas together and bring more of a sophisticated finish.
We also designed new furniture, benches, storage, etc., all painted in the same colour to bring consistency and to reinforce our brand identity. Because the shop space isn’t huge we also had to come up with a few clever solutions for various problems, so for example we used lockable castors on each of the units so they could be moved around by one person, making cleaning, etc., much easier.
Strong branding I believe is key to any business and having a clear message carried through not only your physical ID, in terms of shop, stationary, etc., but also virtually with your website, marketing and social media, can really set you apart from the crowd, so it’s worth spending some time (and finding help if this isn’t your strong point) getting it right. And this doesn’t need to cost a fortune to achieve some great results. Check out www.framers.co.uk and let us know what you think!
So, like the art gallery, this was an interesting project in as much as it not only required our skills at reconfiguration and renovation, but it demanded a very different kind of thinking to a normal residential project.
If you’ve got a shop or business you think could do with some reconfiguration help just drop me a line.