SDEA’s top tips for retail success
Heidi Easton of the Shop and Display Equipment Association advises independents on how to make the most of their store environments to drive sales.
For somebody who has natural design creativity and flair, the art of good store design may be simple.  But for most of us, designing an exciting store can be really tough!     You may have thousands of different products to display in a compact space.  You may be fearful of losing existing customers or missing a valuable sale and have certainly never considered your store as a work of art before.  Does this sound familiar?  Then read on.

Setting up a shop is not an easy option these days. The competition is vast, the sophistication and demands are intense and to make matters worse, the continued depressed economic climate means consumer confidence and spend is at an all time low.  Even the muscles of the multiples, flexed and toned to perfection, are struggling for survival.

Internet sales continue to rise and have an increasingly detrimental effect on our traditional shopping routes with mobile phones opening up yet another convenient shopping channel.  The latest mobile phone apps make shopping, or sourcing a bargain, even easier.  The app directs you to the nearest and cheapest store stocking a particular product, all you do, is scan the item.  The supermarkets, though not terribly inspirational, continue to eat away at our profits too, providing convenience and an even broader product range!
With so much competition it is amazing that any independents are still trading. Getting the right mix is essential for survival.  You must be aware of the trends and be prepared to apply them to your business, boasting both unique products and unique instore interior!


No more cramped, cluttered stores, which is where so many retailers go wrong.  A modern, minimal interior, backed up by good customer service, is the answer and works every time.  It gives the customer more space to shop both physically and emotionally and in turn allows the products to stand out, increasing sales and securing repeat business.


The good news is that people still love to shop, but the bad news is their expectations are even greater!  They want to look good, they want the latest trends, they want to keep up with technology and they want the best, and above all, they want the ‘best’ price.


This is where the Shop and Display Equipment Association can help.  SDEA has a vast array of suppliers and manufacturers who between them can offer you literally thousands of innovative and exciting products and services.  Many of them will even be able to put together a themed project, as well as designing, manufacturing and installing it for you – a complete turnkey operation!


Here are our ten top tips for independent retail success: –


SDEA’s top ten tips


Strip out the clutter to create a clean and more spacious environment where the customer feels comfortable and wants to stay longer!

Branding is vital – whether you are an independent, or multiple chain store the overall design must reflect your corporate identity, brand heritage and outlook.

Consider the products that you stock and how they fit together, what colours and styles work best together, what they convey and what you want to get across to the public.

Identify your target market and aim your product displays and shopfittings at that audience.  For instance; if you’re target audience is young, the store needs to bright and bold, definitely fashionable and trendy, if you’re attracting the thirty to forty somethings it should be more stylish and elegant with a contemporary edge, and, for an older clientele classic colours and themes with a twist (they’re not as old as they used to be!).

Choose a relevant theme, create a unique feature, enlarge upon it and make it the very essence of your shop.  You could do this using, props and accessories, and be very flamboyant and quirky, or you could use actual fittings and fixtures to help convey the store’s overall outlook; by selecting rugged, unfinished shelving and railing for an outdoors feel, or perhaps intricate and elaborate designs for a one-off boutique.  Bear in mind that smart, modern, relatively neutral fixtures and fittings create the perfect backdrop allowing the product to shine!  Whichever route you chose the design should embody your core ethics and outlook.

Stunning windows bring the shoppers in!  Be creative, use lots of colour and have fun.  When the shop is closed it continues to work so it needs to be powerful!  Windows and instore displays must work together in order to entice the customer in and excite them into purchasing.    Another popular alternative is to open up the entire storefront using a glass facade so that the customer can see right across the store and navigate their journey before even entering.  Large format graphics have become popular display aids.  They are a great means to convey ‘lifestyle’ branding, a picture speaks a millions words, and, are economical and easy to roll out to multiple stores.

Good lighting is essential!  It has the ability to make or break a great store layout.  Bright lighting is imperative for successful display, way finding and the feel good factor.  There are a number of thriving retailers that use dramatic, theatrical lighting within very dark stores as part of their inherent identity; Desigual, Superdry, All Saints to name a few, but there is no place for a poorly lit store!

Smells and tastes are also important.  No one wants to enter a foul smelling store, or changing area!  These elements really come into play with foodie shops and cafes where delightful aromas of coffee, cake and tasty samples entice you into buying.

For the perfect retail mix, add a variety of instore events, special offers and customer loyalty benefits to ensure additional footfall and sales in quiet times.

Good customer service – there’s absolutely no point in investing in your store interior unless you invest in your staff.  Polite and courteous staff, well informed about the product and willing to help and offer advice when necessary, will win every time.


SDEA has a unique guide to retail display, full of creative and innovative ideas and inspiration for creating retail environments that work.  The SDEA Directory lists all our members with detailed descriptions of their products and services.  The showcase gallery offers a visual interpretation of their many retail display items and the quick reference guides help you locate a supplier by the retail trade or the products in which they specialise.


This Directory is usually priced at £10, but the first 50 readers of this magazine to contact us will receive a free copy by quoting this feature.  Call us on 01883 348911, send an email to  HYPERLINK “”, or visit our website,  HYPERLINK “” where you can link direct to our members’ sites and select products yourself.