Main Street merchants look at developing space for little dollarsPublished 10:38am Monday, November 9, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
For small business owners on main streets all across the county, the challenge to keep the doors open continue to mount.
Evidence of the weariness of the current job market can be found in recent unemployment figures – just over 10 percent, the nation’s highest since the early 1980s.
With the holiday shopping season approaching, the big box stores are not the only ones looking for ways to bring consumers through the door – so are those small business in communities like Niles.
So for some Main Street merchants, last week was a chance to get a bit of advice on how to make a few aesthetic changes to the interior of their stores.
Changes they hope will make a big difference to holiday shoppers.
Scott Day, principal of Urban Development Services in San Antonio, Texas, which “specializes in urban design, design management and retail economics for commercial districts,” made a stop in Niles last week to consult several small business owners on how to make the most of their spaces.
Day helped business owners look at “everything from color choice to heights of racks to the flow of customers through the store and the lighting,” said Lisa Croteau, executive director of Niles Main Street.
This was Day’s second visit to Niles, made possible by the contributions of those merchants interested in getting a chance to meet with him.
“He knows the stores, he’s very familiar with what we’ve got here,” Croteau said.
Big changes can make big differences to bottom lines of stores like Your Kitchen Connection or Sophia’s Closet – just two Niles businesses that met with Day.
But in the current economic climate many owners are looking for ways to bring customers in without shelling out a lot of additional costs.
Like giving customers more than just a place to shop – but a unique shopping experience.
Creating an ambiance is on the mind of Jill Roberts, owner of Your Kitchen Connection, which celebrated its two-year anniversary in Niles on Friday.
“A lot of issues we all seem to have around here is lighting,” she said. “How visual things are is real important.”
While Day visited her store, Roberts said they discussed developing a layout to the store pleasing to the customer’s eye, such as allowing more visual space with lower displays in the front of the store and higher racks against the back.
“So your eyes can see it all,” she said.
There are additional changes Roberts hopes to make in the future though her concentration remains on keeping her store stocked for customers already making the rounds in search of holiday gifts.
“Every little bit helps,” she said.
At Sophia’s Closet, Julie Georgeoff was very enthusiastic about some of the changes Day had to suggest to her consignment shop which just recently opened up on Main Street and has been doing well, she said.
Georgeoff and Day focused on “the set up of the store.”
“Visual is such a big thing in retail,” she said. “A lot of times things will sell if they’re in the right place. It was a huge help.”
She plans to add wall racks to the front of her store to open up floor space and she’s displaying certain items and outfits on the end caps and in other spots to help draw the customer’s eye to her selection.
“We did a lot of rearranging when he was here,” she said.
Those changes with minimal costs can mean a lot.
“Absolutely,” Georgeoff said. “You want to be able to keep your overhead down … Pretty much all the ideas he gave us were with no costs involved.”
Day’s Urban Development Service focuses on developing “revitalization plans that are market driven for pedestrian oriented commercial districts.”
For more information, visit www.urbandevelopmentservices.com.