When you're used to being a bootstrapping entrepreneur, you have a tendency to want to take a DIY approach to most things and are scrappy enough to make it all work on a limited budget. Especially when you've been successful selling your products online and are now looking to new channels to grow your business.
Whether you're opening a pop-up or committing to something more long-term, the world of retail can be a daunting and unforgiving place if you overlook things like your window display, store layout, signage, and merchandising.
However, sometimes it makes sense to trust things to a professional, if you've got the budget for it that is, especially when it comes to the interior design of your store. Not to say you couldn't do it yourself, but you'll have to admit, making something like a retail store appealing, inviting, and designed to optimize your sales can be more difficult than it looks.
It can be easy to fool yourself into thinking that you know your brand, and that based on your logo, you can decide on which type of lighting and fixtures will make the most sense. Chances are though, outside of your basic brand color palate, everything else can really be hit or miss.
And that's where the professionals come in. The process of hiring an interior designer for your retail store is similar to hiring one for your home or office. Though some specialize in residential or commercial environments, most are trained to handle both types of jobs, but even then, you’ll want to look for some specific things.
But first, let’s clarify why hiring an interior designer for your retail store can be crucial for your offline selling success.
Why Hire an Interior Designer?
- Saving Money: Sounds counter-intuitive right? But think of all the “very” costly mistakes you would probably make that working with an interior designer could avoid.
- Budgeting and Planning: As with doing anything for the first time, creating a budget, researching products and prices, complying with regulatory matters, and planning timelines can be a major headache. Luckily, an interior designer can help you sidestep all of that by doing it for you.
- Their Network: Typically, interior designers have solid relationships with select vendors who can help obtain discounts and access resources that previously might have been unavailable.
- Coherence: Interior designers have both a trained eye and are excellent visual story-teller, which means that they’ll pay attention to the complete customer experience
- The “WOW” Factor: Let’s face it, worrying about your store’s “bounce” rate is just as vital as offline as it is online. So why not optimize for conversion with an interior designer?
So now that we’ve got the “why” down for hiring an interior designer, let’s look at some of the key steps you’ll want to take to insure that the person you hire is right for the job.
How to Hire an Interior Designer
There’s nothing like word-of-mouth referrals when it comes to finding people to work with. With that, make sure to take note of other boutique retail stores and see what catches your eye. Ask the owner who did their interior design and what their experience was like while working for them. You’ll probably want to ask how much it cost them as well. Reach out to family and friends as well for referrals and you’re bound to get a handful of decent candidates.
There's little doubt that you'll turn to good old Google to help you streamline your search for finding the right designer for the job, however, I decided to save you the hassle and point out some great online resources where you can start your search.
This is an online community of designers, industry representatives, educators, and students, where you'll be able to find and locate interior designers near you if you reside in America.
Founded in 1972, the Interior Designers of Canada is a Canadian advocacy association which makes it easy to find interior designers for projects both small and large.
Though geared primarily towards homeowners looking for home remodelling and design help, it's "Find a Pro" feature allows you to easily access a database of more than 2 million professionals who won't have a problem adopting their expertise to a retail environment.
This NYC-based startup is looking to shake up the interior design landscape with more than 90 designers across the US available for by-the-hour services with no markups or hidden fees. Again, though they're focused more on residential and office clientele, their expertise can be indispensable for retail environments as well.
Define Your Vision
This is an important step because when you start meeting with potential candidates you’ll want to be able to clearly and effectively communicate what it is you’re looking for. From the style you’re going for, to the colors palete you like, to the type of merchandising you’re expecting to have up, these are all a good starting points for the interior designer to work with. A good place to start organizing your ideas is Pinterest, not only can you find an infinite amount of inspiration but you can create a board to start collecting images of what you envision your store to be.Follow Kingsley Harris's board Retail Design on Pinterest.
Interview Several Candidates
Not only will you want to have a good look at their respective portfolios and relevant projects that match what you’re looking for, you’ll want to ask them to break down their process for tackling your job. This includes not only having them spell out timelines, work schedules, and fees, but asking for references you can call to have first-hand accounts of what it’s like to work with them. We follow the same rules for all jobs at Shopify.
Create a Clear and Detailed Contract
Once you have a candidate for the job and come to an agreement on what’s expected from both parties, the next step is to have it down on a contract that clearly outlines the terms and payment details.
Once contracts are signed, agreements made, and expectations set, kick off the process with a bang and get ready to see your vision, brand, and products come to life before you in their new home, a beautifully designed retail store that catches the eye on the street and past the door.
If you’ve hired an interior designer for your retail store or commercial space, be sure to let us know both the good and the ugly side of your experience by commenting below.