The Gray Cat Blog

A comprehensive collection of blogs designed to assist small business owners and multiunit operators.

Transforming your Store of the Future Vision into Reality

May 14, 2024

I love to create something from the ground up. 

 As an avid gardener, I have done this many times over – taking a raw piece of dirt and creating a magical paradise creating signature items such as patios, creeks, golf holes, etc. and interweaving this into one overall design that captures the imagination of the people that experience it.  But this transformation doesn’t happen by chance – it follows a well-thought through planning process; followed by months (and in some cases, years) of implementation; and then modifications from then on.

In store design, you get to take raw terrain and transform it into your vision.  Every aspect of the project can be developed from the look/feel to the materials used to the flow of the end project.  It is one thing to have great ideas and a vision for your store of the future but how to make it a reality?

Implementing your vision can be a challenge and understanding the process can be half the battle.  Let’s look:

Planning Phase:  First, determine the type of store you are creating – the overall size; the allocation of space within the four walls; and the offerings.  Conduct market research and choose a suitable location that aligns with your vision and has supporting demographics not only for today, but tomorrow.  Next up is a preliminary budget and timeline to bring this to reality obtaining necessary permits and approvals from local authorities.

Design Phase:  Now you must hire some outside help (remember, you still have a day job) – from store designers to layout specialists to architects, etc.  From here you should be able to get your vision into a plan and blueprints that includes the layout of the store, including interior and exterior features.  Finally, you select materials and finishes for construction.

Pre-Construction Phase:  Now you begin to line up your implementation team from contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers.  The plan should be well-defined by now, finalizing construction contracts and agreements should be in place.  Like any new project, there is generally a lot of prep that needs to take place to get the site ready for construction, including demolition if necessary.

Construction Phase:  Let’s break ground!  This is an exciting time because shovels start moving dirt and excavation begins.  The foundation work along with framing and structural work begins along with the installation of utilities (electrical, plumbing, HVAC).  Interior and exterior finishing, including flooring, walls, ceilings, and façade begin to shape your vision into reality.

Fixtures and Equipment:  Concurrent to the construction phase, you need to start to procure and then begin to install fixtures such as shelves, displays, and furniture once construction is complete.  Once this is complete, installation of equipment needed for operations, such as kitchen appliances or POS systems can be implemented.

Final Touches:  Near to my heart, the landscaping of the building should be next up for the store.  In addition, the exterior signage; street signs and any additional bolt-on items to the building should be installed.  Once complete, final inspections and obtaining certificates of occupancy can be executed then it is on to cleaning and preparing the store for opening.

Grand Opening and Ongoing Marketing:  I am amazed at how more store owners spend so much capital on their store then just simply unlock the door without a grand opening event.  It is imperative that you plan and execute a grand opening event to tap your trade area and market the new store opening to attract customers.  In advance of the grand opening, ensure that you train your staff and prepare them for operations.

Post-Construction:  I would like to think that you can implement everything flawlessly, but there are always items that end up on a punch list.  Tackle these punch list items in detail and setup systems to monitor and maintain the building and equipment going forward.  Lastly, evaluate the success of the store and make any necessary adjustments over time.

Transforming vision into reality can be a daunting task for anyone.  It is important to create a rock-solid plan; surround yourself with competent external resources; and meticulously manage every detail along the way.  In the end, your vision will blossom before your very eyes, and you will be well on your way to a successful store opening.

Want more ideas?  For more information on a Store of the Future, visit the Gray Cat Learning Series:

John Matthews, President & CEO, Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc.

John Matthews is the Founder and President of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc. a Raleigh, NC-based management consulting company. Gray Cat specializes in strategic project management and consulting for multi-unit operations; interim executive management; and strategic planning. Mr. Matthews has over 30 years of senior-level executive experience in the retail industry, involving three dynamic multi-unit companies. Mr. Matthews experience includes President of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches; Vice President of Marketing, Merchandising, Corporate Communications, Facilities and Real Estate for Clark Retail Enterprises/White Hen Pantry; and National Marketing Director at Little Caesar's Pizza! Pizza!