Krystle and Pauline Corner: How important is interior design?

Dear Pauline and Krystle,
I have owned a hair salon for four years.  As I was on a budget, I did not invest a lot of money on the interior design of the shop and my cousin, who is a builder, did most of the work. Due to his small fee, I didn’t want to offend him by complaining, even though the finish wasn’t great. However, now my customers have started commenting on the interior.

How important is the interior design in a retail establishment and how will an investment of this kind enhance my business? I would really appreciate some advice as I don’t want my business to be left behind.

Jenny

Dear Jenny
You have answered your question in your very last sentence; you don’t want to be “left behind”. Customers will eventually move on if the environment is lacking or uncomfortable. I speak both as a customer and a qualified Interior Designer who has visited but also designed hair salons.

Interior design sets a mood and can seduce the customer into purchasing or spending more than they intended. There is a complicated psychology behind retail and exhibition design which I won’t go into now, but I will talk about the advantages of having the right interior for a smaller business such as a hair salon like yours.

There are three things that a customer wants when they decide to visit a hair salon, value for money, efficiency and a great environment. Most salons only offer two of the three. Your aim should be to offer all three, every time. You have to make clients feel there is no better option at the price point you offer. You can never expect to eventually raise your prices if clients have to sit in a cramp, badly designed waiting area or have to look up at a grubby ceiling whilst having their hair washed.

There is usually a compromise whether its price, quality, or finish. Aim to have no compromise, and you’re already ahead of your competition.

As your customers are commenting on your interior, you’d be crazy to ignore them. If you do, they will defect to a competitor and you will lose out on new customers that they might have brought you. You may be also losing out on passing trade.

However there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get there. The first thing to do is to decide on a budget. Set aside an affordable amount and a 10% contingency. Secondly consult a professional interior designer. They have the skills to identify weak and strong points about your establishment and also to channel the budget in the right direction.

The designer can advise you on how to make the most of what you already have, for example by changing the color of the walls or the furniture, you can achieve great results. If you do need to have a more dramatic job the designer can produce drawings sketches and mood boards and help you with the planning process.

Whilst you are deciding what you want to do, here are some top tips to get the most out of your space:
• Give the place a good clean and get rid of any clutter.
• Start a mood board of the things you would like in your salon – include samples of wall coverings floor coverings, colour swatches and furniture ideas such as lighting and seating.
• Decide on a budget, as once you have decided how much you can afford, you will feel more committed to make it happen.
• Listen to your customers, find out what they would like changed, and what’s more important to them.

By Pauline Downie

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