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Weigh In: How can I affordably update my store's look and feel?

Nine ideas from industry professionals on how to revitalize your store without going over budget.​

Melaina Juntti

May 15, 2015

4 Min Read
Weigh In: How can I affordably update my store's look and feel?

You probably have a long list of tweaks and upgrades you’d love to do to help freshen up your store’s look and feel. Oh, if only you had endless time and money … Actually, there are plenty of easy, economical ways to update, upgrade and revitalize your space so that it sends a clearer message of who you are and what you stand for. We polled a veteran retailer, an interior designer and a helpful distributor for their best ideas. Let them inspire you.


Paint and decal: Our store was about to turn 30 and needed major updating. We removed all the kick plates and painted them, painted the floors, and painted the walls three different colors— but mostly lime green. Everything had been white, so this was a radical change. Then, we had a company create wall decals of our logo, the organic logo and various sayings that now cover the spaces below the ceiling. These simple cosmetic alterations changed the whole atmosphere.

Rethink your customer service area. We used to have a big U-shaped customer service area that had merchandise behind the U. Everyone told me that no store devoted that much space to customer service, but I wanted to keep it for special orders and meetings with reps. So we compromised and just took off the back of the U. Now you can walk through the area, service is more accessible, and it’s just so much more open and inviting.

Consult your team. Get out of your own head, and look to your staff for ideas—they know what’s lacking. For example, I never go in the break room, so I didn’t realize we needed a bigger one. Or that we should switch out the conference room chairs. Halfway through our refresh, we put up a white board and asked employees to keep writing down ideas. It was a great tool that we should’ve started at the beginning, but at least we learned.

–Cheryl Hughes
owner of The Whole Wheatery in Lancaster, California


Ramp up messaging. Customers form an opinion of your store right when they step inside. So during those first few minutes while their senses are going off, it’s important to have the right messaging. If your produce is up front, fill the section with thought-provoking images and messages that share farmers’ stories, show your community involvement or convey that you’re 100 percent organic. Also do strong messaging in bulk, dairy and other departments to really show shoppers who you are.

Shake up assortment and placement. Consider juggling or narrowing your product assortment or even moving some categories around. Distributors can help with this. Territory sales managers see patterns among retailers, so they can drill down what’s working and then share what might make sense for you. They and others also gather data from the Hartman Group and SPINS and can pull these synergies together to help you keep your assortment on trend.

Refresh, communicate, assist. Any time you move products, shuffle aisles or disrupt the familiar flow, your staff should be front and center for the first few weeks to engage with shoppers and show them around. Helping them through the transition is integral to their buy-in. If you communicate clearly, they should be OK with the disruption for a while knowing it’ll lead to a better shopping experience.

–Andrew Fleming
vice president of natural sales at KeHE

Retail Interior Designer

Lighten up. Many stores have 2-by-4 lay-in fluorescent lights under plastic prismatic lenses that turn yellow and distort the light. Just changing out the lenses can give you a purer white and make a huge difference in your store’s feel. Or, if you have old T12 fluorescent bulbs, switch to ones with better efficiency and color temperature. Also consider highlighting endcaps with LED track lighting. Just make it three times the brightness of surrounding areas.

Refresh fixtures. When a store looks tired or old, bad fixtures are often a big reason why. Metal gondola runs can look very outdated. I know they are good workhorses, but there are many other systems to choose from. Baker’s racks are OK for the health and wellness department, but even those are kind of a yawn. Fixturing is expensive, so retailers understandably get stuck. But try to step out of the box and look at the fresher options available these days.

Make signage professional and streamlined. I still sometimes see bad handwritten signs, and they really knock down a store’s image. Unless it’s a chalkboard in your deli or you have someone with good penmanship who can create attractive, legible signs, all of your signage should be printed. All departments should use the same type of material and lettering, and all sales signs should be the same. Also make product description signage uniform so you can train the customer’s eye to read it.

–Lyn Falk, registered interior designer
and president of Retailworks in Milwaukee 

About the Author(s)

Melaina Juntti

Melaina Juntti is a longtime freelance journalist, copy editor and marketing professional. With nearly two decades of experience in the natural products industry, she is a frequent contributor to Nutrition Business Journal, Natural Foods Merchandiser and Melaina is based in Madison, Wisconsin, and is passionate about hiking, camping, fishing and live music. 

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