As competition grows more fierce between internet shopping and the high street stores large retail organisations are under increasing pressure to make the shopping experience more rewarding for the consumer to attract shoppers from their homes and into the stores. Much of this is achieved through improved stores which not only attract new and returning customers but form an important part of brand development and recognition.
A successful store refit-out has been recognised by many large retail corporations as vital in maintaining their place in the market. As such, and given the investment that such a project represents and the potential loss of earnings due to downtime while the store is closed for works to be carried out, it is of vital importance to companies to get the re-fit right. A competent project manager can contribute much to the success of the process through providing the right advice at design stage, through to the control of costs and programme as works progress and ensuring delivery of a quality project to meet the Client’s specific requirements within the allocated time, to minimise any loss of profit during the period the store remains closed and maximise the potential gains to the company from the works.
In general the key to getting the project right involves careful planning and getting the right people on board. Many large companies are aware of the marketing strategies involved in optimising sales and may even have their own planning and design teams to carry out their store designs. An experienced project manager can offer advice on statutory considerations and requirements in relation to proposed works (e.g. Fire Safety Legislation in respect of changes to fire escape routes, Resource Consent for signage, etc.) and any other building related issues which should be considered. For example for older buildings it may be advisable to carry out a thorough invasive investigation of the existing building to ensure there are no deleterious materials such as asbestos present as the discovery of such materials on site can cause considerable delays on site if a plan has not been put in place to deal with them appropriately.
Throughout the planning and design development stage the project manager can offer valuable insight on projected timescales to allow the Client to plan the works to maximise the impact and minimise profit loss through careful timing and control of the construction programme. They will also liaise with all members of the design team to ensure the drawings are co-ordinated and the design process is completed within the required timeframe so start dates are not held up. It is vital in works of this nature that all aspects of the design are fully considered and detailed to avoid the necessity of variations and on site delays.
Care must be taken in the design to ensure that the client’s brief is fully met and solutions are workable and robust, and the construction will offer the durability required for the heavy footfall of a retail store with minimal maintenance requirements as stores are often open for long hours with little downtime for maintenance works to be carried out. Health and safety is also an important consideration and care should be taken in the design of shelving, racking and counters, etc. to ensure they pose no danger to staff or shoppers, particularly small children. Designs should be reviewed to ensure they meet all relevant health and safety legislation in addition to complying with Building Code.
Once the feasibility study has been completed, detailed design developed and consents are in place the project manager can assist with procuring an appropriate contractor or shopfitter to carry out the works. This is an important part to get right as given the tight timescales the contractor must be aware of the constraints imposed by this type of work and plan the work accordingly to produce a realistic programme and deadlines for the various elements of the work. The choice of procurement route will depend on a number of factors including the client’s specific requirements, the complexity of the works and the preferred risk strategy to be adopted by the client but again the project manager can offer advice on the options available as required to ensure the contractor appointed has the necessary skills and experience to execute the works successfully.
During construction works both the client and the contractor must be aware of the importance of forward planning and keeping to the programme, and avoiding making changes on site which could create delays. Suppliers must also be selected with care to ensure they can be relied upon to meet deadlines and quality requirements.
Throughout the construction phase the project manager will constantly review progress on site against the contractors programme to ensure that works proceed to plan and any delays or issues are pre-empted or mitigated against (e.g. through allocation of additional labour/ longer working hours) to avoid any delay to Handover. Tight control will also be exercised over the budget as variations will not only add to project costs but delay the works. A knowledge of the legal requirements in relation to the building being returned to use is also imperative as the store cannot re-open without the required consents and certificates in place.
On completion of the building works an appropriate time period must be allowed for re-merchandising of the store prior to re-opening. While some snagging items and minor works might be able to be carried out concurrently, building works must be essentially complete and handed over prior to the client’s staff re-occupying to prepare the store for the opening.
Like any building project a store re-fit is a complex undertaking and given the potential losses of profit or temporary rent costs incurred while a store is closed careful planning and the right team are essential to deliver the new store on time, to the required quality to impress customers and encourage them to visit the store, and within the client’s budget. An experienced project manager is therefore of great value in achieving all these goals to ensure the success of the project and maximise the potential gains to the client in return for their investment.