Whether you want to completely renovate or simply update, redesigning your retail space can have dramatic results. Bakers share insights from their own recent remodels.
Be it a coat of paint, a new showcase, a total gutting or simply a gilding, a makeover can give a big lift to the way your bakery looks — and the way your customers look at your bakery. Although it's impossible to attribute sales hikes directly to a remodel, operators who have recently done them report sustained increases of anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Two bakeries recently received help to jumpstart their retail remodels. General Mills along with the Retail Bakers of America (RBA) recently awarded two $5,000 grand prizes as a result of the 2008 Merchandising Makeover: Pillsbury Bakery Edition contest.
Lubeley's Bakery & Deli in St. Louis, one of the contest winners, used some the money to improve its showcases. The color of the case frames and running boards made them look dated, explains Sue Lubeley Suardi, one of three siblings who operate the 72-year-old family business. Changing the color of the case trim and trays, plus adding interior lighting, gave these fixtures a more contemporary, eye-catching appearance.
The display area in the center of the store also was revamped. An oversized grab-and-go rack made the space between the display and the service counter too close for customer comfort. The bakery replaced the wire rack with two appropriately sized, three-tiered wood displays, which opened up the bakery considerably, Suardi says.
The bakery's grand re-opening was held over Super Bowl weekend, and generated a 10 percent hike in sales that continued through Mardi Gras. Generally, business since the renovation has increased as people who had been attracted by the re-opening activities become regular customers. All told, the siblings invested $90,000 in the renovation.
As another 2008 Merchandising Makeover: Pillsbury Bakery Edition winner, brother-and-sister owners Scott Johnson and Sharon Torrison also decided to go above and beyond their $5,000 grand prize to refurbish the 1916 building housing their Johnson's Bakery in Duluth, Minn. By the time the process was completed last fall, they had quadrupled the original budget.
Originally, the goal was to replace the floor, lighting and shelving for more effective merchandising. They also moved the wholesale staging and customer pick-up area from the front of the store to expand the bakery café. By repositioning the showcases, the owners gained some much-needed extra workspace behind the counter.
Much of the remodeling money was spent on behind-the-scenes improvements, such as a new furnace, but cosmetic changes included new exterior and interior paint to highlight the pressed tin ceilings and new merchandising displays. Swapping out 8-ft. banks of fluorescent bulbs and installing adjustable track fixtures with dimmers gave the bakery an energy-saving lease on light.
Johnson and Torrison kept their existing showcases, but rearranged how products were displayed in them. Now, each case features a specific type of product; for example, donuts occupy the largest case, cookies and bars the smallest.
Prior to the remodel, the owners had prepackaged their cookies for display on a large self-service rack in the center of the store. Now, they sell their cookies from a service case.
“It's better for us because we have more control over the product and we save on packaging costs,” Johnson says. “And it's better for the customers because they have so many more options to mix and match varieties and buy just the amount they want. Best of all, we've ended up selling more cookies and when customers come to the service case, they get a chance to see our other products.”
Breads and buns have been moved to three 8-ft.-long slanted wood shelves on the bakery's back wall. Comparing February 2009 to February 2008, Johnson says sales increased between 10 percent and 15 percent.
Changes in product line also can necessitate tweaks to a bakery's layout. Having successfully introduced a gourmet line of cheesecakes, slices and individual desserts at three of their four Jackson, Miss. McDade Market stores, Greg and Kathy McDade wanted to do the same at their fourth in-store bakery location. The problem was they didn't have enough room in the bakery department to put the 8-ft. refrigerated service case necessary to show off the upscale product line.
An overhaul of the display space was initiated, and new showcases and a different configuration solved the problem.
The store's house-baked breads also moved from a quartet of large display tables they had shared with cookies and pastries in the middle of the bakery. Now, they occupy their own end cap with oak shelving highlighted by strategically placed ceiling lighting. A separate bread display also was placed next to the deli's hot foods area to encourage meal-rounding purchases.
All four of the center tables remain, but now each features a specific category of prepackaged products, such as cookies or cakes. All told, the cost of redesigning the bakery department (which included some deli work and a new non-skid floor in the work area) was about $175,000 to $200,000, Kathy McDade says, but after its completion, impulse sales increased.
While small, cosmetic changes can do much to boost sales, sometimes a complete remodel is needed. Only a month after Jim and Lynn Williams opened their second Seven Stars Bakery retail location in Providence, R.I. in the summer of 2007, they forged ahead with plans to remodel their original 2,500-sq.-ft. store. One thing the couple was eager to do was to dismantle the 16-ft. circular brick hearth oven that had always dominated the front of the bakery.
The oven took up so much space that the café seating had to be arranged around it, which left no room for actual baking during the day. The bakery had to be cleared and cleaned immediately after closing to allow nighttime production.
In 2006, the Williams had opened a separate production facility, making the oven and nighttime production unnecessary. With the oven gone, the owners were able to extend the bakery's service counters, add more displays and café seating and create a better flow for the customers, says Lynn Williams.
A change in product line also necessitated repositioning of showcases. “As a bread bakery, we didn't intend to do a ton of pastries when we first opened, so we put in a teeny (4-ft. by 2-ft. two-shelf) case for them,” she explains.
However, as the morning pastries became more popular, the size and position of the case made it difficult for customers to see the merchandise before they got to the front of the line.
“By the time they got to the counter, they felt they had to rush to make a decision, so they wouldn't hold up the rest of the line,” Williams says. “Constant bending and stretching to reach for products in the case also wore on the staff.”
A new 10-ft. marble counter with a high sneeze guard now keeps the pastries in full customer view even when the bakery is at its busiest. The current configuration also is much more ergonomically efficient for the staff, she notes. The Williams also cleared selling floor space by moving the free-standing beverage cooler to behind the counter and swapping an oversized wrought iron bread rack for an antique wooden French one more suited to the space.
Structurally, the couple removed the drop ceiling tiles to expose the raised wooden ceiling in their almost 90-year-old building. They put stucco over exposed cinderblock walls and changed the wall colors from orange to rich yellow with accents of warm chipotle behind the counter area.
Most dramatic of all was the change from fluorescent to recessed track lighting, complemented by industrial-looking aluminum pendants to highlight the menu boards and bread display. While the look is completely different, the Williams ensured Seven Stars still maintained a certain level of quirkiness that customers have come to associate with the bakery.
The $250,000 remodel took four weeks, during which the couple continued to conduct business by baking in the central facility across town and selling from a tent in the parking lot. But, Williams emphasizes, the cost and inconvenience are paying off. As of February, she says, sales had increased by 10 percent.
Paul Bendinskas also chose a studs-out remodeling project and says the roof-to-floor refashioning of his ABC Cake Shop in Albuquerque, N.M., its first major modification since 1987, marks the bakery's entry into the 21st century. It cost more than $200,000 for Bendinskas to strip the 4,920-sq.-ft. facility down to its bare bones and replace every bit of basic construction all the way down to the steel I-beams, raise the ceiling by 8 ins. to 12 ins. and add track lighting.
“We hired a designer to help us re-brand with color, space and streamlined service areas to give us a hipper and fresher look meant to give our current customers a more pleasant shopping experience and increase our appeal to the younger generation who are our future customers,” Bendinskas says.
While the upgrading of heating and cooling systems rarely makes much of a visual impact on customers, ABC's original swamp coolers had caused a host of noticeable and costly problems. For example, cases were constantly plagued with messy and product-destructive condensation and ice-over.
“We would lose an average of a case of product a week, cake models every four to six months and a compressor once a year,” he says. “Plus our staff had to spend too much time mopping up the condensation in the cases.”
In the retail area, Bendinskas replaced two old refrigerated cases — one 56 ins. long, the other 77 ins. — and two dry 56-in. cases with three curved 77-in. lighted refrigerated cases and two dry 77-in. cases, one each for Danish and cookies. A 7-ft.-high carousel showcases dessert cakes and a 48-in. display freezer holds ice cream cakes.
A self-described “techie,” Bendinskas installed three computers with 19-in. widescreen monitors into custom-made kiosks to give customers ample opportunity to browse a wide range of decorated cake designs at their leisure. One of the kiosks is positioned at child level, so they can choose their own birthday cake. Looking for their favorite character cakes, such as Spiderman, also keeps young ones entertained while their parents are being served.
Bendinskas also integrated technology into ABC's newly enlarged wedding cake consultation area. The area, which was over-stuffed with cake models and a tasting table, now features fewer cakes, but a more stylish display. And brides and grooms can peruse many more design possibilities on a 27-in. plasma screen in a private area separated from the rest of the bakery by a curved wall.
Overall, Bendinskas says, the bakery has gotten busier since the remodel.
“Even in this economy, we experienced an 11 percent sales increase in January,” he explains. “That and the fact that so many of our customers come in and say ‘wow’ when they first see the changes tell us that the remodel has made a real impact.”
Whether your bakery needs a few minor tweaks or a complete overhaul, the key is to stay true to your brand and still provide what your customers are looking for. If you achieve this, added sales should follow.