Guest Post by Kirsty Shearer, Development Director, Agilité Solutions

As retailers reconsider the layout and locations of their stores the world over, some continue to expand their global reach – looking at opening new stores in towns and cities across Europe.

But, with a new-look shopping district starting to emerge, as a blend of retail, hospitality and leisure outlets co-exist to encourage local investment and socio-economic growth, what should brands consider when setting up shop in a new location? Here are five things to take into account from the start.

1. Begin by finding the right property.

Whether an independent store or a multi-national franchise, it’s important to work with a local property consultant who has ‘on-the-ground’ knowledge of the region you’re looking at. Lease terms and building regulations can vary significantly from country-to-country, while some markets can be quite closed to ‘outsiders’ – particularly where prime property locations are concerned.

2. Conduct a structural survey prior to signing.

Once you’ve found the ideal home for your new store, compare any architectural plans or drawings with a physical site visit and structural survey. Buildings are often updated, reconfigured, and extended over time – without such changes being translated onto official records. Taking the time to fully understand the dimensions and nuances of a location is a crucial component of design, planning and budgeting.

3. Incorporate regulations and permissions into your estimates.

There are several things to consider when forecasting investment levels – both in terms of time and money – particularly regarding a change of use. If you’re looking to open an interiors outlet in the newly vacated home of a ladieswear brand, it can be reasonably straightforward. Whereas converting a restaurant into a shoe shop, will inevitably present much more regulatory paperwork – which differs from locality to locality.

Understandably, disabled access and egress is a particularly pertinent topic at present – and one that has been heighted because of the pandemic. How a space is laid out, and the public’s journey through it, must be carefully managed throughout all elements of the planning, construction, and fit-out stages.

4. Don’t forget the façade.

Catching the eye of passers-by has never been more important for retailers, but for those who rely on their consistent visual identity as part of their curb appeal, it’s worth knowing what is, and isn’t, permitted in your potential new home.

Paris and Prague, for example, have different rules and departments for potential changes to the frontage in protected areas – such as historic buildings or prestigious postcodes – and these extra layers of administration can have a knock-on effect on schedules and plans.

5. Staff facilities must be taken into account.

Alongside the regulations for the shopfront and interior, there are also guidelines around the infrastructure which needs to be in place for the back of house too. For example, in France there are strict rules around providing changing facilities for colleagues, and places to prepare and reheat food.   

While kickstarting the global economy and a desire to ‘get back to normal’ offers an opportunity for retailers looking to entice shoppers back across the threshold, taking the time to fully understand the country you’re looking at – and surrounding yourself with the right people and information to help get your ‘ducks in a row’ – is key.

Kirsty Shearer is Development Director at Agilité Solutions